Library Issues Technology

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.

By griffey

Jason Griffey is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at NISO, where he works to identify new areas of the information ecosystem where standards expertise is useful and needed. Prior to joining NISO in 2019, Jason ran his own technology consulting company for libraries, has been both an Affiliate at metaLAB and a Fellow and Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and was an academic librarian in roles ranging from reference and instruction to Head of IT at the University of TN at Chattanooga.

Jason has written extensively on technology and libraries, including multiple books and a series of full-periodical issues on technology topics, most recently AI & Machine Learning in Libraries and Library Spaces and Smart Buildings: Technology, Metrics, and Iterative Design from 2018. His newest book, co-authored with Jeffery Pomerantz, will be published by MIT Press in 2024.

He has spoken internationally on topics such as artificial intelligence & machine learning, the future of technology and libraries, decentralization and the Blockchain, privacy, copyright, and intellectual property. A full list of his publications and presentations can be found on his CV.
He is one of eight winners of the Knight Foundation News Challenge for Libraries for the Measure the Future project (, an open hardware project designed to provide actionable use metrics for library spaces. He is also the creator and director of The LibraryBox Project (, an open source portable digital file distribution system.

Jason can be stalked obsessively online, and spends his free time with his daughter Eliza, reading, obsessing over gadgets, and preparing for the inevitable zombie uprising.

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