[Web4lib] blue sky thinking

K.G. Schneider kgs at bluehighways.com
Tue Jul 25 13:23:38 EDT 2006

> Roy, Mark, et al.,
> > I would be surprised if no library had yet thought to do this, but
> perhaps
> > they haven't. I would argue, however, that if a library could register a
> > useful domain (perhaps something in the .org or .info space) that they
> > should host ALL of their pages on that server.

This is a timely discussion. Though unfortunately it's always a timely
discussion. (Deja moo: when you know you've heard this cow poop before...)

In most of these discussions the "baddy" is a non-library IT department. But
I'm all too familiar with this equally problematic situation: a library
consortium provides local IT services. But these services are overpriced and
inadequate. The library fears treading on toes in a typically highly
politicized library landscape. So the library doesn't get the website it
needs and pays far too much for it anyway. 

And in fact the library will pay extra for the website if it goes it alone,
and have nightmarish integration issues, because the consortium is also
providing the ILS. The website is, in fact, an afterthought service in a
monopoly setup that has a set price whether or not the library goes
elsewhere for its website (or bandwidth, to bring up another common issue).

But wait, there's more! I have seen situations where it was obvious that
nonessential, overpriced, outmoded, or questionable library services were
being maintained *on the back of overpriced and underprovided technology.* 

Not only that, in many consortia, the way participation is set up can lend
undue power to libraries that benefit from the questionable services. 

Now, in most consortia, a fair amount of sharing with the poorer libraries
goes on no matter what, and it's part of why I like libraries. But to
continue insupportable services and to continue to provide grossly subpar
network operating environments and to overcharge all at once... that's not
right. I've seen libraries split from consortia over this kind of problem,
which means yes, they have to go it alone on their ILS et al... but
sometimes that is exactly the right thing to do. 

In my experience, this is where librarians need to learn how to read system
budgets, organize with other librarians to request appropriate services, and
navigate difficult political environments. Simply protesting is not enough. 

Karen G. Schneider
kgs at bluehighways.com 

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