“The Queens Borough Public Library, one of the largest and busiest libraries in the United States, has filed a major lawsuit against Sirsi Corporation, which currently does business as SirsiDynix.”
You can read the complaint here. Even though it’s 193 points long, I suggest some browsing. The basic issue is that Queens Borough was looking for an ILS, got bids from both Sirsi and Dynix, chose Dynix and then because of the “merger” actually got Sirsi who were a little jerkish. The library spent a lot of time and money on this process and wound up with the product they had not chosen. I’ll be interested to see where this goes. As someone who is often privy to a lot of “we have been having nearly-legal fights with our ILS vendor” stories, I’m glad to see one break through the light of day. [gwasdin]
This is the second and last part of the Jessamyn’s Dad’s Library Card story. I went home yesterday. I got a phone call from my Dad.
Dad: So I clicked the link in that email the library sent?
Me: Yeah? Good.
Dad: It connects me to “iBistro on the go…” what is that?
Me: That’s the library’s online catalog. The library is supposed to type their name at the top there but it looks like they didn’t.
Dad: It’s hard to read.
Me: Yeah it sure is isn’t it? [explains how to make font bigger]
Dad: How do I look for a book, do I really have to log in first?
Me: You shouldn’t have to, but maybe, it depends how it’s configured.
Dad: My login number is fourteen digits long! Why is that?
Me: Good question. You can probably set the browser to remember it. Your PIN is probably the last four digits of your phone number
Dad: It is. Why do I have to log in here?
Me: Well you can reserve books and check your account and there are privacy laws about that information.
Dad: Where does this catalog live?
Me: Depends on the library, many libraries run it off of servers in their basement. Some use hosted versions of the catalog. The consortium probably hosts this one.
Dad: And this iBistro thing is something they buy?
Me: Yeah and they pay a lot of money for it.
Dad: It sucks.
Me: Yeah. It’s sort of useful for consortiums [explains consortiums] so libraries can do interlibrary loan and stuff.
Dad: Okay I searched for sailing and I get 1500 hits. How do I search for the most popular books?
Me: I don’t know if you can, you can redo your search and sort by relevance.
Dad: Amazon lets me search by popularity. I like that.
Me: Yeah I do too. Can you sort the search you have?
Dad: No, it says there’s more than 500 records so I can’t search.
Me: You may be able to search by subject heading and get a shorter list.
Dad: Didn’t I do that?
Me: No, you searched by keyword [explains difference] or you can search just the books in your library.
Dad: I’m not already doing that?
Me: No, you’re searching the whole SAILS network.
Dad: How can you tell?
Me: Because on the search page next to where it says library, is says ALL.
Dad: Okay I’ll find my library. There are like 100 libraries on this list!
Me: I know, you can borrow books from any of those libraries.
Dad: I just want to know if there’s a book at my library.
Me: Yeah, that should be easier.
Dad: What are these libraries at the bottom of this list just called zddd and zddddd?
Me: That’s probably some kludge that the libraries are using to put books in a category or location that isn’t available in the regular catalog.
Dad: Okay thanks for the tutorial. I’ll try again tomorrow.
Me: You’re welcome. It’s not you, it’s them.
I’ve been travelling and working more than I’ve been surfing and sharing lately. That will change this Summer, but for now it’s the reality of what seems to be The Conference Season. Here are some nifty links that people have sent me, and ones that I have noticed over the past few weeks. Sort of a random grab bag.
- Some introspection and questions from a special collections blogger. “Why do this anyways?” If you have suggestions or comments I’m sure she’d appreciate them.
- The MaintainIT project has a guest blogger from the Tonganoxie Public Library in rural Kansas. I’ve pointed to their website before as a way that a tiny library can make use of tech tools to really expand their presence and share a lot of information. Library director Sharon Moreland is detailing her library’s move from Sirsi to Koha and it makes for great reading.
- Speaking of library blogs, Seattle Public Library has one called Shelf Talk which falls solidly into the category of “blogs I’d read even if I weren’t reading blogs for work” Right up top there’s an interview with Cory Doctorow talking about his new book Little Brother. Also noted is every librarians favorite category: lists, booklists to be exact. The blog manages to intersperse library information, local lore and trivia and book topics in a lively and attractive package. It’s a great model of what a library blog can be. Yay team!
- Dear New York Public Library, please do not invade the Andrew Heiskell Library Braille Collection (the only browseable collection of books for the blind and visually impaired in NYC) by relocating the Technology Unit there. Thanks. More info on facebook.
