One of the more lively discussions at LITA Forum was during a session whose topic had more to do with next year's Forum topic than this year's: Ken Fujiuchi from Buffalo State College in New York and Kathryn Frederick from Skidmore College in New York gave the audience a lot to consider in their talk "Designing Library Services for the Cloud." "We don't want to trust the cloud, but we're sucked in anyway," said Fujiuchi. Budget issues in libraries and patron expectations for certain types of services make moving data and services to the cloud pretty enticing. The bottom line is that cloud computing is more efficient, flexible, and portable. Their examples ranged from storing bib records on cloud servers to speed ILL among institutions that share the records (wait, aren't we already doing that?) to Google Sites for statistics to speculations that maybe one day library cards can be standardized to simplify borrowing outside one's own library–just as OpenID does it on the web and ATMs do it with debit cards. I was particularly interested in libraries' using Google Sites for statistics because of how well Google's forms interact with Google Docs and then output basic analytics–a perfect fit for keeping track of stats on reference transactions, it seems. Of course, privacy is a concern, but OCLC's Matt Goldner reminded the audience that sales units have been trusting the cloud for years with customer relationship management tools like salesforce.com. "It's been done," Goldner said. "Librarians just need figure out what needs to be in the cloud for us." The discussion led to ideas about what could happen if libraries refused to turn to the cloud for their computing infrastructure. The speakers suggested that librarians will risk losing patrons, saying that the cloud is to IT what Google is to libraries–motivation to maintain relevance.
LITA Forum: Thinking Aloud About the Cloud
October 6, 2009