Posted by Lori Ayre on October 1, 2015

BIC (Book Industry Communication) today officially launched the Library Communication Framework (LCF).  BIC is an independent UK organization that is "all about the book supply chain - both physical and digital, in retail and in libraries."  

Why should we care about something that BIC launches?  We should care because we all share many ILS and RFID vendors including 3M, Bibliotheca, D-Tech, Innovative and SirsiDynix.  And all of these vendors (and more) have signed on, and we want to support them for doing so while making sure they follow through with that commitment.

We should care because every library in the USA has, at one time or another, paid a lot more money to a vendor to get them to support integration with another vendor's product than they should have. Most industries are replete with standards that make things work. We've got SIP2, NCIP and Z39.50 -- and that's about it when it comes to communications with the ILS.  

But these three standards are not nearly adequate given the things people want to do today. RFID technology, for one, is severely hamstrung by the limitations of the ILS and what can be pulled out of a vendor's system. Desires to do interesting things with library data have also been hamstrung when it comes to web-based applications.  Thus, the proliferation of proprietary APIs which are not standards at all yet the ILS vendors parade them around like they are.  Just because its an acronym, doesn't make it a standard. APIs are not standards.  APIs are not even protocols.  They are custom code for developers to wade through in order to get something done.  They are custom code that keep the reins (and library data) tightly held by the ILS vendors.

LCF is a vehicle for turning the tide away from dependance on proprietary APIs and limited protocols based on old technology towards a cohesive set of standards that apply to a wide range of library services including RFID-related services as well as all things self-service (which is now largely limited to SIP2) and all things resource-sharing (which is now largely limited to NCIP) and all things discovery (which is now largely limited to Z39.50).

As my friend Mick Fortune posted today:

"Developing better interoperability and ultimately more closely integrated systems has been the dream of librarians for many years. There have been many attempts to solve the myriad problems of multiple formats, different architectures and a lamentable lack of industry standards. Most have sunk without trace. Libraries have responded to these disappointments in a variety of ways – single LMS procurements, moves to Open Source solutions and potentially even API heavy middleware adding significant cost without commensurately improving interoperability. The industry badly needs to put its house in order. The framework provides a starting point for realising that dream."

For those of you who have worked with me on an ILS or RFID procurement, you'll remember me mentioning LCF.  I insist on asking for support for LCF in hopes that it raises awareness within the US library community.  I also joined the NCIP Standing Committee to see if there was an opportunity within that group to bring about more support for LCF.  So far, no luck. Instead of supporting LCF, we now have SIP3 to worry about. SIP3 is just another extension to SIP2 and won't provide the benefits that LCF would provide. And its a distraction.

When I first learned of LCF, it was called BLCF. The B standing for BIC (the UK organization).  I knew Americans wouldn't pay much attention to LCF if it referenced a non-American entity.  Luckily the group I was working with at that time wasn't nearly as prideful as Americans tend to be so they immediately began referring to LCF, dropping the reference to BIC.  But it seems that hasn't been enough to help LCF gain traction here in the US. And thank goodness for BIC and their support. Without them, we wouldn't have made it this far.  

Even if the US remains uninvolved with LCF, we will benefit since many of our vendors have signed on.  But it would be even better we were threw in our support to this effort.  

I don't seem to have the political acumen to build support for it in any meaningful way but I sure wish ALA, LITA, or NISO would get involved and help promote this framework and start making it easier and cheaper to support communication with the ILS and extend our services with RFID and Web technologies...and whatever other new things that come along that require integration with OUR data.

Here's the press release from BIC.  If your vendor hasn't signed on, ask them why.  If they have, ask them what it will mean.  Let's stay on top of this!