Library a la Carte - The Next Frontier
We are currently at a crossroads in the Library à la Carte community. We have reached a point where there are a lot of features that would make our product more useful and enable it to integrate it into a variety of products - both proprietary and open source - to help libraries. This is at a time where we are seeing our needs outrun our abilities to address those needs. We also need to find ways to lower the cost of ownership for institutions who don't have the expertise - or the funding to hire such expertise - in their own institutions to run LALC.
We know that many people find Library à la Carte useful, such as California State University at San Marcos, UC Berkeley, and the University of Arizona. The challenge is how we can continue to innovate the product while making it available to more institutions.
Below you will find a list of some of things that we are looking at as part of this "Next Frontier" of Library à la Carte. Please note that this essentially is a preliminary document and is not intended to be a committment, or any other indication of the feasibility of any particular idea or feature. It is meant more as a "what we are thinking about" document to share with you - our user community - the types of directions that we are exploring. In addition, we hope that it can provide the basis for you to provide use input as to what you see that the direction should be for the initiative.
This is essentially a "blue sky" document, meant both to inform and to elicit ideas, comments, suggestions, and other feedback from you. While we will eventually be setting up more structured mechanisms for providing feedback, in the meantime, please feel free to email us with any ideas you have.
Exploring new platforms
Publishing Library à la Carte in the "Cloud"
We are currently exploring ways we might utilize "the Cloud" to make implementation quicker, easier and to allow for new ways of providing Library à la Carte to libraries. We are in the process of testing cloud-based publication of Library à la Carte and hope to have more answers later this Spring
Developing low-cost options for running Library à la Carte
Our exploration of the Cloud for publishing Library à la Carte is part of our investigation of other ways in which we could allow those without technical resources to take advantage of Library a la Carte's features.
Exploring a consortial-friendly Library à la Carte
One possible solution we are investigating is refactoring Library à la Carte to support mulitiple institutions - or libraries within an institution - to use a single instance of the program.
Getting More Input
Find out what you need Library à la Carte to do
In this world where information silos are being stormed - and in many cases, torn down - there are many areas in which Library à la Carte could be adapted to support library users' needs. We will be opening up channels of communication to allow this to happen.
Creating an open source development community
Involving developers, both formally and informally, in the process
There are many things that need to be done to help Library à la Carte continue to be a useful product. Since we can't rely on a vendor to program the features we want, it's up to us to do so. It is in that spirit that we will be formulating procedures and processes to open up development to those who are willing to contribute for the greater good of the community. Not only will we include a more formalized group of developers, we plan on allowing anybody with ideas to submit ideas - or even code - to help us improve the application. More information will be coming out about this in the coming weeks.
Include instructional and reference personnel in the development process
We seek to implement an agile programming approach to the development of Library à la Carte. This will mean that - in addition to actual coders - we will be including our stakeholders - the ones who will actually use the system - in our regular development discussions.
Create an easier installation process
We will seek to make it easier to install and to try Library à la Carte in a couple of ways. First of all, we will be exploring a more automated way of install the application on your server. Secondly, we will provide additional infomation via links to information that could help the neophyte user get started.
Facilitate the installation and use on multiple platforms
Currently, Library à la Carte documentation is pretty much geared to a *nix environment using MySQL as the backend relational database. However, the underlying technology (Ruby on Rails) can run in the Windows and Macintosh enviornment. It can also run on a wide range of database platforms including PostgreSQL, Oracle, and Microsoft SQL Server. One of the first things that we will do is to provide documentation and helpful links to users who have access to these platforms (perhaps on their desktops) so they can try out Library à la Carte.