Magazine article Information Today

Out on a Limb: Choosing Only Two Trends

Magazine article Information Today

Out on a Limb: Choosing Only Two Trends

Article excerpt

Two trends stand at the forefront of future library systems development

It's May. In addition to warmer weather and longer days, every May we find ourselves smack in the middle of the spring trade-show season, and, of course, this year is no exception. At conferences there are new system developments and plenty of enhancements to make note of. So whether you're attending the National Online Meeting & IOLS '98, the SLA or ALA annual conferences, or any of the other conferences in abundance throughout the U.S., there will be new library automation system products and current buzzwords for you to become better acquainted with.

For a while now, library automation vendors have been tempting us with promises of wonderful things to come, tantalizing us with expectations of faster, improved, and more powerful systems, and enticing us with visions of beautiful new screen displays and endless customization options. A good number of companies are ready to show off the hard work they've been doing.

Some of these library automation systems are now about to move, or have moved, from beta to general-release status. Two library automation systems to make note of and to visit with at the exhibit halls are Polaris by Gaylord Information Systems, which is available now as a general-release product, and TAOS by DRA, which is expected to be in general release this summer. Other library automation system vendors will be exhibiting their new products as well.

Trends on the Horizon

As you visit with the various system vendors, see if you agree with my analysis of what's at the forefront. In my last column, which appeared in March, I talked a bit about data mining and metadata elements. Those developments have direct bearing on the two trends I believe we'll be seeing in library systems in the coming days.

One area we'll see and hear a lot of is the growing sophistication of data-formatting capabilities and how to better finesse their use. (I'm using the term "data" loosely by also tossing images, streaming video, and streaming audio into the mix, as they are exciting part of systems databases today.) Hand in hand with the increasing number of data elements and the Multiplying complexity of relationships between them is the introduction of newer, more powerful computer technology and updated software design techniques.

Hence, the second trend of note that I propose is the proliferation of object-oriented design for library systems and the redefinition of distributed processing. To borrow from a recent advertising slogan, this isn't your father's distributed processing system anymore.

Today's distributed processing (tiered, object-oriented design) pushes more functionality and customization options out to the client. The users can determine for themselves what the screen will look like at their workstations and what fields they'll work with on a regular basis. What's more, the users will decide when to add and delete fields from their workspaces, for example, or whether the language displayed on their stations or for their access passwords will be English, Spanish, or another of their choosing. Depending on the particular system in use, the variables will change.

Many decisions formerly under the control of a central system administrator (or a committee) are now the purview of the user closest to the need. What a concept! Uncooperative gatekeepers are quickly finding themselves to be an endangered species--also a welcome trend, but not one of the two I've chosen for this discussion. …

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