An announcement by Bibliotheca of a new partnership with Ex Libris came out of a clear blue sky via the excellent Marshall Breeding’s Library Technology Guides earlier today.
In it Shai Robkin makes the following statement:
“We are pleased to enter into this collaboration with Ex Libris, which will enable the worldwide community of Ex Libris users to enjoy integrated access to our growing portfolio of RFID-based solutions. Our partnership with Ex Libris is a win for all parties—Bibliotheca, Ex Libris, and most important, our customers. Bibliotheca has worked with Ex Libris for a number of years now, but this agreement will align our technical developments and integrate them tightly to bring enhanced products to the library community.”
In a library market plagued by proprietary solutions and technology ‘lock-ins’ this may not be the great news it claims to be. RFID has itself has only recently begun to put its house in order by adopting data standards that can be supported, and therefore transferred, between different RFID suppliers. That’s a process that has yet to happen in the USA – and this announcement suggests it may be a long time coming. I have been taken to task by Shai previously when I suggested that NISO were going to recommend the US adoption of ISO 28560-2 (they did) but this time Bibliotheca US seem to be singing from a different song sheet to the UK branch of the family.
As I wrote recently Jim Hopwood – Chief Technology Officer of Bibliotheca wrote a powerful piece in support of a more open approach to LMS(ILS)/RFID integration only last month. In his article Jim said:
“New technology without the ‘lock-in’
Having a framework like BLCF will mean that new opportunities and products can be developed with the knowledge that they can be integrated with a wide variety of systems, without having to resort to proprietary interfaces. To libraries, this means they can implement new technology without fearing lock-in and obsolescence. In fact, the libraries could ask if it is ‘BLCF compliant’.”
…which seems somewhat at odds with the US statement where clients of a Ex Libris look like they are going to have to buy Bibliotheca if they want an RFID solution.
I find this rather puzzling – especially in the light of a meeting only last week at which LMS and RFID suppliers in the UK agreed to work together to develop new functionality within the BIC Communications Framework. (I will be writing more about BLCF, SIP 3.0 and NCIP very soon – as there seems to be some confusion in the land about whether they are in competition or not.) Meanwhile American readers can read the views of my esteemed colleague Lori Ayre of the Galecia Group (her blog is always worth a read) in a forthcoming publication.
Now admittedly Ex Libris have never participated in any of our UK discussions on open standards for data and communication so they might be forgiven for being unaware that the RFID world is trying to move forward to offer better return on investment for and increase functionality by freeing the technology from the constraints of proprietary links and APIs and serial-based communication protocols but the Bibliotheca contradiction seems to require some explanation.
With Capita, Infor, Axiell and SirsiDynix evaluating BIC’s open source approach to RFID/LMS integration Ex Libris may find that their position may prove untenable – at least in the UK. Or perhaps Bibliotheca plan to follow different strategies in different markets? Following “Think global, act local” – or some other mantra we used to have in Dynix back in the 1990s.
Or perhaps the Atlantic is even wider than we thought.