The cost of switching

In a post titled It’s not that simple over at What I learned today, Nicole Engard takes on the notion that we can "vote with out feet" (or wallets or whatever) when it comes to the OPAC.

Simply put: We can't.

Throwing aside all the contract and interoperability issues she raises, moving all your crap from one system to another is *hard*. Changing your workflow is *hard*. Retraining your users is *super hard*.

I've often commented to people that if all the time and energy that has been put into trying to "put lipsick on a pig" with OPACs had instead been spent creating converters to easily move data between the systems the major players sell, we'd have a hell of a lot more competition and, one can assume, better products.

Is open source the answer? I'm not sure it is. I *am* sure that there's a place in the market for new players, esp. among the smaller libraries who are (a) hungrier, (b) less beaurocracy-encrusted, and (c) more likely to look at hosted solutions. I'm not sure I'm the guy to fill that niche, but boy oh boy do I hope some folks start to step up.

5 Responses to The cost of switching

  1. I’m not sure I understand what you’re quoting me as saying – what does “vote with out feet” mean?

  2. OPAChy says:

    To “vote with your feet” is to walk away from a situation/place/deal/vendor you don’t like, instead of just complaining. It basically means to take your business elsewhere as a (most effective) way of expressing your discontent. If we’re not willing to “vote with our feet” — walk away, not renew the contract, hold the vendors accountable to our needs — then they have no reason to change, because, let’s face it, they’ve been listening to us complain for years and it’s got us almost nowhere.

  3. Ah! I understand – I was so confused – I have never heard that before.

    Now that I understand I can comment. While I know that it’s difficult to walk away from the systems we have – and even more difficult to migrate to a new system – my suggestion has always been that we first develop the system we want. This system would include (as you suggest) a module to assist with the conversion from one system to another.

    Have you had the opportunity to hear Paul Miller talk on Libraries and Web 2.0? I heard his talk at Computers in Libraries this year and he speaks about a similar idea – a core system that is the same across vendor lines – making it easy to make the change from one ILS to another.

  4. dchud says:

    What, you expect this work should be *easy*?

    It is hard. It’s going to continue to be hard. The key thing is to choose where you want to end up, and to get started.

  5. […] But don’t pretend for a moment that just because libraries are often unable/unwilling to vote with our feet that either our patrons or their representatives with the purse strings aren’t willing, even eager, to take the money and put it somewhere else. If you can’t justify your budget and your existence, don’t expect either to last forever. […]

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