If we are to pick a theme for 2014, it may be “choice.” This sounds like a broad concept but it is, in fact, very concrete. With an ever-growing array of software applications, from next-gen ILS to discovery, libraries can choose what works best. And they can do this thanks to a key technological and business concept that has defined the software industry and has enabled choice: “extensibility.”
So why is choice what sets 2014 apart? Choice in 2014 has become real for many libraries. We see this with the growing number of libraries choosing applications that are extensible–interoperable and open–in order to meet the unique needs of their institutions. Many applications now follow standards that allow for seamless connectivity, be it through existing APIs or the ability for developers to write their own code. We have seen some great examples from ILS vendors and others who facilitate extensibility through APIs as the cornerstone of their solutions.
To be sure, there is already much to be considered when comparing discovery services—how does relevance ranking perform? What is the user experience like? How can the solution be customized for specific disciplines? And to what extent is the discovery service itself open? When systems are open, modular and extensible, libraries can look at the front-end and assess the solution independently from the back-end. And so, the principle of extensibility allows libraries to pick best-in-breed applications.
For EBSCO, openness and interoperability have traditionally been at the heart of the company’s software applications. The EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) API, for instance, allows software vendors and developers to integrate index-based discovery so libraries can choose which web environment works best for their users. Some cases in hand include the integration of EDS within Encore (AKA Encore Duet), SirsiDynix Enterprise, and open source environments such as VuFind. For libraries that choose EDS as the front-end, EDS interoperates with the ILS through standard APIs that enable patron functionality for users to place holds, renewals, see item availability, and more.
The essence of choice means that comparisons and evaluations of library services not only matter, but can be acted upon, allowing a library to create a custom ecosystem with the components that libraries deem best of breed. This includes not only the discovery service and ILS, but also databases, eBooks, journal services and holdings management tools, among others. As we think of 2014 – and beyond – choice through openness is and will remain a commitment that we, as software vendors collectively, make to the library community at large. Choice, after all, benefits all vendors, libraries and–most importantly–the patrons we serve.