- Original Spiderman origin artwork donated to Library of Congress.
- Not exactly library related, but this TED talk with James Howard Kunstler talking about the despair of suburbia and the importance of creating inspired public spaces as “manifestations of the common good” is worth watching. 20 minutes.
You know, if you want to bury some news, make sure to announce it between Xmas and New Years. So SirsiDynix says “investment partnership” in the article headline (their pdf) but “acquisition” in the article. Vista hasn’t announced it at all as of this typing. Press releases are usually vapid and devoid of content and this one is no different. The letter from Sirsi-Dynix CEO is also not really forthcoming. “The partnership validates the contributions libraries and SirsiDynix make to our communities.” What? Dan Scott has some analysis on his blog, Coffee|Code and makes a few predictions.
You heard it here first: expect lots of news from SirsiDynix in 2007. I’m predicting more service fees (100% confidence), increased annual support fees (100% confidence), and the beginning of the end of Unicorn with an announcement that Horizon is the strategic product for new development efforts going forward (75% confidence). I’ll go out on a limb and say that a merger or acquisition of SirsiDynix in 2007 is unlikely (33% confidence), but after proving their new business strategy and the nice spikes on their revenue and profit charts, I’ll say that it’s quite likely in 2008 (80% confidence).
I’m not into the industry enough to make any predictions or even any observations, but it seems to me that if a non-library company sees fit to buy a library services company it’s probably because that company is making money hand over fist. And if Sirsi-Dynix is making money hand over fist, it’s because libraries are paying them boatloads of money. Sirsi-Dynix says they expect no staffing changes. A little more over at Library Journal.
Don’t miss this amazing graphic showing “the history of mergers and acquisitions in the library automation industry” over at Library Technology Guides.
You know how gamers like to sometimes memorize button sequences that will enable them to get out of tricky situations or basically cheat? Well, let’s try to figure out how to recreate the code that caused this Sirsi ILS to automatedly order one copy of everything. Anyone from PSU in the house?
On the day of the time change to daylight savings time earlier this month, an unknown someone at my library went to change the time in our Workflows system. Somehow this action triggered a sequence of events in the program that led from point A to point B, the latter point being that the system emailed out to the vendors an order for every item that had ever been ordered by any branch of our library since May of 2001. We are talking about millions and millions of items ordered overnight. Some orders to large vendors, like Yankee, consisted of tens of thousands of items.
It’s easy to get mad at the OPAC vendor when the upgrade to their product brings your whole system down for months, but there are many stories in that one news article. The director of that library was a candidate for ALA President last year and no stranger to automation. The library used to be a Dynix library, before it became a Sirsi-Dynix library. It is now a Polaris library.
I’m sure this story is an extreme example of OPAC upgrades going wrong, but comments in the thread and elsewhere seem to imply that it’s not that unusual and it’s a telling downside to the relationships we have with our vendors. Whose responsibility is it when upgrades go wrong? Is that responsibility codified in print? What is the library’s responsibility as far as technical staffing and maintenance of the ILS system? Who determines the upgrade schedule, and what the upgrades will consist of?
I’m not a systems librarian, I just run a lot of blogs on a lot of different servers and so I sympathize with the troubleshooting nightmare that OPAC upgrades must bring. On the other hand, this library has been using Dynix since 1985, that’s pre-Web. So — and I oversimplify here — online catalogs went “online” before they had to think about the way we’d be pointing and clicking through web-based information 10 and 20 years hence and they did some pretty cool things. For a lot of people my age, interacting with a library catalog may have been one of their first used of public access computing. Then the Web took off and the dumb terminal interface to the library catalog seemed not just quaint and outdated but an active wall between library content and library users. And what did library vendors do? And what did librarians do?
I love reading what Steven Abrams has to say about librarian 2.0 and what Liz Lawley has to say about edge cases and early adopters. I like to think that some amount of money that we’re paying for our OPAC upgrades and our buggy operating systems keeps them talking. And yet, we have few (and possibly fewer lately) philosophizing practitioners, people who can solve the problem now, not just talk about how the problem should be solved.
Moving to more open web-like customizeable user-centered content and services is a tricky tightrope walk for any company with shareholders, or one eye on the bottom line. Library patrons aren’t like book buyers — if your OPAC is lame, they’re likely not going to go to another library [though they might just leave libraries altogther, although we haven't seen that happening]. I’d really like to know what happened to the Rochester Hills Public Library’s circulation stats when they had a lousy OPAC for a few months.