On SOPAC, Change and Mr. John Blyberg

I really unplugged for Labor Day weekend, my last 3 days up north. But I was up early today to check out the new Darien Library Web site and the new version of SOPAC from John Blyberg.

Kathryn Greenhill posted “Almost Christmas in Libraryland…Ho Ho Ho Mr Blyberg,” and she sums it up well:

So, what does it do?

It will provide a discovery (search and display) layer that is independent of the Library Management System. As long as there is a connector written, it can sit over any LMS. The look can be customised to fit any theme or template used by the rest of the library website. As well as search and display of catalogue items, it allows social data like tagging, ratings and reviews.

Why should libraryland care about what is happening at Darien?

1) The module is designed and licensed so that it can be bundled up and spread over the top of any Library Management System, with no cost for the software or license.

2) SOPAC is a module for Drupal 6, a free Open Source content management system that has been adopted by many libraries to run their websites already.

3) SOPAC can be themed and templated to look however the library wants.

4) When the code is released it will be extensively documented (once the dust has settled)

5)  A community of librarians interested in Open Source is already watching the project and ready to start playing and working with it

6) The “social” elements like tagging, reviews and ratings can be pooled and shared across library systems through the use of the Insurge software library.

Key phrase – “The module is designed and licensed so that it can be bundled up and spread over the top of any Library Management System, with no cost for the software or license.”

From Library Journal: Blyberg told LJ  the end goal is to merge “all of the components of the user experience into a single unified interface,” from the library’s homepage down to the individual record level and the patron preference screen. More broadly, Blyberg also wants to keep the software package simple enough for other librarians to implement easily.

Louise Berry writes on her Director’s Blog at the library site: As a final thought, I hope you’ll excuse my pride in pointing out that John Blyberg, Darien Library’s Head of Technology and Digital Initiatives, has created our website and the connection to our online catalog using open source software, and at his initiative, we are making it freely available to all libraries, as a contribution to strengthening the role of all libraries in their communities.

This, friends, is huge – or it has the potential to be huge. The next step is for libraries – many libraries of all types and sizes — to explore this option, to try it out, to make it so. I know there will be a few cutting edge institutions who do this but I want to see more. I want to see the libraries who are planning to buy solutions such as this from their vendors change to this option or libraries who haven’t taken any steps into uncharted waters put this into their strategic plans for open source opportunities. This could be a very important milestone on the road for libraries as we take back control of our systems and our data.

To John, Louise Berry, Alan gray and all the fine folks at Darien library – my hat is off to you. Thank you for sharing.

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