Ellie of the Ellie <3 Libraries Blog recently wrote a remarkably comprehensive summary, with commentary, of Roy Tennant’s “The Future of Catalogs” presentation for the TLA (Texas Library Association). The gist of her review is that the monolithic library catalog (OPAC) is dying and is being replaced with tools that foster discovery, integration of disparate sources, and Web 2.0 elements such as sharing of information (for getting resource recommendations.)
The world is changing. Library patrons are global citizens. It doesn’t serve the patrons for libraries to remain islands and to cling tightly to their piece of global content. The future, in my view, is Web 2.0 and beyond. More sharing, more collaboration, more mashups, more multimedia, and more global. And, at the same time, everything should become more simple for the user.
Federated search certainly has a role to serve in the evolution of libraries. At the simplest level, there will always be a need to aggregate content from relevant sources. Looking forward, the number of sources and volume of content will only continue to grow. I don’t believe that anyone can keep up with metadata tagging of documents so that leaves it up to software of ever-increasing complexity to sort through larger and larger piles of potentially useful data, some of it structured, most of it not.
As a brief digression, I think that in the post-monolithic library era, post-federated search software will have an almost uncanny understanding of what is relevant to any particular user based on the software having carefully observed and analyzed the user’s search behavior. Plus, this evolution to “federated search on steroids” will consider the search information from others in the searcher’s trusted circle in making recommendations to users.
A number of Ellie’s statements in her review hint at the direction of things to come. Library patrons start their searches with the public search engines. They only (Tennant claims) want a text box and a search button. Other elements of the future included services built around students’ needs, sharing and repurposing of information, discovery beyond the local library, and leading with discovery.
I can’t do Ellie’s review justice in a few short paragraphs. Read it for yourself then let us know what you think the future will look like.