A couple of weeks ago, I attended JISC’s Modelling the Library Domain Workshop. I was asked to facilitate some sessions at the workshop, which was an interesting but slightly (let’s say) ‘hectic’ experience. Despite this, I found the day very positive. We were dealing with potentially contentious issues, but I noted real consensus around some key points. The ‘death of the OPAC’ was declared and no blood was shed as a result. Instead I largely heard murmured assent. As a community, we might have finally faced a critical juncture, and there were certainly lessons to be learned in terms of considering the future of services such as Copac, which as a web search service, in the Library Domain Model would count as national JISC service ‘Channel.’
In the morning, we were asked to interrogate what has been characterised as the three ‘realms’ of the Library Domain: Corporation, Channels, and Clients. (For more explanation of this model, see the TILE project report on the Library Domain Model). My groups were responsible for picking apart the ‘Channel’ realm definition:
The Channel: a means of delivering knowledge assets to Clients, not necessarily restricted to the holdings or the client base of any particular Corporation, Channels within this model range from local OPACs to national JISC services and ‘webscale’ services such as Amazon and Google Scholar. Operators of channel services will typically require corporate processes (e.g. a library managing its collection, an online book store managing its stock). However, there may be an increasing tendency towards separation, channels relying on the corporate services of others and vice versa (e.g. a library exposing its records to channels such as Google or Liblime, a bookshop outsourcing some of its channel services to the Amazon marketplace).
In subsequent discussion, we came up with the following key points:
- This definition of ‘channel’ was too library-centric. We need to working on ‘decentring’ our perspective in this regard.
- We will see an increasing uncoupling of channels from content. We won’t be pointing users to content/data but rather data/content will be pushed to users via a plethora of alternative channels
- Users will increasingly expect this type of content delivery. Some of these channels we can predict (VLEs, Google, etc) and others we cannot. We need to learn to live with that uncertainty (for now, at least).
- There will be an increasing number of ‘mashed’ channels – a recombining of data from different channels into new bespoke/2.0 interfaces.
- The lines between the realms are already blurring, with users becoming corporations and channels….etc., etc.
- We need more fundamental rethinking of the OPAC as the primary delivery channel for library data. It is simply one channel, serving specific use-cases and business process within the library domain.
- Control. This was a big one. In this environment libraries increasingly devolve control of the channels via which their ‘clients’ use to access the data. What are the risks and opportunities to be explored around this decreasing level of control? What related business cases already exist, and what new business models need to evolve?
- How are our current ‘traditional’ channels actually being used? How many times are librarians re-inventing the wheel when it comes to creating the channels of e-resource or subject specialist resource pages? We need to understand this in broad scale.
- Do we understand the ways in which the channels libraries currently control and create might add value in expected and unexpected ways? There was a general sense that we know very little in this regard.
There’s a lot more to say about the day’s proceedings, but the above points give a pretty good glimpse into the general tenor of the day. I’m now interested to see what use JISC intends to make of these outputs. The ‘what next?’ question now hangs rather heavily.