Symposium on the Future of Libraries
What do you think a future library marketplace should it look like? Should it contain just a few giants (or, worse, just one), dominating the space and having sufficiently broad control that they significantly impact what you can and cannot acquire? Or would you prefer a broad range of content providers and vendors, offering a vibrant marketplace of products and ideas?
In an enormous marketplace like general retail, individual buyers don’t have much impact. I may choose to not buy from Amazon, but my decision will have no impact on Amazon’s bottom line. But in a small space like the library market, where each buyer represents so much more than an individual consumer in the broad marketplace, the actions of just a few libraries can impact the direction and development of that marketplace. Library decision-makers have the ability to impact the marketplace by thoughtfully determining how they spend money.
We believe that, if designed with care, the FOLIO Marketplace will be just such a dynamic place, where individuals and institutions can help shape our community’s future. The FOLIO Marketplace, and the manner in which FOLIO is being developed and distributed, changes how libraries can acquire the resources they need to keep providing newer and better services to their patrons.
The FOLIO library management system is designed around the idea of an app store. A library chooses which functionality it needs by selecting which apps it wants to enable, and anyone -- commercial businesses, content providers, libraries, or individuals -- will be able to contribute apps to FOLIO, through its Marketplace. In addition, because FOLIO is open source, the library has a choice of service and hosting provider, and some libraries may even choose to use FOLIO entirely on their own. The key is choice for the library, and opportunities for different organizations to contribute services and functionality to the community in an open, shared environment.
From the very start, FOLIO encourages a different sort of library system. Like the important open source library tools that have preceded it, FOLIO is a paradigm, not a product. When a library decides to use FOLIO, the library commits to a different sort of product for managing the library services it shares with its patrons. The RFP is no longer a tool for selecting a library management system, but for choosing a partner for implementing FOLIO at your institution. The implementation of FOLIO could be done wholly in-house (in which case there’s no need for an RFP at all), it could be done with a library vendor who has had extensive experience in this area, or it could be done by a local consultancy that knows open source software, but is new to the library support market.
Similarly, the Marketplace creates a space where anyone with a service, a product, or just an idea, can present it to the community, and receive their feedback or find collaborators. A structured space will mean there’s a place to look for new services, or post information about a specific need, or look for product ideas from ideas shared by others, or find products that have been considered by others, or much more. The construction of the Marketplace becomes critical: it should have a structure that supports a model for effective interaction, not just be a place to find and buy stuff; a shared technology platform is a critical component of such a marketplace.
To this end, the FOLIO Marketplace hopes to create a virtual space that combines elements of a farmers market, a vibrant mall, and a town commons, all to the greater benefit of the entire library community. FOLIO can make this virtual space possible, by using cloud technology and open source as our substrate. The resulting structure must support and encourage an ecosystem that benefits all, including both small and large vendors (not unlike a mall’s anchor stores) while absolutely avoiding a market dominated by the equivalent of standalone big-box stores, or worse, a single all-powerful online vendor.
By looking at the work done so far, and what we believe the future can hold, Hammer and McCracken will propose some ideas about what comes next, and how they believe the FOLIO Marketplace can positively impact and improve the overall library marketplace -- well beyond the world of FOLIO implementers. We will present these admittedly speculative views, and will welcome considerate feedback -- and pushback -- from the audience.
ALA Unit/Subunit: ALA, Center for the Future of Libraries
Meeting Type: Symposium on the Future of Libraries
Cost: Included with full conference registration.