In this second post about the readiness of the new “web-scale” collection management systems, I again offer up the opinion that the New Model for library collection management is not quite ready. Libraries are beginning to understand how a “web-scale” collection management system (or a “Library Services Platform,” as Marshall Breeding calls it), has the potential to offer efficiencies and cost containment. It’s wonderful to see the light bulbs going off in librarians’ heads.
But this is a completely New Model. It’s not just a change from text to graphical screens, like the last round. And it is not just “moving to the cloud,”as in hosting. It’s fundamentally changing how libraries do their work. To realize the potential, a number of elements have to be there and be right.
One of the reasons that I think the New Model is not quite ready for us is Knowledgebase. We are hearing about several knowledgebase efforts around the world. Serials Solutions libraries have experienced a great knowledgebase for years – literally since Peter McCracken founded the company. As more and more of the collection is electronic, knowledgebase is recognized as the cornerstone of any new complete collection management system.
To truly deliver on the promise of the New Model, a knowledgebase has to deliver all sorts of authoritative metadata and be fully integrated. The knowledgebases to fully serve that New Model are just not ready yet. It needs to be an authoritative, comprehensive, and well-maintained source of more data types ̶ bibliographic data, provider data, database title lists and associated holdings data, standard license terms, ebook collections, etc.
To meet the requirements of providing very efficient workflows for the library, a knowledgebase must be carefully maintained every day. The publishers must provide access to their information such as titlelists, standard license terms, etc. There must be both system resource and people dedicated to keeping the knowledgebase current and up to date. Serials Solutions customers remind us every day that we can never be too accurate or too current.
Certainly, there are knowledgebase efforts going on. The JISC in the United Kingdom has just released the first version of KB+, its knowledgebase of data for the JISC collections. It is still early in its life. GoKB, which is associated with the Kuali OLE effort, is still being built.
OCLC, of course, has the world’s largest knowledgebase of bibliographic data. They have released WorldShare as a New Model system. But they are still building comprehensive data on electronic resources. I do not think OCLC would say that they have a complete knowledgebase for all types of library collections.
ExLibris, which has introduced Alma, its New Model system, is also still working through what type of knowledgebase will be associated with Alma. The data in their pioneering SFX knowledgebase does not include everything that a complete, unified resource management system needs.
At Serials Solutions, we are building a new knowledgebase. The first service to be a customer of that new knowledgebase will be Intota, our new Library Service Platform. While we have an elegant design and lots of experience to inform that design, it is still in development. That development is going well, and the necessary technologies, such as a robust API, have been created. New types of data, such as all of the Ulrich’s data elements, have been incorporated. But there is still work to do.
Like true SaaS environments, the authoritative and comprehensive knowledgebases needed to deliver on the promise of the New Model are just not quite there yet. Please stay tuned.