Open Source Software in Libraries

It seems that Evergreen, combined with a general dissatisfaction with commercial library software vendors, has prompted some serious interest in collaborative Open Source Software development in New Jersey-Philadelphia area academic libraries. Two proposals that I know about (and am in someway involved in) are VALE-OLS and a yet-to-be-named group being organized via PALINET. The VALE-OLS project involves a New Jersey state-wide academic library consortium, VALE, for which some librarians (including me) have been authorized to investigate the feasibility of a shared Open Source Integrated Library System (ILS) for New Jersey academic libraries and write a white paper about it. PALINET organized a conference call that took place earlier today that discussed the idea of starting some sort of shared development office for library-related Open Source Software centered in the Philadelphia area. The PALINET group is not just looking to work on an ILS, but is also planning to help develop and support other library technologies link resolvers and meta search tools. Although these initiatives are still very much in the beginning part of the planning/investigation stage, and a lot of questions will need to be answered and there are a lot of hurdles to be jumped before either of them even reach infancy, they are great signs of progress.

There are other signs of interest as well. On a more global scale there is an IFLA pre-conference about Open Source Software in Africa coming up this summer (that I will be presenting at). There is the huge success of the code4lib conference. And more libraries are releasing Open Source Software such as the LibraryFind meta-search software the Oregon State University announced yesterday.

On a more personal note, I have been invited to do three lectures/presentations on Open Source Software at state-wide library conferences. So far two of them are confirmed, and one is still pending, but even if that one doesn’t work out, it still shows their is significant interest in the topic. Besides those presentations, I will also be doing a talk about Open Source at a vendor-related conference this April. (BTW: Once the various conferences release there schedules, I’ll be sure to give everyone the details here on my blog).

While there has been slow movement in this area for at least the last 8 years, I think Open Source in libraries has finally started to pick up a good amount of steam. Advocates of Open Source in Libraries can thank Evergreen (and to a lesser extent, Koha) for that. The folks at Georgia PINES have proven that it can be done on a large scale, which is making not only programmers and other Open Source advocates in libraries take notice, but also making high-level library administrators take notice. I also should say that for academic libraries, at least, some credit needs to be given to the success of other Open Source initiatives in academia, such as the Moodle course management system.

I don’t know if either the VALE-OLS or PALINET open source initiatives will end up seeing the light of day, but just the fact that they are seriously being discussed shows that we might just be at a significant turning point. Open Source may or may not be sexy, but at least in libraries, it sure is exciting.

1 Comment

  1. Roberto Galoppini said,

    February 2, 2007 at 13:02:51

    Exciting libraries? Did you have a look into wikindx?
    It seems alive and kicking, and it’s member of Bibliophile, a project aimed at promoting collaboration between developers and end-users of bibliographic databases.