Thank god, this should be the last of my travel for some time. Thankfully, this is a local conference — the Northwest Innovative Usergroup. I’m actually presenting two topics, one related specifically to III’s products and one where I’m going to be doing a little evangelism for open access within our ILS (good luck, I know — III and open access seem to go together like oil and water).
The NWIUG conference is actually an interesting usergroup. Its different from the national conference in that there are a lot fewer III staff presentations — so you tend to get a lot of information from actual users of the system so you can see some interesting things folks are doing.
While at the same time, this is an III usergroup, which is reflected in the keynote. This year, Dinah Sanders gave a talk on the future of the WebPac, Innovatives public interface. The discussion this year centered around Encore, III’s next generation web opac. Encore will include a number web 2.0izy features like user tagging and comments. Will this be free — I doubt it, will it be interesting — for public libraries yes. Academics — interesting but I’d be curious to see how useful. Unfortunately, I think that there is a dangerous side to Encore as well. It will integrate all III packages, like their federated search, openURL, etc. Basically, it encourages vendor-lock, as the integration only works with III products — so it basically just makes a bigger silo’d data store. And unfortunately, I’m sure there will be a number of people ready to drink the III kool aid. The one bright spot of Encore is that III says that it will rely on webservices. From what I’ve heard, there isn’t an interest at this point in making these webservices available for public consumption, but I’m sure that could change.
We’ll see. From my perspective, III is on the clock. I don’t see the OPAC as having a future in libraries. It won’t go away right away, but I firmly believe that libraries need to stop spending money on it and start looking at other solutions. III could make lives much easier for innovative libraries by providing an open API — but so far, they haven’t and if they don’t, I predict that they will start to find themselves losing relevance within libraries. I given them 5 years. If they can’t recognize this shift from black box development to open architectures — well, I’d be concerned about their future — particularly in the academic market where libraries have development resources. Tick, tick.