Burger's Blog: Don't Be A Vendor Victim


Somebody writes "Some of you may know Leslie Burger, the president of the American Library Association has a blog. Her Vendor Victim post from a few months ago caught my eye. She posted it back in September, so it's not quite a "Resolution" but it's an interesting statement coming from someone in her position:

"So my new vow is to no longer play the victim or to be held hostage to vendors who choose not to respond to my library's problems. I'm hiring the talent I need to solve the problems."


This relates to the recent discussion here regarding the lack of a good OPAC vendor. Libraries just don't have the buying power.

Librarians lack the guts to do anything about poor service. Librarians apparently sign contracts that don't force their vendors to provide Service Level Agreements. If a Vendor where I work does not meet their SLA they don't get paid.

Hiring one or two developers is simply not an option even for big libraries. With salaries starting in th 90s no library I know can spend that much for one person (except for a director but most of them are useless and only complain that they don't want to be a victim any longer)

There is a lot more to developing an application than hiring a couple of developers to crank out some code. The Software Development Lifecycle is quite complex. You have to begin by gathering requirements (which requires business analysts and system analysts) IT staff to evaluate the requirement for feasability, developers to write the code, staff to manage the servers on which the code is written, tested, and deployed, DBAs to manage the databases on those servers, IT test staff, UAT test staff, people to commuincate and train people on the systems (change management), project managers to keep things on track and moving along and then people to run the system until the next iteration.

No library has that kind of staff, and even if they did they would probably require them to have an MLS which is simply laughable. Sure there are people who can and do have many of those skills, but there is no one that can do two or three of those tasks simultaneously and well - not at any library, not in any company.

So if Burger wants to stop being a victim do it and quit whining. Fire some vendors, don't pay those who don't meet their SLAs, but if you think you can find good service for the prices libraries can pay you are mistaken.

I'm an IT person, though not at an OPAC vendor. Libraries are partly to blame for the miserable state of OPACs. Over the years many libraries submitted feature requests with no attempt at coordinating requests with other libraries. Any software developer can predict that this would result in unstructured code that is difficult to maintain, enhance, or redesign.

And the BS feature requests should have been killed in the early part of the SDLC.

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