Lessons learnt transforming library services with BPMN

Presenters: Dries Moreels, Patrick Hochstenbach

In September 2014, Ghent University Library moved 34km of collections from its Book Tower to a new depository. This move entailed a series of profound changes to back office workflows and work arrangements. And as construction works progressed, the librarians needed to keep adapting. To enable this, and to minimize the impact on patrons, a BPMN engine was introduced.

The presentation will offer detailed examples to focus on some of the positive effects of this operation:

- If every button press on the website starts a BPMN workflow, then you can cater for many situations: typical ‘happy’ flows, cases that require some attention by staff, etc
- No more error messages shown to patrons (BPMN makes modeling exceptions easy)
- Workflow engine is also a rich transaction log, allowing for rich reporting on collection
usage - Workflows are not limited to the capabilities of one web service, but can combine services and automate subtasks.

Presenters will stress that users’ expectations and library’s performance targets in communication are increasing rapidly, much faster than software products can deliver. A BPMN engine can offer the necessary abstraction between the back office systems’ capabilities and the public website.

BPMN offers tools to standardize workflow descriptions, that can be executed step by step by any compliant software engine. From a library perspective, this is a familiar goal. In reality, there is a large disconnect between the many different library systems’ API’s lacking much standardization and interoperability.