Tuesday, March 4, 2008

the next generation library catalog phenomenon

When Casey Bisson gave an update of the Scriblio project as a lightning talk at code4lib last week, he made one comment that struck me: "Do we need another OPAC?" He was referring to the bevy of open source projects out there that support some kind of next generation search interfaces for library catalogs: eXtensible catalog, VUFind, FacBac, Scriblio, etc.

I recalled the first code4lib in 2006 when Casey's presentation on WPOPAC was one of the hot topics of the conference. NC State had just come out with their new Endeca based catalog then and people were pretty fired up about this idea of applying modern search features like faceting and relevance ranking to library catalog data.

Since then, many vendors and open source coders have jumped in to this area to make their play. Last year's code4lib conference also featured SOLR prominently and its potential role in the next generation OPAC.

I spent much of my time over the past couple years as Summit Catalog Committee Chair arguing for the need to move the Summit catalog over to a next generation platform. (Still hasn't happened.)

It's funny what a couple years can do. This area that was so cutting edge two years ago now seems overcrowded and almost passé.

1 comment:

misterbisson said...

Heh. What I didn't say in my lightning talk was that the catalog isn't the point. Ironic, I know, as I do have a horse in that race, but the real challenge is in figuring out what libraries should look like online and how they deliver services. The catalog is just a convenient short term project because we need them and their ripe for reinvention. What happens after that is where the real excitement is.

That's one reason why I'm building on the WordPress framework. It's proven itself to be hugely flexible and extensible and the community is one of the most innovative around. Heck, Viddler ( http://www.viddler.com/ ) and ChickSpeak ( http://chickspeak.com/ ) were built on it.

Passe? Yeah. It's time to think more holistically about the library -- because they're more than just catalogs -- and build the systems that advance the library into the future.