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Dilettante's Ball

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Lorcan Dempsey's Weblog
The Shifted Librarian
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I sound my barbaric YAWP over the walls of my cubicle.
I woke up at 4:30 this morning.

One could easily write this off to a variety of stresses: an article I have no business writing; a conference I have no business helping organize; a huge project that I am having problems getting started on; a house that I apparently haven't sunk enough money in to move into yet; a house that I can't drag far enough away from the railroad tracks to sell; the usual burden that is "the holidays"... sure one could try to pin it on any of those.

But I woke up thinking about (meaning that I was dreaming about) something I read recently from Richard Wallis on Panlibus, Talis' 'blog:
Well yes, the current generation of ILS systems were not built with Web Services everywhere. To put it bluntly, who will pay the salaries of the developers who are going to develop these services for you to consume?

Strange thing to dream about, I know. However, when I think about this one quote, it pisses me off to no end. The University System of Georgia pays Endeavor over $500,000 a year for the privilege of running an ILS that they haven't invested any innovation in years. Granted, we are 35 libraries, so it's not like we're all paying that ransom, but, on the flip side, we're probably also getting a discount for the very fact that we are so large.

Then, to think we are but a percentage of Endeavor's total customer base...


Of course, I realize that Talis is in no way related to Endeavor, but I cannot imagine their pricing is so radically different that their coffers have no shillings to pay for developers.

Besides, they must already have developers, right? Maybe you need hire developers with vision.

So, to this argument, I call bullshit.

The other thing that struck me (again, apparently in my dream) is the apologetic tone I see quite frequently (recent example here, lots of others floating about) that shifts the blame of our stagnant, crappy Integrated Library Systems to us, the customers instead to our vendors. The argument goes that we, the libraries, have asked for the wrong things for the ILS and the poor vendors (poor, poor vendors) had their hands tied, literally tied, trying to keep up with our demands to be able to incorporate any sort of innovation in the last 15-20 years. Besides, they'd say, if they came up with something different, libraries might not want the change.

What (successful) technology company has ever relied on RFPs for their innovation? Are Google's hands tied until some customer says, "Hey, can you make a web based 'maps' site? You know what we need? A new way to do threaded email."? How about Intel? Microsoft?

No. These companies realize that they need to innovate to survive. To stagnate or half-ass is the kiss of death. See Novell. For a more dramatic example, see Apple.

No, it's time we stop taking it like abused spouses from our vendors. You know, maybe we did overcook the porkchop and maybe we do open our mouths too much, but that's no reason to have a black eye. If a handful of the better funded libraries were to help found something like the Apache Foundation for library software, our abusive husbands might find treat as partners rather than punching bags. I think I might know a good place to look for talent.

(In truth, our rottweiler woke me up, but the dream still stands).


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