UoL Library Blog

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Online Catalogue and Repository Interoperability report

Posted by gazjjohnson on 11 November, 2009

I’ve just finished reading the OCRIS final report, a weighty 74 page document that looks at the interaction (or as it transpires lack thereof) between HE IRs and OPACs.  I can’t say from reading the report that this conclusion shocked me, I can only think off hand of a couple of institutions where there have been any significant moves towards this.  That said the study comes at a rather useful time for us here at Leicester, as we look at how to make the LRA interact with more systems with a mind not only to enhancing data exchange, but also to make the information within the repository more readily discoverable.

Some highlights that caught my eye

  • p17/8 System Overview: An overview of library OPAC and IR systems in the UK.  A useful set of quick reference tables that I’ll be referring back to in the future I suspect.
  • p25 Services: Those currently supported by IRs.  If anything this is a handy tick list to spot if there are any holes/opportunities in activities we are running at Leicester
  • p31  Vertical searching: I’d not come across the phrase really before, but the idea of segmenting search discovery certainly sounds interesting.  I’ll be watching out for more on this in the coming year.
  • p52 WebBridge: We’ve a links resolver here that we’re looking at linking in more closely with the repository.  A necessary first step to draw our paid for and freely provided information resources together, and encourage reuse of LRA objects by staff and students.
  • p56 Recommendations: A page I hope that will be read by more than just myself – spelling out the potential benefits from establishing greater inter-system interoperability.  Noting as well that only 2% of their sample consider their IR and OPAC as definitely interoperating at the moment.
  • p58 Flexibility:  The focus on bibliographic staff and their work across IRs is slightly odd, when few institutions explicitly use cataloguing staff – although I know this is on the rise.  Certainly our LRA team uses more specialised support for creating records and copyright investigation, but that wouldn’t mean I wouldn’t be keen to explore how our cataloguers could lend a much needed hand.
  • p58 Leverage: I do have my doubts though about the ready availability of in-house experts to modify IRs to interoperate.  In my experience and with those I’ve spoken to around the country, often technical support time is something that is much valued by other services, and something for which the IR has to compete to arrange.  Certainly the expertise is there, but is the staff resource? 
  • p60: Fragmentation: “Forward thinking library staff don’t want [system] fragmentation.” I’d agree, but wanting it and achieving it are a big challenge when you look at the mix of proprietary and open source resources that make up a HEIs information infrastructure.  Certainly we work towards it, but I think we’re a long way off from achieving it.

Others with a more technical mind may well get even more out of this report than I did.  It’s certainly a very useful and eye opening read in some places, whilst in others I found myself nodding along with conclusions that I’ve certainly experienced.  It does offer more grist to the mill for those trying to find support for achieving inter-operability, and it also provides a useful snapshot of the current UK HEI IR/OPAC scene.  While I don’t 100% agree with all of its suggested recommendations I will remain interested in seeing how JISC and the community respond to it.

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