What Are You Doing To Shape The Future Of Libraries?

Jenny Levine recently posted a note about OPACs and XML and Maps wherein she makes two points: first, Mike Copley at North Shore Libraries in New Zealand has been doing some exciting stuff to help patrons find books (go ahead, go there and click a “view map” link), then expands her post to address the struggles that folks like Mike face to do some of these things.

See, Mike’s library system is converting to Innovative (III) soon, so the work he’s done is mostly for naught, as it’s very difficult to identify item locations with the detail he’s getting now.

Mike faces a few choices. First, he can create discrete locations for various call number ranges, but maintaining that is a bigger chore than can be described in three volumes of Russian fiction. Second, he can buy another Innovative product, Web Bridge, which gives him the ability to create dynamic links in the library catalog based on data in the bibliographic record.

But even with that, he’d need to build a bunch of his own software to translate those call numbers into geographic locations he can put on the map.

The third option I can think of depends on the ugliest hack I’ve ever put into production. It uses a JavaScript embedded in the banner or footer to manipulate the contents of the page — even submitting it to a server-side PHP script for processing. It’s likely to fail, and only executes after the page displays, but it mostly does the job.

There are no easy choices here, but Mike hits the real problem on the head:

it’s just a pity that III’s web OPAC isn’t as flexible — we’re moving from DRA to III’s Millennium and in the process their OPAC cannot be customized to the level of DRA’s years old system

Now, to put credit where it’s due, III’s webOPAC has improved enormously over the past couple years, and III has a lot of other customers to satisfy. Still, we can all wonder what Mike might have said had he seen it in 2002.

Jenny has it right when she says “everyone we’ve met at Innovative is great.” I feel lucky to have had some really good conversations with a number of individuals there, but it’s hard not to be frustrated by things like this.