Jangle has been around for a little while, but I just came across a video of Ross Singers’ “Lightening Talk” on it at the recent Code4Lib conference, and was struck by a comparison with Ex Libris’ Primo product. The latter, of course, is a big, slick, vendor-supplied and -supported, complete “discovery and delivery” total system that purports to be a “one-stop solution” for library users. It isn’t quite that, naturally, and it is expensive — but assuming it comes anywhere near, it’s nonetheless both intriguing and impressive.

Jangle, on the other hand, is a typical open-source bootstrap operation — though with a Talis connection — with threads literal and figurative dangling from code. Unlike Primo, it doesn’t have a general repository for locally held or collected metadata — it’s really just an interface or “layer”, fitting between a library’s various repositories (including the OPAC) and “users”, whether human or machine (i.e., other systems, like LMSs, campus portals, etc.). But as such, it looks like it may be able to offer a similar sort of “one-stop” functionality, albeit with help from additional systems, and with some (maybe a lot of!) tweaking.

What it really offers, though, is the possibility of a different approach to library systems altogether. Primo, while at least (and finally) getting away from the idea that the OPAC constitutes a library’s primary discovery platform or “sun”, continues the era of big, costly, one-size-fits-all, integrated systems that have held libraries in chains for decades, and are now holding them back. Having invested so much in them, we can’t easily move away from them, and so are driven to continue to use them in situations and under circumstances that are no longer appropriate — the old “when all you’ve got is a hammer” syndrome. The alternative is to move toward less “finished”, and certainly less integrated, more “loosely coupled” systems (and even portions or components of systems), that are nevertheless much more flexible, adaptable, and re-usable for that very reason. For that alternative, Jangle is a good illustration.