WPOPAC — a testbed by Casey Maison

By reeset / On / In Digital Libraries, Programming

Disclaimer — these are some first impression type thoughts…dangerous, I know.  Take them for what they are…musings. 

Casey Maison has been doing a lot of writing and thinking about how to make ILS systems more social — and as such, has created a testbed application using WordPress to sit ontop of their library opac.  His original post can be found here: WPopac: An OPAC 2.0 Testbed.  Its an interesting idea and I mention it simply because it falls into my musings of last week regarding the wisedom of dedicating the limited resources in the library community at developing an ILS (Develop the library’s OPAC? Maybe not…) — something that I see as being more and more marginalized in the future library infrastructure.  Of course, I’m coming at this from the research library community, where it seems this movement is happenning much faster than in other communities. 

Anyway, I like what Casey is doing here.  Personally, I have little quams paying for a vendor to produce and support and ILS for a couple reasons:

  • circulation and aquisitions — aside from being difficult to emulate current vendor offerings, the entire process has little interest to me as a programmer.  I’m completely happy letting someone else deal with these problems.
  • It frees us to work on the next generation of library tools — tools that continue the process of marginalizing the opac.
  • Migrating data is…well, I don’t use the more salty language, but lets just say, its not particularly fun.  In the last year, I’ve worked with 4 libraries migrating from one system or another as a data migration consultant.  In each case, the migration process was made much more difficult than it actually needed to be simply because most vendors place non-bibliographic information into proprietary formats.  While this, in an of itself actually would be a good argument to move to a different ILS, the actual pain involved in the move and the fact that it would essentially halt any other development in the library for a good 6-8 months does give me (and I’m sure others) pause. 

So that takes me to what Casey is doing.  Essentially, he’s letting the opac do what it does well (circulation and aquisitions) and is repurposing the UI in a new and exciting way.  Very cool stuff.  And best of all, it looks like it would be fairly easy to do so it appears to have a high reward for the patron.  Of course, the next step would be to have some libraries (public and academic) actually take this setup and see how patrons work with it.  I think within the public library sphere, this type of functionality would prove very popular.  Again, since I just don’t see the ILS as being central to most academic organizations (at least, it shouldn’t be), I’m not sure…but definitely worth thinking about.

–Terry