Friday, February 17, 2006

Beyond the Yellow Brick Road

Oh I've finally decided my future lies,
Beyond the yellow brick road.” (“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”* – Elton John)

You’ve seen several posts recently on IAG about the OCLC Members Council meeting earlier this week. It’s a thrice-yearly gathering of the clan – delegates from OCLC member libraries around the globe, select observers from various library groups, OCLC and OCLC PICA staff, staff from OCLC’s regional service providers and special guests. The effort for all concerned to prepare for, travel to the meeting, and engage in the business of guiding the work of the world’s largest cooperative of libraries, is by no means small, but the reward for OCLC, our members, and – we hope – the delegates is great. Much is shared, discussed and debated, and direction is offered to OCLC. Professional connections are made or renewed. Information and ideas flow. We get a chance to ask/answer questions, listen, and, as needed, adjust course. As gatherings of librarians go – and I’ve been to my share – I think OCLC Members Council meetings boast one of the better meeting-to-action ratios in library land. Indeed, a few items from this week’s meeting are already on my to-do list.

But I was not writing this post to wax poetic on Members Council – as pleasant a task as that may be – but rather as lead-in to my real topic, the future. The occasion of each Members Council meeting is also an opportunity for RONDAC (Regional OCLC Network Directors Advisory Committee) to meet. At this meeting RONDAC requested a briefing on emerging technology/trends from OCLC Research, and yours truly was very pleased to be selected as the messenger.

So what did I prognosticate? Well – by way of metaphor – rather than continuing to walk the mostly comfortable path-of-incremental-change yellow brick road that once trailed before us, my own impression is that the future will look a bit more like a painting by Roger Dean (samples) – simultaneously familiar yet undeniably fantastic, and, definitely beyond the comfort of our 20th century yellow brick road.

As the full presentation I gave to RONDAC is a bit long to blog in a single post, here’s a mildly modified, condensed version (with thanks to several colleagues who offered counsel as I worked through the original presentation):

The backstage – global, high tech, high touch:
  • Everyone lives, works and learns in the Global Village (or at least its suburbs)

  • An everywhere, immersive network (web, cellular, GPS) connects all

  • Content is increasingly digital, and massive content increasingly portable

  • Users are embracing self-service, personalization, social networking/contribution and micro services/content (e.g., ringtones)
The system space – refactored**:
  • Modular (micro-services, remixing, data and functions from multiple sources)

  • Layered (loosely-coupled systems)

  • Interoperable (low-friction, high reuse) – [Note: lightweight protocols gaining favor (e.g., SRW/SRU, microformats)]

  • Machine-oriented services (web services)
The frontstage – empowered consumption:
  • Open Source/Content intellectual property is being built and leveraged widely (e.g., Apache software, Creative Commons content)

  • Release here, remix there: For example, Mash-ups deliver remixed functions & data from multiple providers in a seamless, integrated experience (with tools like Greasemonkey, etc. making lightweight mixing simple, easy, user-driven) [Note: Lorcan references a Science Library Pad post as illustration of this idea]
The library space – sea change a comin’:
  • “Acquire-Catalog-Circulate” fades into new “Integrate-Manage-Analyze” model [thanks to Robin Murray of OCLC PICA for this excellent conceptual frame – see Alane’s post and hear Robin’s remarks in a podcast for a fuller picture]

  • Surfacing seamlessly – library content and services will/must show up in non-library spaces (e.g., the web, office applications, learning management systems) to satisfy point-of-need demands of users

  • New models (e.g., FRBR) to build on, new user experiences to develop and deliver – lighter, easier, more relevant modes of delivering D2D (discovery to delivery) will appear

  • Non-library spaces will inform library spaces and vice-versa far more in the future than they did in the past: As illustration, witness the degree to which bookseller, publisher, library catalogs are starting to show feature & content convergence (e.g., enriched content (dust covers, TOCs) is increasingly a common feature, commonly expressed in form and content)

RONDAC patiently listened to my presentation and improved the overall session content greatly with thoughtful interjections, smart discussion, and insightful-but-hard-to-answer questions. My thanks to them, and to my colleagues, Doug Potts, and Suzanne Lauer, for arranging for my participation in the meeting.

So over to you, gentle IAG readers – are my pronouncements on-track/off-track? Did I miss any big ticket items? And more importantly, did George avoid my presentation because he really had more important business to attend to, or just so I’d have to blog a quick-read version for him later?

**"Refactoring is the process of changing a software system in such a way that it does not alter the external behavior of the code yet improves its internal structure." – Martin Fowler in Refactoring : improving the design of existing code (Reading, MA : Addison-Wesley, 1999.) (as quoted here)

(*“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” - Music by Elton John; Lyrics by Bernie Taupin. The song initially appeared on Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album)

1 comment:

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