A Thread of Comments on the OLE Project Draft Report

Carl Grant, president of Ex Libris North America, posted a pair of messages on his corporate blog that it is worth calling attention to regarding the OLE Project final report, if you haven’t already run into them: OLE; The unanswered questions and Library Software Solutions – We need a higher level of discourse... Equally important is the comment on the first by Brad Wheeler, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer at Indiana University. The whole thread should take about five minutes to read; five minutes well spent if you are interested in the intersection of community source software development with proprietary, closed-source software development. It is even more important if you are looking for a case study of governance issues surrounding community source software development. Go ahead…I’ll wait.

It is important to clear up one misconception. Brad Wheeler, at Indiana University, was not involved in the design phase of the OLE Project. Heavens — I hope someone who is VP of IT and CIO of a major university would have better things to do than to slog through discussions of workflow decomposition of back-room library automation functions. No, Brad is a consumer of the final report draft, just as many library directors and CIOs are the intended audience of the draft. In fact, Brad is a special category of report readers because he is at the forefront of community source in higher education; he believes in the community source model because he is witness to how it has and is working. From his biography:

Dr. Wheeler has been a pioneer in leveraged models for university collaboration. He serves in leadership roles for over $50M of shared university investments in open source software and was a co-founder of the Sakai Project and co-principal investigator on its $2.7M in grants and the $500K Open Source Portfolio project. He was a co-founder of the original Kuali Project, and now chairs the Kuali Foundation, Inc. board of directors. He has been a co-principal investigator on $4M of Kuali grants and three of the foundation.

Sakai (learning management system), Open Source Portfolio (electronic portfolio, since folded into Sakai), and Kuali (a suite of project including student records, research tracking, university financials, as well as other systems) are all well-regarded open source projects that are “leveraged models for university collaboration” — projects where universities have pooled their resources to develop and own the systems that are at the core of their institutions. The OLE Project is looking to join the Kuali Foundation and follow its proven and evolving patterns for community source development. From that perspective, it might be valuable to go back and reread Brad Wheeler’s response to Carl’s first post.

As someone embedded deeply in the OLE Project design phase, I can only speak for myself. Given the depth my head was in the design documents — and there were many others deeper than I was — it is difficult to separate reality from my perhaps biased impression of the report. I’m not sure a point-for-point debate on the merits of the report are useful as public discourse. Rather, I for one am listening to what others have to say and assimilating that into my version of reality. I’m grateful to Carl for taking the time to post his observations, just as I am to Brad and the other commenters on Carl’s post.

The text was modified to update a link from http://student.kuali.org/ to http://kuali.org/ks on June 9th, 2011.

The text was modified to update a link from http://commentary.exlibrisgroup.com/2009/08/ole-unanswered-questions.html to http://thoughts.care-affiliates.com/2009/08/ole-unanswered-questions.html on November 16th, 2012.

The text was modified to update a link from http://commentary.exlibrisgroup.com/2009/08/ole-unanswered-questions.html?showComment=1250516397104#c3506337648062761977 to http://thoughts.care-affiliates.com/2009/08/ole-unanswered-questions.html?showComment=1250516397104#c3506337648062761977 on November 16th, 2012.

The text was modified to update a link from http://commentary.exlibrisgroup.com/2009/08/ole-unanswered-questions.html?showComment=1250516397104#c3506337648062761977 to http://thoughts.care-affiliates.com/2009/08/ole-unanswered-questions.html?showComment=1250516397104#c3506337648062761977 on November 16th, 2012.

The text was modified to update a link from http://commentary.exlibrisgroup.com/2009/08/library-software-solutions-we-need.html to http://thoughts.care-affiliates.com/2009/08/library-software-solutions-we-need.html on November 16th, 2012.

The text was modified to update a link from http://oleproject.org/final-ole-project-report/ to http://www.kuali.org/sites/default/files/old/OLE_FINAL_Report.pdf on November 16th, 2012.

On How Physical and Electronic Differ for Library Materials

I’m reading the notes from the Atlanta OLE Project regional workshop and right up at the top are these two statements that struck me as insightful. The first gets to the heart of how physical items in a library are different from digital items with respect to library service commitments:

With print items, we’re trying to give people access; with electronic trying to keep them out.

This stems, undoubtedly, from the first sale doctrine in copyright law; the library has purchased the item and chooses to lend it to others for a period of time. With electronic items, though, we typically agree to licenses, which — as contract law — trumps the rights given by copyright; those license are more restrictive in what we can and cannot do with the digital versions.

