I am just back from Charleston, South Carolina, and the increasingly popular “Charleston Conference,” after three long weeks of fall travel. And what a way to finish up! This is only my second time at this conference, which is celebrating its 26th year, and it is one of the best I have ever attended. The crowd of technical services librarians, collection managers, and scholarly publishers is not my usual crowd, so I was flattered to be invited to present at two plenary sessions. The theme of the conference was “Unintended Consequences,” and many of the topics covered the advent of Open Access, STM publishing, and the general uncertainty of what I am now thinking of as the information ecosystem.
I got to thinking about the introduction of new technologies (e.g. Web 2,0), new content providers (e.g. Open Access), new content “snarfers” (e.g., Microsoft Live and Google), and new business models for library automation. I was never very good at biology, but I gained a general understanding about how the introduction of new species into an ecosystem has an impact on the existing system.
For example, take a look at the (overly generalized) content ecosystem:
- Primary Publishers
- Open Access, Crossref, Google Scholar, Microsoft Live, Scirus
- Secondary Publishers (e.g., full-text databases)
- A&I databases
- All those other deep web resources (you should also see the OEDb’s “Research Beyond Google: 119 Authoritative, Invisible, and Comprehensive Resources”)
First of all, can all these players survive? Will some get thinner while others get fatter? And what happens when we start talking about entirely different types of content, like datasets, and thousands of terabytes of data from government, the scientific community, and countless scholars?
Let’s look at another example, the ILS industry:
- Single monolithic system (one of the ILS vendors left standing)
- Vertically integrated system (e.g., with financial, HR, course management, and campus or community portal systems)
- Open Source system (e.g., Evergreen, Koha, the University of Rochester’s eXtensible catalog)
- Suite of dis-integrated or interoperable systems
- OCLC custom service suite
These aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive options (at least after the first one), but which system will you have? Which system do you want?
Does your library have a continuation strategy for content and systems? An exit strategy? I promised no navel-gazing in this blog, didn’t I? Oops.
[This post originally appeared as part of American Libraries’ Hectic Pace Blog and is archived here.]