OPACs and XML.
When I wish for things like native RSS feeds from our Innovative catalog, I’m sometimes told that III has an XML backend so I should just be able to build what I want on my own. Of course, my first response (of many) is that I’m not a programmer so I can’t just build what I want, but Casey Bisson at Plymouth State University is, and he’s trying to build weird and wonderful things with his own Innovative catalog.
For example, check out his proof-of-concept of LOLA Suggest! Just type something in the search box and wait a second to see what appears underneath. Too freaking awesome! I did a mock-up of what this could look like for my information shifting presentation, but Casey’s given me a live example to show instead. Thanks, Casey!
He’s got lots of other great ideas for using Innovative’s XML server, too (including for lots of RSS goodness), but he’s running into problems because he says their XML schema is non-standard, is even more difficult to work with than MARC, and is prone to parsing errors. So here we have an ILS vendor that claims to have an XML backend you can do whatever you want with, except that it’s incredibly difficult to do whatever you want with it, especially if you want to do something nutty like integrate your catalog’s content into your university’s way cool portal using RSS. As Casey noted in an IM:
“Our portal has a ‘my courses’ tab which lists the student’s course schedule, and has links to WebCT, our course management system. I'm working to get a link to the library right there with it. RSS and XML allow us to target library content to what we know of the patron and deliver it wherever they are. As an academic library, we have an opportunity to link with a number of other services. But we also have to compete in the information economy. Most course content systems and portals have only limited ‘hooks’ to include library content, but if we're not quick, libraries will be out of the loop, as faculty post all their reserves online in the course system and link directly to full text sources.”
And all of that work gets harder when you’re trying to do something relatively simple like LOLA Suggest but the XML is so complex that you’re forced to cache the bib records instead of sending the query directly to the catalog’s XML server and presenting live results.
Not being a programmer myself, I’m sure I’m misrepresenting some of this, so I hope Casey will write up his own thoughts about all of this on his blog and correct my inaccuracies. Or even more optimistically, maybe Innovative will fix the problems with their XML server (even if that just means adopting MARC XML) so that Casey can do what they claim he should be able to do, because I want me some of his ideas in my catalog.[The Shifted Librarian]