Platforming a library network: destination and switch

Lorcan 2 min read

I recently came across xignite, a financial web services company. Here is their blurb ….

Financial events around the world impact not only finance professionals but every business. This is why successful businesses integrate key financial information into the processes and applications their employees or clients use every day. Until now, this integration has been a challenge.

Xignite answers that challenge by letting you access the latest financial and industry data on-demand, and easily integrate it straight into your company’s mission-critical applications using through web services. With Xignite, you can make your business financial-aware in minutes. [Global Financial Data, News & Information Web Services – Xignite]

I liked the expression ‘making your business financial-aware’ through web services. is a bibliographic ‘destination’ and is used heavily in that way. For example, it is an important scholarly tool given its topical reach and historic depth. I recently came across an interesting niche use, when I was told by a used book seller that he uses it to discover how widely distributed an item is, or to identify libraries who might be interested in buying an item.
However, very importantly, it is also a switch into the library network. It connects discovery to actual locations, and depending on your institutional affiliation it offers you various services against those locations. In this way, discloses library collections and services on the web.
In recent years, we have seen many bibliographic destinations emerge. They are variously positioned in terms of value creation. Amazon, AbeBooks, Goodreads, Google Book Search, LibraryThing, Live Search Books, OpenLibrary, the Library of Congress catalog, many national and regional library union catalogs (for example Libraries Australia, COPAC, OhioLink, Bibsys, ….), and so on. This variety seem healthy to me, and Worldcat sits alongside this range as one more destination with its own characteristics and uses. An increasingly valuable destination, we trust!
However, we also hope that Worldcat is also used by the other sites – and it is – as a switch. It is a way for other sites to add value by providing access to library resources. And it creates value for libraries by making them present in other environments where people look for, work with, share information about, books and other resources. It allows libraries to disclose collections and services in other environments.
As we move forward with the Worldcat API, this allows Worldcat functionality to be made available to other applications. So, adapting the xignite phrasing above, the Worldcat API will make applications ‘bibliographic-aware’; however, thinking of the switch functionality, it will also help make applications ‘library-network aware’. It will allow applications to incorporate access to a network of library assets, and to focus in on particular ones of interest. We can do this because of the collective investment by the library community and OCLC in Worldcat and registry data.
I was prompted to do this post by another interesting post from Mark Dahl where he talks about (my words) how OCLC can make the library network available at the network level, to other applications as well as to user interfaces.

OCLC has this valuable data, and great potential to develop things with it, as well as a general current towards network-level computing moving in its favor. When an libraries compare OCLC’s products with that of a traditional ILS vendor, they need to see that the OCLC product is more than technology. Rather, it is an extension of a community, a network. [synthesize-specialize-mobilize: OCLC’s competitive advantage]

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