Update on ILS-Discovery Interface work

It’s been a while since I posted about the official release of the Digital Library Federation’s ILS Discovery interface recommendation. Marshall Breeding recently posted a useful update on the further development of the interfaces at Library Technology Guides. As the chair of the ILS-DI task group, which is now charged with some followup work described in Marshall’s article, I’d like to add some further updates.

As Marshall mentions, the DLF convened a meeting in August inviting potential developers of the ILS-Discovery interfaces to discuss implementations of recommendations of the DLF’s ILS-Discovery Interface task group. In the course of the discussion, a few changes were suggested and generally agreed upon by the participants. Updating the recommendation was not the main purpose of the meeting, but as we discussed things, it became clear that some clarifications and small updates to the recommendation would be helpful for producing more consistent and useful implementations of the Basic Discovery Interfaces, the interoperability “Level 1” that was agreed to in the Berkeley Accord.

The ILS-DI task group is therefore preparing a slight revision, to be known as “version 1.1” of the recommendation. A draft of this revision will be released for comment shortly, and will include the following changes, summarized here to give developers some idea of what to expect:

  • For the HarvestBibliographicRecords and HarvestExpandedRecords functions, it will be clarified that the function should return the records that are available for discovery. (That is, suppressed records and others that might be in the ILS but aren’t intended for discovery will not be shown, except possibly as deleted records as described below).
  • Support for the OAI-PMH binding for these functions will be noted as required. (That is, it must be supported for full ILS-BDI compliance; other bindings can be supported too.) It will also be noted that Dublin Core is a minimum requirement for returned records (as it is for OAI-PMH in general), and that if MARC records exist in the ILS (or are produced by it), MARC XML should also be available.
  • We also will require some level of support for deleted records (which includes records no longer available for discovery), to make it feasible for discovery apps to keep in sync with the ILS’s records via incremental harvesting. We’ll note that ILSs should document how long they keep deleted-record information.
  • For GetAvailability, the simple availability schema defined in the document will be noted as required. (That is, it should be returned for full ILS-BDI compliance; other schemas can be supported too if asked for and supported.) There was some talk at the August meeting about completely dropping the alternative NCIP and ILS-Holdings schemas as replies to GetAvailability, because of their complexity. The draft at this point doesn’t go that far, but it will specify the simple availability schema as the default, and the required, schema to support in the ILS-BDI profile.
  • That simple availability schema will also be augmented slightly to include an optional location element, distinct from the availability-message element. Location was the one specific data field that many implementors said was essential to include that wasn’t in the original schema.
  • We will also add a request parameter to GetAvailability for specifying whether bib or item-level availability is desired if a bib. identifier is given. (Formerly the server had the option of choosing the level in that case; there was a strong sentiment in discussions that the client to be able to specify this.)
  • We expect to leave GoToBibliographicRequestPage alone.

The new draft will be released shortly, and be open to public comment for at least a couple of weeks before we make a last edit for an official release. Feedback is welcome and encouraged, and public discussion can take place in the ILS-DI Google Group, among other places

The new draft will be accompanied by a revised XML schema. The current schema, reflecting the original or “version 1.0” official recommendation, can be found here. For the location of the new one (which is not yet posted), substitute “1.1” for “1.0” in the schema URL. (We intend to keep the old schema up for a good while after the new one is posted, for compatibility with implementations based on the original recommendation.)

I will also be leading a Birds of a Feather session at the upcoming Digital Library Federation fall forum in Providence next month. This will be an opportunity for developers of interfaces implementing the DLF’s ILS-Discovery interface recommendations to present their work to others, ask and answer questions about the recommendations and their implementations, and discuss further development initiatives and coordination. If you’d like us to set aside some time to show or discuss a particular initiative or project you’re working on, let me know.

Watch this space and the ILS-DI Google Group for further developments. And if you can come to the session at DLF in November, I hope we’ll have an interesting and enlightening discussion there as well.

(Update, Oct. 30: The draft of the revision is now out for comment.)

About John Mark Ockerbloom

I'm a digital library architect and planner at the University of Pennsylvania.
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3 Responses to Update on ILS-Discovery Interface work

  1. Peter Murray says:

    One of the outcomes from the earlier Berkeley meeting was a signed statement of ILS vendors supporting the DLF-ILS API work. Notably, one vendor abstained from signing the agreement (looking for more information before signing on). Was a similar straw poll taken after this meeting to gauge buy-in from the various participants?

  2. John Mark Ockerbloom says:

    There wasn’t an explicit straw poll, but a lot of the vendors had representatives at the meeting, and both before and during the meeting many of them expressed an interest in making the “basic” APIs more specific and targeted. The changes suggested here reflect that, and my recollections and notes indicate they also reflect the expressed consensus of the group at the meeting.

  3. jrochkind says:

    This is good stuff, you guys have done a good job with this.

    I’m sure later need for changes will occur only after people start implementing, and realize the barriers, that’s how it goes.

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