by Erin Gallagher
Happy springtime and end of semester, everyone! Are your students and faculty neck-deep in final exams? Are students literally camped out, slumber party-style, on the floor in your libraries? Are you fielding reference questions from students whose papers are due in the next five minutes? If so, I’m sending you lots of positive thoughts and energy. And I just thought of a potentially interesting question for this year’s end-of-conference poll-a-palooza at Charleston: what’s the strangest reference question you’ve ever been asked?
If you are a member of ALA or if you regularly read their publication American Libraries, you may have seen Marshall Breeding’s report on the new open source ILS project EBSCO is supporting. A colleague and I attended an EBSCO-sponsored lunch (and a lovely one at that) at the ER&L conference earlier this month on this exact project. Personally, I see it as a smart and logical move on EBSCO’s part. Though many libraries are using their discovery service, EDS, EBSCO doesn’t really have an iron in the ILS fire. Meanwhile, their competitors are devouring each other like Saturn devouring his children, and offering an increasingly smaller universe of options for library systems. By supporting this project, EBSCO can help provide competition, and they can couch it in the name of openness and collaboration. What I find interesting is that they’ve done their due diligence in surveying and speaking with librarians about what we want, and we tend to say we want open source products. We love OPEN THINGS! But other open source ILS projects have come and gone, so why are over 1,000 libraries still signing up with Ex Libris and OCLC? I wager it’s because open source products sound good on paper but don’t work out so well in reality. Yes, more competition in the ILS market can mean lower costs, but it also means your library has to have the time, expertise, and human power to manage disparate systems and make them integrate effectively. Open source products can save you money, but what about the other costs? Regardless of what we say we want, there’s a reason why we keep migrating to systems “…where LSPs come tightly bundled with discovery services from the same provider”. All this being said, I appreciate EBSCO’s support of this project and I’m following with interest. You can sign up here for updates and news.
Is anyone going to the ALA Annual Conference this summer? I admit that I often skip ALA Annual in favor of others like Charleston, ER&L, or ACRL, but the conference is in Orlando this year, so I have no excuse not to attend. If you’re going and want any recommendations on the area (and I don’t mean Disney…), leave me a comment. I hope to see you there!