The second observation brings this difference into sharper focus by pointing out what we make users do in order to get access to that physical or that digital item:

Isn’t it interesting that users from other libraries have borrowed print books delivered to them, but must travel to another library to get access to their electronic items.

As we think about what is similar and what is different about workflows for physical and digital items, it is undoubtedly important to tease out these differences. Kudos to the staff attending the Atlanta OLE regional workshop for bringing this difference to the forefront.

The text was modified to update a link from http://oleproject.org/2009/03/11/notes-from-georgia-tech-atlanta-workshop-posted/ to http://web.archive.org/web/20090418003313/http://oleproject.org/2009/03/11/notes-from-georgia-tech-atlanta-workshop-posted/ on November 13th, 2012.

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.aallnet.org/committee/copyright/pages/issues/firstsale.html to http://www.aallnet.org/Documents/Government-Relations/Copyright-2/FirstSaleDoctrine.html on August 22nd, 2013.

OLE Project Webcast, Workshops Scheduled

Coming out of the face-to-face meeting in Rutgers earlier this month, the OLE Project has posted a number of announcements for upcoming events. The first is a webcast on Nov. 20, 2008 from 3:00pm to 4:30pm Eastern Standard Time, US, free of charge and open to anyone. The webcast topics are:

  • Update on the project
  • Timeline and topics for remaining project activities
  • Overview of upcoming OLE workshops and invitation to attend
  • Overview of working groups and invitation to participate
  • Q&A

Registration is required; directions for accessing the webcast will be emailed to those who register. There is a limit of 200 participants (the maximum the webcast service allows), and the session will be recorded for later playback.

Update: Recording of Webcast Now Available

Updated 20081121T0952: A recording of the webcast is available for those that couldn’t make it or had problems hearing the audio. As the posting on the OLE Project site says, keep an eye on the project website for expanded answers to questions asked during the webcast.

Regional Workshops

The second is a series of regional workshops. Tim McGeary, Senior Systems Specialist at Lehigh University, post news of these to several mailing lists:
The Open Library Environment (OLE, pronounced oh-lay) Project invites you to apply to participate in a two day Regional Design Workshop. The purpose of this workshop is to provide a forum for representatives of local research libraries and related institutions to discuss our work surrounding the current Integrated Library System and ideas on what this type of core system should incorporate.  Workshops are being held in a variety of locations in the US over the next 2 months. For more information and to find a location near you, go to http://oleproject.org/workshops.

Participation is open to any member of the research library community who works with the Integrated Library System either on a day to day basis or from a higher level. OLE will be developed as an open source library environment that meets the needs of research libraries. While care will be taken to design an open and flexible system that is useful for other types of libraries, such as public libraries, the focus of the project in this early stage is on research libraries.

The OLE project, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, seeks to convene the academic library community in the design of an Open Library Management System built using the principles of Service Oriented Architecture.  The project partners consist of leaders from academic libraries in the United States, Canada, and Australia dedicated to thinking beyond the current model of an Integrated Library System.  We seek to design a new system that is flexible, customizable and able to meet the changing and complex needs of modern, dynamic academic libraries.  The end product will be a design document to inform open source library system development efforts, to guide future library system implementations, and to influence current Integrated Library System vendor products.

The text was modified to update a link from OLE%20Project%20Homep to http://dltj.org/article/ole-project-webcast-workshops-scheduled/ on December 30th, 2010.

The text was modified to update a link from http://dltj.org/article/ole-project-webcast-workshops-scheduled/ to http://oleproject.org/ on December 30th, 2010.

The text was modified to update a link from http://oleproject.org/2008/11/20/ole-project-webcast-recording-available/ to http://web.archive.org/web/20101027025218/http://oleproject.org/2008/11/20/ole-project-webcast-recording-available/ on November 13th, 2012.

Adding Educause Connect’s “Service Oriented Architecture” Term to Planet LibrarySOA

Richard Akerman’s recent post highlighting SOA resources at Educause reminded me about the aggregation point on Educause Connect for SOA resources. I’m assuming significant number of those interested in applying SOA to library systems are at an institution of higher education or in some related organization, so I’m adding the RSS feed for that aggregation to Planet LibrarySOA. This will undoubtedly result in a large spike of “new” postings to the planet aggregator, but should settle down after that.

If you are blogging about the application of SOA to libraries and want your postings to see a wider audience, let me know and I’ll add you to the aggregator.

