The Accessibility of Your Data
A Critical Asset
Your ILS database is one of the single most valuable assets at your library. It's not just your MARC and holdings information, but fines, overdues, history, items out, patrons, etc. You need access to your database every time a new item is cataloged, every time an item circulates, every time you collect a fine. With every transaction it grows and becomes even more irreplaceable. Without it, you couldn't run your library.
Who owns that database and how accessible is it? The answer, of course, is that the database belongs to your library and it should be immediately, completely, and freely accessible.
So be careful when you select an automation system. Make sure that your data can be freely extracted from that system. Plus, it should be in a form usable by other automation systems. The harder to extract and the less usable it is, the more you will pay the next time you migrate. Imagine vendors charging you to obtain your own data...
Our position is that the industry should adopt a standard export format for all library data, including MARC, holdings information, fines, overdues, history, items out, patron info, etc. All ILS systems would then adopt this standard so that libraries have full access to their own data. This type of approach is common in 21st century technology.
As a step toward this goal, Biblionix has developed the only such format and we're working on making it an industry standard. We've called it LDIF (Library Data Interchange Format). It defines an XML file that contains everything Apollo knows about your library. XML is a standard itself and its primary purpose is to facilitate the sharing of structured data across different information systems. XML can be thought of as a series of envelopes. In one envelope are your complete bibliographic records in full MARC format and in another is your patron data, etc.
LDIF is easy to extract from Apollo. At any time, you can obtain all your data for no charge. This could be for migrating away from Apollo or just for your own backup. Plus, you can setup an automatic download of your LDIF file. Understanding/importing the LDIF/XML file type will be trivial for another ILS vendor. And that will save you money, time, and anguish the next time you migrate. Yes, that makes it easier to migrate away from Apollo. Yes, it's the right thing to do.