In what may turn out to be a historically significant event in the history of library tech, a group called the ILS Discovery Task Force has generated an outline detailing what amounts to an Application Programming Interface (API) for the library OPAC. They are calling this the Berkeley Accord. Not only have they hashed out the basic understanding, but the following companies/organizations have undersigned the document:
- Ex Libris
- Polaris Library Systems
- California Digital Library
What does this mean? This means that sometime in the hopefully not-too-distant future, someone can create an online search tool and know that it will work with OPACs from many different ILSs. Much like browsing the web is a similar experience with Internet Explorer 7, or Opera 9, or Firefox 3 (because they use a shared understanding of how to display the html and css found on the web) searching various libraries using the same interface (because they use a shared understanding of how to access the information in the ILS) can make research more effective for everyone.
If this is realized, it will make our jobs easier, our patrons happier, and the institution of the library more powerful and effective. It can be a “win” for everyone who recognizes that the future is dependent on advancing search technology and interoperability.
Of note is the lone abstention: Innovative Interfaces, Inc (III). They indicate that while they agree with the general principles, they cannot offer their support until much greater detail is known about the framework. My initial thought is to question this: if you feel that this is a good foundation, then agree to it and work to build upon it. If there are flaws, express them and work to build support on an improved foundation. What comes to mind is a zen koan:
“When walking, just walk. When sitting, just sit. Above all, don’t wobble.”
found via a posting on NGC4lib (Next Generation Catalog for Libraries) by Eric Leese Morgan