Eric Schnell’s Introduction to Library SOA

Back in June, Eric Schnell posted a five part introduction to applying Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) concepts to library applications. Along with his comparison of the predominant ILS architecture with Henry Ford’s application of assembly line manufacturing this is a great non-techie introduction to SOA form a library application perspective. I had reason to run across these again earlier this month and remembered that I had not posted a summary and pointers here.

Part 1 is an introduction with a brief overview of why SOA is interesting. Part 2 is a description of the silos of content that exist today which in part 3 Eric describes how the silos can be collapsed and the structure of services that surround them. Part 4 describes the challenges of doing this from the vendor lock-in that makes is financially not viable for SOA-based solutions to break into the space. In part 5 Eric offers some final comments on the introduction of SOA into library applications.

Well worth reading and bookmarking for future reference. Nice job, Eric!

Introducing “Planet Library SOA”

I am pleased to announce the formation of Planet Library SOA — an aggregation of blog postings and resources related to the application of the Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) software paradigm to library systems. You can follow the topic by reading the aggregation website, but the best way to follow along is by subscribing to one of the feeds (atom, rss1.0 or rss2.0) in your favorite newsreader. Those in the conversation at the beginning are Eric Schnell, Lorcan Dempsey, Richard Akerman, Stephen Anthony, and the Talis corporate blog. If you are looking for an introduction to the SOA topic with a slant towards library services, I humbly suggest you read my series on DLTJ starting with Defining “Service Oriented Architecture” by Analogy.

Adding Your Voice

If you publish on the same topic and would like to be added to the Planet Library SOA aggregator, please let me know:

Resources tagged with ‘librarysoa‘ in del.icio.us will also appear in the aggregator.


Planet Library SOA is created using the Planet software — a tool for aggregating and republishing RSS feeds. In the case where the contributor runs the WordPress software, Planet Library SOA subscribes to the RSS feed of a category or tag from that blog. In the case where the contributor runs the Movable Type software, a Yahoo! Pipe is used to extract SOA-related postings from the blog’s general feed. (For example, see this Yahoo! Pipe for Lorcan Dempsey’s blog. My gratitude goes out to Stephen Anthony for his example on how to get Yahoo! Pipes to extract content from feeds and Ryan Gallagher for a workaround to a bug in Pipes.)

Combining Service Oriented Architecture with a Single Business Approach

This month I’ve come across one great article and one great report on Service Oriented Architectures. The first came from Sally Rogers at Ohio State University in the form of an article from CIO magazine last year:

Koch, Christopher. 2006. The Truth About SOA. CIO Magazine, June 15. http://www.cio.com/archive/061506/soa.html (accessed March 27, 2007).

This article does a great job at laying the groundwork for the broad “what” and “why” (as well as the “why not”) of SOA, and I agree with Sally that it makes a better introduction to the topic than most of the white paper that I presented at the meeting. The two best paragraphs out of the article come towards the very end:

In the ’90s, your integration strategy was simple: Buy as many preintegrated applications from a single vendor as possible. That worked for you, and it worked extremely well for the vendor; integrated application suites fetched a high price and required long-term maintenance and support contracts that promised a steady, predictable stream of revenue from customers.
But the rise of service-oriented architecture has produced a shift in integration strategy. SOA makes the radical assertion that the enterprise application infrastructure is irrelevant. Technology is constructed according to services specified by the business, not by processes contained within an enterprise application vendor’s software box. In this scenario, packaged software is a piece of the service, just another component in a larger business process — such as an insurance claims process that links a jumble of functions and data inside [Enterprise Resource Planning], [Customer Relationship Management] and old mainframe legacy systems. The application’s vendor doesn’t matter anymore; the linkages between the applications is the important thing.

Does that sound familiar to anyone? I’d like to couple this with a paragraph from the report by the National Library of Australia on a “Single Business Approach” (discovered via a blog posting by Lorcan Dempsey):

IT Architecture Project Report. 2007. N.d. National Library of Australia. http://www.nla.gov.au/dsp/documents/itag.pdf (accessed March 28, 2007).

The paper defines Single Business Approach in a library context this way:

Even with a service-oriented approach, the Library’s capacity to meet its directions will continue to be eroded as new applications are brought online. As budgets continue to tighten and the Library needs to do more with less, there will come a time when a large proportion of development effort will be spent just maintaining existing applications.

