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Would your OPAC benefit from being more modular? January 19, 2010

Posted by michaelpawlus in Uncategorized.
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Nicole Engard, author of Library Mashups: Exploring New Ways to Deliver Library Data,  was recently on Sarah Long’s Long Shots Podcast talking about all the tools available to libraries through the use of mashups (or combining elements of different web services to create a unique product).  On the podcast she notes that the hardest part of incorporating these modular resources is that first one must ‘break into’ their OPAC.  I just want to say that this is the big problem with proprietary software, it is too slow to respond in a world where new technology emerges everyday that could benefit our users.

Recently, I wrote about how New York Public Library migrated their site to Drupal.  This will make their site much more dynamic and flexible and give all members of staff more power to contribute so their web identity can always stay current.  A few years ago, the National Library of Australia started using the VuFind OPAC which is an open-source project from Vanderbilt University.  I think the criticism of open-source projects is that they are experimental, unstable, and always in beta.  Here though we can see that NLA has continued to use VuFind and I think it is time that other libraries started looking into this as a solution.  Especially when one considers that aside from its collection, a library currently spends the majority of its budget on its OPAC. In a time when budgets are tight these could result in much needed savings.

VuFind is modular by design and that is a good thing as there have been some great products released recently which serve to augment library systems.  The ones getting the most buzz are tools developed from LibraryThing including Local Books, Library Anywhere, and Shelf Browse (pictured above).  These tools have been built to be compatible with most OPACs but that will not always be the case especially if you create a mashup that is specific to your community.  Do you really want to have to break into your OPAC just to deliver better service to your users?

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