Erik Hatcher on what’s needed

Erik Hatcher’s essay on their experiences prototyping blacklight at UVa ought to be required reading for anyone interested in the future of library digital services.

To my mind, the most important point he makes is this:

Let me reiterate that what I see needed is a process, not a product. With Solr in the picture, we can all rest a bit easier knowing that a top-notch open source search engine is readily available… a commodity. The investment for the University of Virginia, then, is not in search engine technology per se, but rather in embracing the needs of the users at a fine-grained level.

This is a point I see many library decision makers not fully grasping. It’s not about buying a product (whether open source _or_ proprietary), it’s about somehow getting multiple parts of the libraries on board in a coordinated effort to focus our work where it matters. The tech may make this possible for the first time–and some tech may be better than other tech–but tech can’t solve things for you. Just plunking your money down for the ‘right’ product from a vendor (Yes, even if that vendor is OCLC!) can not be an end point.

But organizational strategy is a lot harder than just buying an expensive product, unfortunately.

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