5 Reasons we are excited about LCF
Library interoperability has been the domain of SIP2 since 1993. This was the year that Bill Clinton became the 42nd President of the USA, Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and Meat Loaf, Take That (the first time round) and Mr Blobby dominated the UK Single Charts.
It was also a fascinating time in the history of the Internet, which was firmly in its infancy. 1993 was the year the first general-use web browser was released, and the first webcam was connected to the Internet. Apple’s product of the time? The MessagePad – a PDA running on its Newton platform. It’s fair to say a lot has changed in 29 years! Yet SIP2 has remained at the forefront of library interoperability, with librarians and library users often running into the security and performance limitations of an aging communication standard.
What is LCF?
LCF is the Library Communication Framework. What is the Library Communication Framework?
BIC – Book Industry Communication, the book industry’s supply chain organisation, is the organisation responsible for developing the LCF:
“A set of library standards which defines a framework for the communication of data to and from library management systems (LMS). LCF is intended to support a much-needed rationalisation of the interoperation between disparate IT solutions.”
So, in short, LCF is the new recommended and standardised format for all third-party applications to communicate with library systems. And, because it has been developed by an independent body, it is designed to be driven by librarians!
What are the benefits of LCF?
1. Designed for Librarians
As mentioned above, LCF is designed to work with, and for, librarians. This means a whole host of benefits for you as a library – such as efficiencies through automation, enhanced analytics, and improved operability – which you will ultimately be able to pass on to your patrons.
Simplicity of configuration is also taken into account. From a librarian’s perspective, creating an access point and key for third-party suppliers is easy with LCF. In fact, early reports from librarians are saying that the setup is very simple and is already proving to be a big time saver!
For those third-party suppliers, setting up and testing calls from your system is just as easy via a simple interface.
2. Increased Security
Advancement in security is one of the major benefits of LCF. With the industry’s current standard now nearly 30 years old, cracks are starting to show. One particularly glaring area is data security, with plain text data sent over the internet an easy target for hackers.
LCF operates using HTTPS, the worldwide standard secure protocol. In addition, it allows the third-party application to be authenticated by key, which is both secure and simple for the librarian to configure.
By utilising proven encryption technology, LCF is an instantly secure solution. Librarians needing to take time-consuming measures, like setting up VPNs to ensure secure communication between LMS and third parties, will become a thing of the past.
3. Enhanced Service Delivery for Libraries
LCF will provide opportunities to streamline processes, aggregate charges and reduce costs, which translate into a range of enhanced service capabilities for libraries and their patrons.
Tasks like booking a class or joining up as a member via the library’s self-service kiosk will become possible. While LCF also includes the capability to drastically improve existing payment functionality. Users will be able to make pre-payments, deposits, and even choose to pay a specific charge, such as a particular fine or media borrowing fee, rather than making a payment against all existing charges on their LMS account.
For the librarian, LCF will provide the opportunity to learn more about their users and how they use and access library services, thanks to enhanced data, reporting and management audit trails.
4. LCF is Future Proof
It’s built for innovation! LCF is designed with the future needs of the market firmly in mind. The increased longevity of solutions is of obvious benefit to libraries, as underlined by BIC:
“In a time of scarce resource libraries are actively seeking to improve both their existing solutions and to offer new services without the risk of buying into solutions that cannot be developed or transported to a new platform. LCF provides that possibility.”
Plus, because LCF is an operating standard that is designed to evolve, library technology suppliers will be able to invest more heavily in developing the next generation of solutions with increased confidence in servicing a wider audience.
5. Freedom to switch
With LCF, you will no longer be locked into one solution set or one supplier! Enabling libraries to switch suppliers without instantly making any existing hardware defunct can only be a good thing. One which, in turn, increases opportunities for libraries to hold their existing providers to account.
LCF is a standard that works across all systems, you should even be able to set up another supplier using the same interface – if you can’t, then ask your supplier why not! Plus, as LCF is open and transportable, different suppliers, as well as your own IT department, will be able to interoperate other systems with your LMS.
D-Tech is LCF-ready
As a new, industry-wide standard, LCF has been independently developed to ensure it works for all. Therefore, whilst its governance falls under the over-arching responsibility of BIC, LCF is developed by two groups – LCF Review Group and LCF Technical Panel. As a member of both the LCF Review and Technical Panels, D-Tech is working alongside fellow industry leaders to develop the new standard and is preparing to roll out its first LCF installations.
James Breakell, Managing Director of D-Tech International UK, says: “The development of a new minimum standard protocol is really exciting for the future of library technology. LCF will drive the industry forwards, in terms of both security and functionality, and allow libraries and their patrons to enjoy a new generation of enhanced services.
“At D-Tech, we will always strive to service all library customers regardless of their software requirements. Our R&D team is developing software to LCF standard protocol across our full suite of products, ensuring D-Tech is able to provide LCF-Ready solutions to the vast array of challenges faced by our customers.”