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Friday, July 30, 2010

SkyRiver & III Suing OCLC: Traditional (Read: Broken) ILS Vendors are Pissed

Innovative Interfaces (known in LibraryLand as III) and SkyRiver are suing OCLC under anti-trust laws. You can read the full complaint here, and I recommend you do so. It's not an awfully long read, but it certainly is enlightening.


K.G. Schneider addressed it so well, you should read her blog post about the situation, which gets right to the heart of what makes this complaint stink.


At the risk of being a Ranty McRantypants, I would like to note that if you read the suit, III & SkyRiver are complaining that OCLC's innovation hurts them. Which is fascinating, since librarians have been *begging* III and other traditional ILS vendors to innovate - and making recommendations on how they could do so to fit our changing workflows and services - for decades. Now that they've found themselves behind the curve they want free access to what librarians & OCLC have built over decades.


Full disclosure: if you've read my blog, you know that my library's a development partner for the OCLC WMS. We are already seeing how we can save immense amounts of staff time in Acquisitions/Materials processing and Access with not having to duplicate work in multiple systems, as well as a better patron-side experience. And the thing isn't even fully built yet.


I've worked with 3 traditional ILS systems (VTLS, Sirsi, & Voyager), and the development cycles, responses to feedback, and customer service when things break have all been abysmal. Across the board. This looks a whole lot like those folks running scared of something that will meet libraries' needs. And complaining that OCLC is entering the traditional ILS world is flatly untrue. OCLC has cloudware. Muy diferente. How many of us have hobbled along with our traditional ILS systems that can't do everything through that software, so we order in one thing, receive in another, and do quite a bit of duplicate work simply because our systems won't talk to each other?


I see you back there. RAISE YOUR HAND.


Yes, OCLC is a behemoth and there are issues with pricing, with ownership of records, and the Michigan pricing thing was a complete hash. But I haven't heard of any librarian who doesn't understand how valuable OCLC has been for us.


What III fails to state in their paperwork is that they ALSO bilk libraries out of huge sums every year via lock-in contracts, except they request no input from clients nor do they respond to rapidly changing needs. That they frame OCLC asking members to participate in development of products as a bad thing boggles me. Yes, how dare they inquire as to how their products might impact our workflows and make themselves, um, useful. FOR SHAME.


Yes, I want a say in the systems I use. I want prompt response time, a development cycle that moves faster than a broken-legged sloth, and the opportunity to provide feedback that is taken seriously. The fact that companies failed to change systems they designed years ago to keep up with technology - and are now feeling the bite of it - does not impress me.


I keep hoping they'll televise the court proceedings for this. Librarians would be all over it. Like the O.J. trial, only for nerds.

2 comments:

B said...

I don't disagree with most of your assertions, but you're conflating -- purposefully, I think, and to your and our discredit -- issues of law and customer service.

Of course III products suck. All the ILS vendors' products suck, some in their own special ways and mostly in all the same ways.

However, "Yeah, but their products suck, and our product sucks less!" isn't a legal defense. The issue is about the legality of business practices, not product quality.

If III sucks, people can walk away from their products -- just as you've chosen a competitor in the marketplace, OCLC. If III (or anyone in the library space) is being unlawful, well, then sue the crap out of them. You'd hear me applauding three states away.

But If OCLC is abusing either their non-profit status or their (legally-acquired) monopoly, they should be slapped upside the head to the extent outlined by the law. It has nothing to do with customer service or how good a product can compete on a level playing field, and everything to do with claims about illegal business activity on the part of OCLC.

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