Magazine article American Libraries

Interesting Times: Anaheim Reveals the Sunny Future of Library Tech

Magazine article American Libraries

Interesting Times: Anaheim Reveals the Sunny Future of Library Tech

Article excerpt

While talking about the current state of the profession at the Library and Information Technology Association's Top Technology Trends session at this year's ALA Annual Conference, OCLG's Roy Tennant spoke that familiar first line from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." I tend to agree with that sentiment.

In the midst of an economic downturn, libraries of all kinds are struggling to justify their current level of funding, if not their very existence. We are frequently confronted with stories about libraries that have had to make difficult decisions to provide the same level of service with less money.

At the same time, I feel we're in an age of great possibility in which libraries have so much more control over their technological destiny. We've seen libraries that are dissatisfied with current vendor offerings choosing to build their own subject-guide tools, discovery platforms, and even integrated library systems. Many libraries are capitalizing on the mature free and open source tools already available. So many options exist for libraries of every type and budget.

The tone in the exhibit hall seemed a bit more muted than the jubilant mood last year in Washington, D.C. While there was still a good crowd at the exhibits, the number of conference attendees was also a bit lower than 2007. But on an optimistic note, a number of first-time exhibitors really got my attention, and several smaller vendors generated a lot of buzz. While there's always plenty of news from the big players in the library technology and content markets, this year it felt like the little guy had a fighting chance to get librarians' attention in the exhibit hall.

It's a small(er) world

We're still seeing a consolidation of major players in certain areas of content and technology. It seems as if hardly a month went by this year that I didn't see a press release about a major ProQuest acquisition, the most recent being the firm's purchase of Dialog from Thomson Reuters, expanding its presence in the corporate market (see p. 36). The federated search landscape also changed significantly when Pro-Quest bought WebFeat, bringing it under the stewardship of its competitor Serials Solutions.

Two popular virtual reference products came together with Altarama's acquisition of Virtual Reference Librarian plus (VRLplus) from SirsiDynix's Dokutek division. The popular VRLplus is an excellent complement to Altarama's Ref-Tracker, a system for managing and tracking virtual reference requests.

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One thing that's gotten bigger at each conference is the number of companies selling maintenance and support of open source software. With the addition of Equinox Software at this year's event, the open source presence on the show floor was impressive. The recent growth of open source ILS adoption has also been impressive, with dozens of libraries and some high-profile library systems adopting Koha or Evergreen.

Discovery platforms were again big news this year. SirsiDynix joined the growing market with its Enterprise discovery platform, which includes sophisticated searching using fuzzy logic and faceted browsing of results. Unlike many of the other products in this market, Enterprise currently can only be integrated with a SirsiDynix ILS.

Follett has just released its own discovery platform for use with its popular Destiny ILS. Destiny Quest's interface is perfectly designed for K--12 students with its drag-and-drop interface, visual browsing features, and faceted browsing of search results. Destiny also allows students to rate and review materials in the catalog and capitalizes on the borrowing behavior of patrons to make reading suggestions.

Ex Libris and Innovative Interfaces both recently launched version 2.0 of their discovery platforms, Primo and Encore respectively, with Encore 2.0 offering user tagging and improved facets for browsing. …

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