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Opening up Library Systems through Web Services and SOA: Hype or Reality?

Over the last few years, Web services and the service-oriented architecture (SOA) have become dominant themes in IT across many industries. Web-based computing, serviceorientation, and cloud computing increasingly displace the client/server approach favored by libraries in the past.

In library automation, one major trend involves evolving or rebuilding automation systems to adopt this new approach to software. Purveyors of both open source and proprietary library automation products increasingly emphasize the ways in which they embrace openness, support application programming interfaces (APIs), or implement Web services.

Libraries increasingly need to extract data, connect with external systems, and implement functionality not included with the delivered systems. Rather than relying on the product developers for enhancements to meet these needs, libraries increasingly demand the ability to exploit their systems using APIs, Web services, or other technologies.

The demand for openness abounds, particularly in libraries that exist in complex environments where many different systems need to interact. As libraries develop their IT infrastructure, it’s imperative to understand the extent to which their automation products are able to interoperate and thrive in this growing realm of Web services. This report aims to assess the current slate of major library automation systems in regard to their ability to provide openness through APIs, Web services, and the adoption of SOA.

--Marshall Breeding

Topics Covered in this Issue Include:

  • Why Should Libraries Care about Application Programming Interfaces?
  • APIs: Basic Concepts
  • Vendors and Products: Case Studies and Customer Responses
  • API Hype and Reality
  • Conclusions and resources

About the Author

Marshall Breeding serves as the Director for Innovative Technology and Research at the Vanderbilt University Libraries in Nashville, Tennessee. He has authored several previous Library Technology Report issues: “Electronic Security Strategies for Libraries,” “Strategies for Measuring and Implementing E-Use,” “Integrated Library Software: A Guide to Multiuser, Multifunction Systems,” “Wireless Networks in Libraries,” “Web Services and the Service-Oriented Architecture,” and “Open Source Integrated Library Systems.” Breeding is also a contributing editor to Smart Libraries Newsletter, published by ALA TechSource, and has authored the feature “Automated Systems Marketplace” for Library Journal for the last six years. His column “Systems Librarian” appears monthly in Computers in Libraries magazine.

A regular on the library conference circuit, Breeding frequently speaks at Computers in Libraries, Internet Librarian, and other professional gatherings throughout the United States and internationally. He is a regular panelist on the LITA Top Technology Trends panel at the ALA Annual and Midwinter conferences. Breeding created and maintains the Library Technology Guides Web site. For more information about the author, click here.

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