I don’t remember the hills in Seattle being so steep. I’m still on East Coast time and sitting in the bar of the Renaissance Madison Hotel on a dying battery, trying to summarize today’s events. (No, I’m not sitting in a bar at breakfast time Saturday, when this entry posted to the blog!)
The bulk of the day was spent at RMG’s annual “ILS vendor” panel. I know, you’re thinking, “How many of them are left?” Truth be told, the panel in its 18th year is made up primarily of nontraditional system vendors, though they are still well represented.
This year’s panel included: Paul Cope (Auto-Graphics), Beth Jefferson (BiblioCommons), Matti Shem Tov (Ex Libris), Bastian Zwaan (MediaLab), Bill Shickling (Polaris), Jane Burke (Serials Solutions), Pat Sommers (SirsiDynix), Annette Murphy (TLC), Vinod Chachra (VTLS), and Todd Miller (WebFeat).
Anyone who knows me knows I am a firm believer in knowing one’s history, but I will admit that there was a little too much history at the start of this session–a few too many jokes about being in the business since the dark ages. Sometimes these jokes can make the players look like sages; taken to extremes, it can make them look out of touch.
Things got more interesting when host Rob McGee asked the representatives of SirsiDynix, Ex Libris, and Serials Solutions to talk about recent changes in ownership of their companies (the so-called “elephant in the room”), the details of which have already been covered in previous HP posts. Kudos to Matti Shem Tov for schooling the audience on the difference between venture capital and private equity. It was somewhat entertaining to watch vendors draw a line in the sand between investor-owned and founder-owned companies. While a sense of nostalgia might make libraries favor the latter, I think that longing for the past would be quickly traded for functionality, customer service, or even some robust product development.
The session really got some traction (as it usually does) when a few bold statements were made. A lengthy discussion about the return on investment (ROI) for library automation ranged from discussion of focusing on needs of end-users to yours truly being asked on the spot to comment on Endeca’s ROI for NCSU Libraries.
“If libraries are not successful, then none of us on this panel are successful.” -Patrick Sommers, SirsiDynix
The panel took on the feel of a focus group as the room debated remote storage, RFID technology, faceted classification, library architecture, and the future of discovery and delivery in library automation systems. The mix of panel participants and the nice mix of vendors and librarians in the room kept the conversation lively but civil.
What was missing? The hills. All these vendors have hills to climb to stay relevant in the industry, just as libraries have hills to climb to remain relevant in the eyes of patrons. Focus groups are good. A panel of technologists trying to solve some of the problems defined in this session would also be interesting.
[This post originally appeared as part of American Libraries’ Hectic Pace Blog and is archived here.]