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It’s not that simple

Jun - 15 - 2006
Nicole C. Engard

Daniel Chudnov has a post over at One Big Library stating the problems with the ILS Customer Bill of Rights. While I agree with his points – he missed a big one. Since I was busy all day, someone beat me to pointing it out:

I think I understand where he is coming from. But I think the disconnect for me comes a bit earlier in his post when Chudnov writes “you can choose NOT TO BUY THE FREAKIN’ PRODUCT.”

Well, no we can’t. I sure can’t. I can’t go in and cancel my library’s contract with our vendor. I didn’t sign the original contract, and neither did my director. That decision was made at least one director ago.

And even if I could move my library over to Evergreen tomorrow I wouldn’t because I am fairly certain that such a move would torpedo my library’s participation in our state-wide lending network, which is absolutely vital to our college’s population. Which isn’t to say that Evergreen couldn’t handle such a network, as it is being developed for Georgia’s statewide library network, PINES; it just means that I’d have a whole heck of a lot of people to convince that this was a good idea.

That from Steve Lawson at See Also.

See, in a perfect world we’d be able to make the switch from one system to another without much worry – but it’s not a perfect world. As I’ve said before I’m all for libraries getting together to come up with an open-source option designed by librarians for libraries – but I’m not the decision maker – I’m not even a “real” librarian.

In our case, the system was purchased 16 years ago and has become integrated into our library. In my opinion, this is a bad thing – in the opinions of the IT staff members – this is a bad thing – in the opinion of at least 1/2 the staff this is a bad thing – but none of that matters because it is not our choice and it is not our decision – we have to work with what we’re given.

This means that it’s up the vendors to make systems that are easy for everyone to work with. Catalogers are not the only ones using these systems anymore – the web teams are using them – the IT departments are using them and 1/2 the staff needs to work with them – they are no longer cataloging systems – they are “integrated library systems” and they should work for everyone in the library.

I know that was a bit of a rant, but Daniel’s post has set me off – not because he’s upset me – but because he has just reminded me that I have no control over the situation. There is nothing I can do to change the system my library is using and no amount of explaining the reasons we should move to open-source will make any bit of difference (at least not in any timely sort of fashion).

See Daniel, I wish it was as easy as you make it sound – and I’m thankful to the people out there who are working on better solutions – and like I said in a comment on Tame the Web – in one year when I have my MLS and I’m a “real” librarian – I will be ready to join forces with any libraries or librarians that want to build a better system from the ground up.

Now if everyone who was unsatisfied with their ILS vendor (and I know there are a lot of you – and most of you have the same system I do) were to up and switch to an Open-Source option – it would be hard and it would cause all kinds of uproar in our libraries (event though you'll be saving thousands of dollars) – but it would also cause uproar among the vendors – causing them to look at their systems and their practices and make some changes! Once again – that’s one of those perfect world situations – but I can dream can’t I?

5 Responses so far.

  1. [...] The rub comes from the fact that many people don’t feel libraries and ILS vendors exist in a free market, and Dchud is hopping mad that those people don’t realize that vendors won’t compete like it’s a free market until their customers start exercising some free-market sensibility (as suggested in his “you can choose NOT TO BUY THE FREAKIN’ PRODUCT” point). [...]

  2. [...] In a post titled It’s not that simple over at "What I learned today":http://www.web2learning.net/, Nicole Engard takes on the notion that we can "vote with out feet" (or wallets or whatever) when it comes to the OPAC. [...]

  3. dchud says:

    Who said anything about any of this being easy? The only easy part of it is to simply decide that “we require something different to serve our community better.” Figuring out the details and making it happen might just take your whole career.

    As for “not being a ‘real’ librarian” — too late, you already signed up, you’re in the club. Welcome to the imperfect world. :P

    You have a whole career in front of you to make decisions. There are so many individuals in our profession who have singlehandedly brought massive change-for-the-better that to set your sights any lower than following their examples is to stumble out of the gate. So don’t sell yourself short — not even now, while you’re still in school — you are in complete control of where *your* time and energy will go.

  4. Nicole says:

    :) I’m joining the imperfect world with all of my “perfect” ideas!

    Right now my time and energey are going towards getting my degree – after that – we’ll see what changes I can instate.

  5. [...] June 15 – It’s not that simple – We’re back to Nicole who also takes on Dchud’s post. [...]


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