March 30, 2005

Yet more OpenSearch discussion …….

The release and subsequent discussions about Amazon A9’s OpenSearch protocol has identified some discussion points around what type and sophistication of search capability should be offered by Library and Information systems.

The latest shots in this coming from Lorcan Dempsey & Thom Hickey at OCLC, both referencing their colleague Ralph LeVan .

To caricature the situation:

We in one camp, have the information scientists and librarians extolling the virtues of a powerful flexible search systems allowing the user to describe in the finest detail, down to an individual part of a Marc tag, what they are searching for. Then being able to combine that with other equally detailed search elements, limited by many things such as language, format, dates, and author’s inside leg measurement. [I did say it was a caricature]

In the other camp we have the proletariat of users who find putting more than two words in to an Amazoogle prompt a bit of a strain.


The first group delight in a search screen with more prompts than you can shake a stick at, the rest have never clicked an Advanced Search link in their life.

So towards which group do the Library/Information system developers and suppliers concentrate their efforts, and develop protocols to support? I contend that we need to service both these communities, as fully as possible. Without the former there would be far less stuff catalogued for the latter group to reliably search for and find.

Thom questions if there is a middle ground between SRU and OpenSearch. I think the answer is that there is something between these two that is worth discussing. Whether it is in the middle, I’m not so sure. Ralph commented, and I replied in more detail than here, on one of my previous blogs on the subject.

Ralph has offered to help develop guidelines on how to make an SRU & OpenSearch compatible solution to emerge. His experience around Z39.50, SRU/W, and metasearch will be invaluable towards this. I am also happy to get involved in such discussions, maybe coming at it from the other end by wearing a hat bearing the legend “Unadventurous member of the Internet Proletariat”

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