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December 15, 2006

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There's SOA for IT infrastructure, and there's SOA for the library world. We've (yeah, I'm working for NLA) taken big steps in the former, but I agree that the library world in general needs to snap out if its locked-in vocabulary if it wants to communicate and work with the rest of the world. But I think the former is the perfect way to make the latter happen.

The word service can mean different things to different people. There's a value in developing a terminology that groups SOA-type services at a use case level - eg Find (search, scan, spell-check, cluster, rank, sort, present, etc) and also at a worfklow level - eg Discover (find, locate, request) and Deliver (Resolve, Supply, Lend, Reserve). The workflow level groupings correspond more to what librarians mean when they talk about services - the matrix of use cases needing to be supported to deliver a product to users. The Discover/Deliver dichotomy is a useful one to make because different business level services may be responsible for each part of the Discovery to Delivery workflow. Developing a global discovery and delivery service framework at a business level involves more than technical infrastructure. There are organisational and policy issues to be resolved. Having a shared terminology is important at this level too and it also helps with drilling down to the detail needed for a shared SOA. (Library IT people need to speak both languages.)

There are a few options to just "service", including

1. SOA service
2. software service
3. machine-to-machine service

I definitely agree that we need to work to a common, shared terminology.

Richard makes several valid points about the need to talk together. I am responding as the current chair of the Interoperability Working Group of the Rethinking Resource Sharing initiative that began over 2 years ago. I also happen to work for a library automation vendor and have spent the last 10 years specializing in interlibrary loan products and processes.

The perceived need that is being addressed by the Get-It service is the need to move resource sharing from library staff in the backroom to people (current library patrons or not) who want or need published materials (books, articles, music, movies, etc.). Our approach is to create an open source, vendor-neutral, extensible plug-in that works initially on Firefox since it is a plug-in friendly browser. The biggest differentiation between this and other projects is that it can retrieve information on published materials using metadata or by using data in the actual web page.

When work was beginning on the Get-It project we sent out an open invitation to participate to the groups who have been active in the library space. Receiving no response, we have gone ahead and created a working prototype. A third annual Rethinking Resource Sharing Forum is planned for April 19-20 in Chicago and we would be delighted to broaden the discussion if any of the library IT community would like to attend! Details are posted at http://www.rethinkingresourcesharing.org/index.html . We’ll also be looking for testers, interface programmers, and developers to take the extension even further should people want an opportunity to assist with this user driven initiative.

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