Thursday, 20 May 2010

Integrating our own service

We've talked a little about collaboration and integration of services between institutions - but sometimes the need for integration is closer to home. At the UL we have two sources of library data - our Voyager library management system, and a local database holding specific information about each library in Cambridge. This ranges from opening hours to location, staff details to system information. The two databases are linked by common identifiers so they can "talk to each other".

This local database is used to drive interfaces such as the Cambridge Libraries Directory and Libraries Map. It's also the foundation of a number of services we provide for Cambridge librarians - web based reporting from Voyager, course booking, record enrichment, staff management and stockchecking being just a few. Essentially, we have used development based around this local database to fill in the gaps where Voyager either has no slot for the information we want to store, or doesn't provide the service we need.

Widgets provide the perfect opportunity to start tying this data together more closely. We're already doing this to a certain extent in the CamLib mobile interface - Voyager knows which library a book is in, our local database knows where that library is, allowing us to link out to a map.

But there are all sorts of other possibilities - from simple ones like including library opening times in searches, to more complex functionality like "show me the nearest copy of this book", or "only show me books which are held in libraries which are open now". Another example of how bringing data together to get an idea of context allows you to provide relevant services for your users.

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