Finally a component based library environment

At IgeLu 2008 in Madrid, the international Ex Libris user group meeting, Ex Libris explained their future strategy. Their software products are going to be part of a component based architecture with open interfaces. They are going to use one central data store for all meta data, a Unified Resource Management System to control this information and a Unified Resource Discovery and Delivery environment to present information to the end user.

In Wageningen we decided to rebuild our own library system some 7 years ago. We discussed buying an Integrated Library System, but realized this sort of product was outdated. The traditional ILS does not cover all the tools a modern library uses nowadays. More importantly, these systems were not open. They did not enable you to build additional components, basically because these systems were not component based to start with.

Because of this, for example, almost every library ends up with separate systems for their electronic resources and for their paper resources, forcing their users to choose between electronic or paper, before they start their search for information.

We decided to develop, what we call, a Library Content Management system, sharing one single data store for all meta data, accessible for all system components. We would like to buy these system components, but they were unavailable. The thing that came close was Ex Libris URL resolver. It had it's own meta data store, the so called knowledge base, but because of its open interfaces we could extend it to use our own content management system as an additional knowledge base. So we decided to buy this component and develop all other components ourselves. (Actually we also bought Ex Libris Meta search product, Metalib, because it also fits in our architecture but there are a lot of issues when it comes to meta searching, which I will discuss in a future blog post.)

Now Ex Libris chooses to follow a similar strategy. They have chosen better names. I prefer Unified Resource Management System over Library Content Management System, which we have chosen. We had some internal discussion about this and I feel that the term Content Management System has been misused so much over the last decade, we did the wrong thing picking this name. (Although I do feel it covers quite well what the system is doing)

I think we would have invested in Ex Libris URM solution, if it would have been introduced 6 years ago. Even though it still has to prove itself, since it is basically drawing board technology for the moment, I feel they have chosen the right architecture. I suppose they can do a better job then we, with our small development team.
For now we will be very keen on what is evolving and see what we can learn.. If their interfaces are going to be really open, we may want to replace components by Ex Libris products in the future or make our components work within their environment.

But who knows, may be other vendors will see the light as well and we will have even more choices in the future.