Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Web Services in the Library Environment

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Web Services in the Library Environment

Article excerpt

Web services and the Service-Oriented Architecture have become well established in the broader information-technology industries, yet adoption of Web services within the library arena has been less than aggressive. Although there have been many examples of library-related functions being implemented as Web services, they are not pervasive in the library field--at least not yet.

In this chapter, I will review some of the existing library-related efforts that make use of Web services. First, I'll cover some of the organizational efforts that have taken place to promote Web services in the library field; after that, I'll review some of the emerging new technologies, which have been implemented in this model. Finally, I will examine how some of the major companies involved in producing library-automation software approach Web services.

The VIEWS Initiative

The Vendor Initiative for Enabling Web Services (VIEWS) was founded in June 2004 and was chaired by Carl Grant, president/CEO of VTLS. Recognizing the importance of Web services and the benefits they could provide for libraries, this group--comprised of a consortium of vendors--was formed to facilitate the development of interoperable Web services related to library applications. Although NISO participated in its efforts and served as a liaison to communicate relevant issues with its members, VIEWS was not a NISO-sponsored group. Participating vendors included:

* Auto-Graphics-Oct. 2004

* Dokimas (DS)-Jan. 2005

* Endeavor Information Systems-July 2004

* Ex Libris--Mar. 2005

* Fretwell-Downing Informatics--June 2004

* Index Data-June 2004

* Muse Global--June 2004

* OCLC--June 2004

* Polaris Library Systems--Dec. 2004

* SirsiDynix--Nov. 2004

* Talis--Aug. 2004

* The Library Corporation (TLC)--Sep. 2004

* VTLS--June 2004

* NISO--June 2004

VIEWS was intended to provide a forum in which library-automation vendors could define a set of Web services, which could then be used in a variety of applications in the library field. The thinking was along the lines of: There are common components of library functionality that need to be expressed as Web services, and it is in the best interest of libraries and those involved in library automation to define a set of Web services that will work across all of their implementations. In other words, the industry as a whole would benefit from having vendor-neutral definitions for commonly used Web services. The library-automation community benefits from such standards as Z39.50, MARC, SIP2, NCIP, EDI, and the like; the VIEWS initiative was based on the principle that having a shared set of Web-service specifications would offer similar advantages.

Although the various vendors were adopting the model for Web services at different levels, it was clear that momentum was building. There was a great need to start developing some common understandings quickly, because if each vendor wrote its own Web-service specification for common transactions used in library applications, it would be extremely problematic later on--as libraries inevitably would demand them to work together. So those involved in the initiative determined it would be better to establish shared specifications early on, and thus the VIEWS consortium identified two areas in which to begin: authentication and various pieces of functionality related to metasearch.

The general approach of the VIEWS initiative was to identify transactions that would most benefit from a common approach; define a set of Web services that express the functionality needed; and develop pilot implementations that would test the viability of the Web service.

The VIEWS consortium, however, did not begin without controversy. The relationship between VIEWS and NISO was unclear, and many wondered, "Would the work of a self-selected group of vendors be able to establish specifications followed by the whole industry? …

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