Lesson #10 Cloud Computing and Libraries

Reading Jay Jordan’s article, Climbing Out of the Box and Into the Cloud, was inspiring and hopeful for the future direction of library service. The web scale tools and services described in Jay Jordan’s article and offered through OCLC’s cloud computing were beneficial for both library administration and users. From a management perspective the efficiency and cost savings were compelling. From a patron’s perspective the gathered resources and increased opportunities for access to information were also compelling. The article led me to question, what is the hold up? Marshall Breeding addresses this question: “The uptake of new kinds of products can be a bit slow. Libraries tend to hold on to their automation products until the last possible moment of their usefulness.”(2011). Climbing Out of the Box and Into The Cloud by Jay Jordan generated questions that appear to support Marshall Breeding’s statement when considered from a public library service perspective.


“Have the systems libraries use to deliver services kept pace with the changing nature of users and collections?”  My public library experience suggests the answer to this question is no. Patrons often ask for service options that are not available through current automation services. Clients expect these unavailable service capabilities to be possible because they have been exposed to them through other on-line experiences. Patrons will enquire about tools to social network with other readers, to track their own reading, to create lists, to generate next reads suggestions based on their current or previous reading, and when placing a hold, to have expected delivery times provided . Increasingly patrons wish to have their information needs satisfied instantly. However, patrons who are provided an expected delivery time are more likely to wait than purchase.


“Do libraries have too many systems to support?” A typical public library has websites, on-line catalogue and automation service, social media, possibly a digital library, an interlibrary loan system, a unique suite of databases, and perhaps a variety of on-line reference services such as e-mail, chat, or phone. Each of the mentioned services is often not seamlessly integrated in a single user interface, but fragmented creating barriers for patrons and information seekers.


“Moreover, is a fragmented presence on the Web keeping libraries from success with their user?” In our current public library service model, users looking for an electronic article must search the databases. Clients seeking a print copy of a book must first search the local catalogue, then ask for staff assistance to place an inter library loan if it doesn’t exist in the local collection. Patrons searching for on-line reference must find it on the website instead of in the catalogue. All these various silos of information and service create obstacles for use.


The service and efficiency of cloud computing as described in Jay Jordan’s article makes a convincing argument for libraries to adopt cloud computing. Cloud computing enables the sharing of large pools of data, a single user interface for all libraries, increased interoperation through API’s, and the use of tools like RedLazer.  The ability to view and consume shared data pools to simplify and create easier collaboration among libraries while also having the ability to secure some data as local and private is extremely compelling. This is how I imagine cloud computing in a public library context: A single user friendly interoperable user face which seamlessly links to larger data pools ( proprietary data such as;  Google, Amazon, Library Thing, and social network sites, and large pools of other data, wikis, Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, and local OPAC and digital collections) where OCLC local can provide information about physical or digital access to local patrons through tools like RedLaser delivering “localized library results based on the user’s location, providing library holdings, library location contact, and mapping information.” (2011). I can see the utility and possibilities of this vision now and I look forward to cloud computing’s impact in the future.




Jordan, Jay. “Climbing Out of the Box and Into the Cloud: Building web scale for libraries.” Journal of Library Administration 51 (2011): 3-17. Journal of Library Administration. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. <DOI:10.1080/01930826.2011.531637>.


Breeding, Marshall. “A Cloudy Forecast for Libraries.” The Systems Librarian (2011): 32-34. Web. 20 Mar. 2013.




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