After a few busy weeks and a lot of interaction with Lukas Koster, Martin Malmsteen and others, I can say that there’s been some turmoil in my rock-solid (!) approach to what we do at the dirty, business end of library tech.
Following SWIB13, Lukas has pointed out repeatedly that working with vendors is a realistic way forward, whereas heavyweight development is something that very few libraries can actually sustain. His point is that in order for libraries to move forward, tools need to be provided within the existing framework; bolt-on and adapt rather than develop afresh.
Librarians (the vocal ones at least) largely hold vendors in contempt; vendors on the other hand provide ample opportunity for anyone bitten by the openness & freedom bug to be irked. This opposition obviously isn’t constructive. In believing that we can get to where we want to be without reference to the current status quo, where vendors largely dictate the technology platform we use, we’re looking for saltation while most speciation is gradual. Thus, to move forward in a realistic way, we need to move forward together.
There’s a lot to say about commercial bodies that work in the non-commercial sector. Let’s face it, libraries are a place populated by idealists, while commercial interests dictate that idealism takes a back burner to profit. At the same time, commercial interests that don’t respond to customer needs tend to fail.
What vendors get from libraries is surface noise from a small portion of librarians that claims that vendors are a) evil and b) should be doing linked data; under the surface, in the contracts they’re signing, they’re being asked to support a format dreamed up in the sixties on top of the Web stack. In light of this, there’s really very little reason for vendors to do very much — there’s no money in providing semantic web features when there’s no contract stating that without these features, there’s no deal.
Currently my thoughts here are that, at a minimum, outwardly facing pages from vendors should contain openly licensed, harvestable schema.org as both microdata and RDFa (both because I don’t think that I know which of these is preferable). This simple step takes us further than any attempt at saltation driven by EU funding or private initiative ever will.