The Open Library Environment

Sat through a webcast today updating people on the Open Library Environment project, a joint effort between a ton of amazing libraries to build a modern, open source library system. While I wish them the best of luck, I have to say that I have my concerns about the project.

My largest concern is that too many cooks really do spoil the soup. I’ve never seen anything truly great come from committee, and I worry that there are far too many hands in this to really push it where it needs to go. Really amazing breakthroughs and products are almost always the design of one or a very few people, pushing to make the thing inside their heads real.

With that said, I hope this project produces something amazing and proves me wrong. What would I want out of a ground-up library system? A modular design, with logical connectors that allow for data sharing…and that data sharing uses open, web standards (not another “library” standard). Support for a centralized cloud database, with local records being limited to unique, archival items in the library’s special collections. Support for open sharing between catalogs, as well as sharing data between other websites and services, built in. A standards-based OPAC. Built in support for mobile use, including the backend systems. A repository system built in, to hold digital objects of any sort…if I want to catalog a video, let me embed the digital copy right into the system.

There’s lots and lots more. I’m hoping they get it right…I’ll be watching, and hopefully helping where I can.