Shared Innovation

Today I had the pleasure of getting to hear Paul Miller from Talis talk again. You may remember my enthusiastic post from CIL last year. His talk was not titled Shared Innovation – but it was a lot about Shared Innovation (and the talk had the same title as at CIL so I didn’t want to title another post with the same name 🙂 )

Paul reminds us that library 2.0 is not just technology, but a fundamental shift in the way that we reach our users. Library 2.0 is about opening the library up and pushing the library everywhere.

He mentioned that librarians like to say that the reason the user doesn’t find what they need in the catalog is that they aren’t searching right. Paul says – no they’re not! The OPAC is wrong. It’s the “customer is always right” philosophy – and while I don’t completely buy in to that – in this case I agree 100%. If the users can’t find what they need, than the system is broken!

He went on to remind us that these monolithic library systems are a hindrance on the way we work. We need to break them down into pieces and let the library plug in the bits they want and need. Modular systems are the way of the future, and if the ILS vendors don’t get a clue they’re going to be left behind – there’s only so much us users can take before we decide to move on!

We also need to open our catalogs up so that our data can be used by others (and this is not only on the librarians, but the vendors providing the locked down systems). There’s tons of useful info in there – why aren’t we sharing? This is what libraries need to get better at – opening up our catalogs and sharing, but sharing innovation as well.

This is one of the things I have a hard time with – not that I don’t want to share, but I never learned object-oriented PHP – and that means that my applications are all hard coded for my organization.

Talis has the innovation directory for this very purpose – sharing programs across library boundaries.

Library 2.0 – Why Now?

  1. Dramatically falling cost of storage
  2. Falling cost of computer power
  3. Growing connectivity
  4. …And more

Essence of Library 2.0

Paul used a phrase of Tim O’Reilly’s when he said that library 2.0 is “an architecture of participation”. It is about making it possible for people who wouldn’t normally meet to collaborate together with ease. For this to happen librarians have to come off of their high horses a bit and have some fun with the data – he used John Blyberg’s card catalog as an example.

Some examples Paul gave us were the Georgia PINES library catalog and Talis’ Keystone (a module that can be put on top of our catalogs – as a temporary solution).

Are the Vendors Participating?

Paul asks – are the vendors engaging us – the librarians? Do they have an open developer network? Are they engaging in the communication that is going around? The answer is no – and Paul thinks it’s because they all know that we’re going to buy the products (because there aren’t many choices out there – YET!) and don’t care what we have to say. On this note, I had lunch with Paul and we talked about Talis opening a US office – since they are the one vendor (that I’ve heard of) that are engaging the users and putting themselves out there with us – and sadly the answer is “no” 🙁

The current model is broken

Paul says the current model for sharing bibliographic data is broken. Why are we paying to share our information? This is something we should be able to do for free. The answer is because it’s difficult to share data because we’re all running different systems – well guess what? Talis has a solution for that as well. Silkworm is a directory of libraries that provides the necessary information for users to use web services to get at the data – I need to check this out more thoroughly – but it sounds amazing!


Paul closed with 2 conclusions that stuck with me. 1) Liberate the Data & 2) Open, Open, Open – open up everything – there is no reason for it to be so hard for us to share and work together!!

Technorati Tags: ,


  1. Cant get much more open than open source and open standards. Did anyone ask Talis if they were using either? Or publishing either? 🙂

  2. No one did ask – but I’m sure you could – they’re very open as far as communication goes. I think that some of the modules they’re offering are open source – but I’m not 100% sure on that without checking – and I’m too tired to do that right now 🙂 I’ll get back to you.

  3. Chris

    good questions, indeed. I’m grabbing a few moments here between sessions, but can provide more detail later if you’d like.

    For now, though, check out, especially the sections around Talis Keystone (open source toolkit, freely accessible sandbox site, etc) and the Talis Platform (open apis, providing access to open data).

    Project Cenote ( is also worth a look; an application built very rapidly atop a number of our apis; apis that you could build a completely different application with to meet your own needs if you wanted to. Cenote is part of an ongoing shift from building an application and (maybe, begrudgingly) opening up some functionality via an api or two at a later date… toward gathering together a whole Platform of inter-connected apis and then encouraging anybody to build ‘competing’ applications that consume them.

    On the Open Standards, we’ve also been heavily involved in things like VIEWS, and continue to engage with W3C, Creative Commons, and others…

    If you, or anyone, would like more details, feel free to get in touch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *