A bunch of my colleagues are dressed up today. I considered donning my khaki-colored dockers, denim shirt, and brown loafers, but was afraid that no one would recognize me as being a vendor. I needed too many props to pull off the costume, like some PowerPoint slides that look like a real website. I have mastered the ability to smile, rock back and forth on my feet while swinging my arms, and exuding that look of “Boy, do I have a solution for you!”
It’s getting harder these days to determine whether what libraries are getting is a trick or a treat. We tend not to take “trick or treat” too seriously . . . as in give me a treat or I will play a trick.
Sometimes the trick is figuring out just what the heck is going on, like when two competing vendors join forces to offer products and services. We’ve seen this ad nauseam in the ILS vendor world in the last couple of years. It’s even present in the open source community where openness is the shared structure despite the fact that the products themselves compete. This week, we see it in the self-check and security arena.
3M and Checkpoint have apparently joined forces. It’s not quite a merger and I am still trying to figure out the techno-political ramifications of the partnership: 3M will be an exclusive reseller of Checkpoint technology, and Checkpoint will continue to sell directly to libraries. The partnership is described in this press release (pdf).
Reading between the lines a little, it seems like 3M is enamored of Checkpoint’s technology, and Checkpoint likes 3M’s support and customer service infrastructure. How they will reconcile their products might be akin to how the entire self-check and security market reconciles its standards, something that has been contentious for the last few years. 3M and Checkpoint are both on the NISO RFID for Library Applications Working Group, chaired by VTLS‘s Vinod Chachra. TAGSYS, an RFID maker, is also on the group. The extent to which competing vendors have input into the standard is unclear.
In my opinion, the discussion around RFID has been too philosophical (privacy, data leaks, etc.) and not technical enough (interoperability, technological lifespan, etc.). Establishing a relationship with a self-check and security vendor has too often been a life-long relationship for technological reasons. Interoperability is the only hope in being able to choose the right vendor with whom to establish a relationship.
[This post originally appeared as part of American Libraries’ Hectic Pace Blog and is archived here.]