There is an argument that the age of the ILMS is passing. Of course, the integrated library management system has served us wonderfully well. We depend on it to provide the efficiencies which come through automation of acquisitions, cataloguing, serials processing, and provision of access to physical resources for our users. The MARC record has transformed the way libraries work. The ILMS integrates everything into a single process.
On the other hand, one part of the ILMS - the OPAC - now looks extremely old-fashioned when compared with the normal, everyday search experience of our users when they use Google, Yahoo or one of the many Internet search engines. Increasingly, our OPACs are falling behind. The search features which are taken for granted now - relevance ranking, "did you mean?", user annotation facilities, user-generated subject headings (tags) - are all missing. The catalogue sucks, to quote the Americans (do a Google search on those two words). But effective search is absolutely critical to our future value to our users. Swinburne's recent user survey found that over 70% of our users use Google every day.
The diminishing number of ILMS vendors does not seem to be doing much about this situation - we want efficient, integrated library systems, but we also want contemporary search capacity. We have systems which developed to control print collections of monographs and serials. Now they are out of date.
At the National Library's New Ideas Forum last week Alison Dellitt and Kent Fitch presented a short overview of how the National Library of Australia is rethinking both search (find and get) and the catalogue. Great thinking - have a look at their IT Architecture Project Report.
Au revoir, ILMS? What do you think?