Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Portals, Portlets and Courseware, Oh My!

Today I read a post by Ed Bilodeau, an instructor at McGill University, which reminded me that the digital landscape at McGill is evolving with new campus-wide software products, including a courseware product upgrade (WebCT to WebCT Vista) and an upgrade and new plug-ins to SunGuard SCT Banner, an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) product.

Back on March 24 I posted a message on ERPs, mentioning that McGill University had purchased SCT Banner (now SunGuard SCT Banner) a few years ago to manage electronic data regarding student, personnel, and financial information. Banner is a formidable system--HUGE is more like it--and the data it contains is valuable to the McGill University Archives' records management responsibilities.

After reading Ed's post, and reviewing my digitalpermanence reports, I realized that the digital campus at McGill is about to get a lot more complicated, for better or for worse.

There's Banner plug-ins coming down the pipe (most likely document scanning plug-ins); there's a version upgrade to Banner (version 7), which, I hear, will be Web-based; and there's at least 2 new (and rather cool) library tools nearing their launch date: a federated search tool called MetaLib and a digital asset management tool called DigiTool, both by ExLibris, the company behind McGill's Integrated Library System (ILM), Aleph.

Plus, as Ed points out, there's the campus-wide portal product that was recently announced to an eagerly awaiting crowd (at least I was eager, especially after spending weeks on end attending vendor product demos, munching on catered cold cuts and assorted finger food, and filling out online questionnaires). But I digress. McGill purchased Oracle's portal product.

I must admit, upon first hearing the decision, I almost fell out of my chair in surprise and dismay. Will this product tie together all of our current campus-wide systems--Banner, WebCT, ILM--and, more importantly, will it scale and be robust enough to handle future campus-wide initiatives such as document management, image banks, and institutional repositories?? Questions, questions, and more questions. But as I settled back in my chair, I wondered maybe, just maybe, Oracle's portal product may actually work. Call me crazy, but Oracle's databases--its ability to manage huge databases of data, huge mountains of data--may be to our advantage. We shall see...

In any case, the McGill University Archives still has work to do in dealing with electronic records. Whether it involves providing standards, best practices, or protocols to offices, the University Archives will invest the time and energy into making sure the valuable institutional information contained in these new and upcoming systems will be effectively managed and preserved for posterity, no ifs, ands, or buts.

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about the author

I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.

I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.

I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.