Apr 302008
 

Funny day.  Great story.  I’ve been hanging out in Minnesota attending DLF and got a funny message.  Apparently, my absence at this year’s IUG was noticed and a few folks wanted to know if Innovative had somehow banned me from attending.  I found this an odd statement for two reasons.  First, I’m not sure what the author of this message had in mind.  The first thought I had was an episode of the Simpson’s.  During the first season, Homer is voted to negotiate with Mr. Burns to keep their dental plan.  After failing to submit to Mr. Burn’s original offer, we have a scene with Homer at home.

[knock, knock]

Homer: Who’s there
Voice: Hired Goons

[Homer opens the door to find two hired goons waiting to take him to Mr. Burns]

Is this the scenario that was being imagined?  Probably not.  I imagine what probably prompted the question was some recent events and announcements to come out of the Pacific Northwest, specifically as they had to do with Summit, a consortia made up of Oregon and Washington Libraries.  For the past 13 years (if I remember correctly, Summit started my freshman year at the University of Oregon in 1995), the Summit (or Orbis consortia, as it was known for the first 9 or so years) consortia utilized III’s InnReach software.  As of next fall, this will change, as the consortia and OCLC have entered into an agreement to build a consortia version of WorldCat Local.  This decision has put some strain in the relationship between III and the consortia (and III and it’s members) over the past year — but it really is time to move on.  In the end, we simply didn’t share the same needs and were moving in two different paths.  On one hand, the consortia had a real desire to purchase a solution that provided much greater access to API for purposes of interoperability and local development.  With OCLC’s product, this appears to be something that will be available to the consortia and it’s members — especially as OCLC’s grid services become a reality.  III on the other hand, well, I think that they will eventually come around to making an API available — they are just doing it much slower than we would like.  But more than anything though, I think it comes down to a difference of philosophy.  III, for better or worst, still sees the library catalog as the central resource of a library’s infrastructure, while Summit and it’s members are starting to see it as one small piece of a much larger whole.  Because of that, the two groups place different emphasizes on things like API access, NCIP support, OAI support, etc. — essentially, services that would ease the flow of data into and out of the library system.  For Summit, not having the ability to use or develop these services became a deal breaker (and for III, our request for them was a deal breaker as well). 

Secondly, and this is one of those things that I’m slightly concerned about as a customer and member of the IUG community is that there was an expectation by some that the above consortia changes would lead a company to blackball a group of members.  Is that really how the IUG community looks at their relationship with III, one that is built on a foundation of eggshells?  Or does it say something about librarians, who tend to treat their vendors with kid-gloves.  I think it shows a little of both — because people in the IUG community are nervous (I hear it all the time) that III will bring the hammer down on institution if they criticize their products, which certainly feeds into the library community’s built-in timidness in regards to how we work with our vendors.  But now I’m getting off topic.  :)

So, for the record, the reason I’m not at the IUG is because I’m in Minneapolis attending DLF.  So, no, III didn’t send Rocko to my office in Corvallis (at least, not yet) — sorry to disappoint. 

–TR

 

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