To address this issue, and as part of implementing the service-oriented architecture, it is proposed that the Library regard its digital library services as a single business with a single data corpus that can be deployed in a range of contexts. Rather than developing separate applications to meet a new requirement, each requirement would be viewed as an enhancement to the business that could be deployed across all relevant business contexts.

This is a significant change to the way the Library currently works. As well as resulting in further significant efficiencies for IT staff, it has the potential to bring library staff together in unprecedented ways to work on problems and ideas and to prototype solutions that enhance the user experience regardless of the point of access.

The Australia report focuses on this Single Business Approach along with SOA and the adoption of open source solutions to come up with a vision to support the management, discovery and delivery of the National Library of Australia’s collections. There is a lot here that could be adopted to other similar situations, such as OhioLINK’s.

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.cio.com/archive/061506/soa.html to http://www.cio.com/article/21975/The_Truth_About_SOA on June 9th, 2011.

“Applying the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) Model to Libraries” — A Presentation

There was a great crowd at the University of Windsor “Future of the ILS” symposium. The presentation is available from http://dltj.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/11/200611-uwindsor-soa/. An outline of the presentation is given below with links into the presentation slides. Amanda Etches-Johnson has also posted a great summary of the presentation on her blog, “Blog Without A Library.”

Creative Commons LicenseThe presentation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA. Other rights are available; please contact the author for more information.

[20061116T1222 Added a link to Amanda Etches-Johnson’s summary. Thanks, Amanda!]

[20100317T1539 Replaced links to slides. The host where the presentation was originally located is no longer in operation.]

“Applying the SOA Model to Libraries” talk coming up at the U-Windsor “Future of the Integrated Library System” symposium

It is my honor and pleasure to be asked to speak at a one-day symposium called “The Future of the Integrated Library System” hosted by the University of Windsor on November 15, 2006. More information can be found at the symposium wiki. I have a one-hour talk with the title “Could We Do What They Are Doing? Applying the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) Model to Libraries” that will build on the library-oriented SOA postings and comments made here last month. (And I do intend to get back to the series — after all, I need to draft a whitepaper for the OhioLINK Technical Advisory Council to write on that same topic as well!)

Two things brought this to mind today. First, a colleague from Miami U asked if he could get a copy of the presentation slides and notes (“Sure, as soon as they are done!”). Second, an odd oversized envelope arrived with an IBM return address in today’s mail. Inside was a “IBM Limited Edition” excerpt of “Service Oriented Architecture For Dummies”. I’m not quite sure what I did in this life or a past one to have received a nicely condensed goldmine of information, but based on the contents of this 66-page abridged edition I’ll be making an investment in the full 350-some-odd page version. (Perhaps I just answered my own question about how it arrived on my doorstep — it is an effective marketing ploy. For any other marketers out there, I would be interested in a complementary reduced edition of an Apple iPod — perhaps you can win me over with a Nano or Shuffle… :-) ).

The text was modified to update a link from http://dltj.org/tags/librarysoa/ to http://dltj.org/tag/librarysoa/ on December 31st, 2010.

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.dummies.com/WileyCDA/DummiesTitle/productCd-0470054352.html to http://www.dummies.com/go/soafordummies on January 13th, 2011.

DLF’s Upcoming Workshop on Developing a Services Framework for Digital Libraries

I know I said I would only be taking “a day’s break” from posting about applying the Service Oriented Architecture pattern to library services but, well, real work gets in the way. Thoughts are still bubbling around — some of them have even reached draft form — but nothing new yet. In the meantime, though, take a look at this DLF Workshop on Developing a Services Framework for Digital Libraries to be held on Tuesday, November 07, 2006 in Boston. These sound like great outcomes:

This workshop will provide an overview of the work of the group to date [Service Framework for Digital Libraries DLF progress report dated 17 May 2005 and A Library Service Framework in the July/August 2006 issue of D-Lib] and then focus on a hands-on approach to define various library/digital library activities. The workshop attendees will break into three small groups to work through the business logic for three library areas: Digitization, Storage of digital assets, and Discovery of digital assets. The output is expected to be a series of flow charts and a set of decomposed business processes and functions that will be included in the services framework. These will provide a basis for further systems analysis in the future as a SOA-based approach to library automated services is considered. Workshop attendees are expected to have experience with library IT management and/or technical development of digital library projects.

I only wish I could be there myself — I’ve already been engaged by the University of Windsor to talk about Library SOA at about the same time — and I’m looking forward hearing about to the outcomes from the workshop.