Outside-in and inside-out

An ‘industry’ pattern appears to have emerged which builds a discovery layer over resources available from the library (or from a group library service, at the level of a state or a consortium for example).
Three characteristics come to mind. First, there is an attempt to provide an integrated discovery experience over multiple resource types/workflows: bought materials (books, CDs, etc), licensed materials (A&I databases, ejournals, etc), and institutional digital materials (digitised special collections, for example, or repositories of learning and research materials). Second, this ‘horizontal’ discovery layer is separated from the ‘vertical’ management systems which may manage those resources: the ‘integrated’ library system, the variety of systems which manage licensed resources, repository infrastructure, and so on. And, third, API access may be provided.
Various issues are being addressed as this model becomes more common. One that is interesting, I think, is that it will show how the three categories of resource I mention above – bought, licensed, and digital – have quite different dynamics in our systems and services.
Think, for example, of a distinction between outside-in resources, where the library is buying or licensing materials from external providers and making them accessible to a local audience (e.g. books and journals), and ‘inside-out’ resources which may be unique to an institution (e.g. digitized images, research materials) where the audience is both local and external. Thinking about an external non-institutional audience, and how to reach it, poses some new questions for the library.
Or think about the relationship between the ‘locally available’ collection and the ‘universal’ collection in each case.
* For bought materials (books, CDs, …) the library provides access to the locally available collection – the materials acquired for local use – and then may provide access to a broader ‘universal’ collection through Worldcat or another resource.
* For licensed materials, access is first through the broader ‘universal’ level (in various databases) before checking for the subsect of locally available materials.
* For institutional digital materials, access is provided to local repositories but this will not typically be backed up by access to a ‘universal’ source for such materials (although, one can see attempts to do this, as, for example, where an institutional repository expands a search to Scirus).
Of course, if one thinks about other discovery/disclosure channels (Google, for example), these three collection types also behave differently. That is a topic for another blog entry though.

3 thoughts on “Outside-in and inside-out”

  1. I was talking with a group of our cataloguers today, and a question came up apropos of this: how are horizontal discovery layers going to cope with the same record coming at them internally and externally? Or from two sources internally?
    For example: a thesis catalogued in the OPAC and available full-text in the IR. Now add in a record for that thesis in ProQuest and/or OAIster, discovered through a Summon-like layer.

  2. This gets me started thinking about interesting things.
    I’m not sure if any user CARES if a WWW/http accessible thing is out in the ‘wider world’ or if it’s hosted locally.
    But what they probably care about is if it’s publicaly available to anyone, or only available by licensing to the affiliates of the institution who’s catalog is being searched. If the user is not an affiliate but is using your catalog, then it seems safe to say they _definitely_ care about it. But even if they are an affiliate, they may care about it, because they may consider those licensed resources more (or less? 🙂 ) valuable than public resources.
    But whether it’s public or restricted access, do they care if it’s hosted at somevendor.com, or at http://www.library.myuniversity.edu? I doubt it.

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