RE: using free APIs, exit strategies

Posting to using free APIs, exit strategies (Bibliographic Wilderness Blog)

Concerning the Google Translate API, they do offer an alternative, the Google Translate Element, which is what I used in my catalog, and apparently that will remain.

I do agree that librarians must consider the alternatives that tools not in their control will very possibly shut down. Still, that is just one of the challenges of living in the new information world–if we don’t use the free APIs that everyone else is using because it may shut down, we will be seen as backward Luddites, as indeed, we would be. It would be nice to be in complete control, like when we had card catalogs, and everybody either used our tools the way we decided, or they could all just do without. Even then, a vital journal index could close down or something and it was a relative disaster. Those days are gone and we have to learn how to live without many of the controls, focusing instead on disaster minimization.

I guess the way I look at it is that we will be more or less forced to use the free APIs and other free sites if we want to be useful to our patrons (i.e. our communities), and if those tools shut down, while it will be a headache for us, it will be a disaster for the community. Google Scholar is very popular and that on its own makes it highly useful to Google–what would worry me more is if it became less popular. Still, it could be shut down. Google Books could potentially become even more important. It is obvious to me with Google’s rethinking of different tools; the APIs, shutting down Google Video and other tools, is evidence that Google may be suffering from the economic downturn as well.

As I mentioned, the solution to private companies just shutting things down will be rough on us but disasters for our communities. That is where the solutions will be found, I think: getting the communities to ensure that essential tools will not be shut down at the whim of a manager. Libraries have little or no power in this regard, and while we can serve perhaps as points of reference, and provide information, the real power will have to come from the communities: professional associations, municipalities and governments.

But no matter what, libraries will be very uncomfortably in the middle and will continue to lose control.