Chris, Carl, et al,
I realize I'm a bit late to the party, but here's my 2 cents.
In response to your comment:
What will it take to break this logjam? Is it intensive, informed outreach by people like myself to other directors? Is it credible tech support offerings from organizations such as regional consortia for open source applications? Is it both of these and more?
The very first thing needed and I do mean the very first thing is to get
people on-board with Open Source. This requires not one-time
information, but on-going information to keep this alternative a viable
recognizable alternative to commercial solutions. Directors like
numbers. How much is it going to save them? And it doesn't have to
always be in dollars, it can be in workflow, efficiency of the system,
How do you get that information to librarians and directors and the
people who write the checks? Put information on blogs, websites, invite
Open Source vendors to speak. Not once, but often. Continue the
In Minnesota, we've had both LibLime and Evergreen present at our
regional vendor user group meeting along with our current vendor sales
consultants. We've had more people attend the conferences than ever
before. Additionally, those people who heard about the presentations or
were present went back to their institutions and have asked LibLime to
come back to talk to other consortiums, institutions, and also the
state-wide ILL user group conference (MNLink). After these conferences,
we built web pages that link to all the information any of the
vendors--open source and commercial want to share. It's all in one
place at the moment and growing. I will personally be adding the
information to my blog.
While I'm only one person in MN with a passion about Open Source
solutions, MN has hosted Open Source presentations at no less than 5
events since June 2007--that's nearly 1 per month. It's only a matter
of time before a MN library decides to move to Open Source. And why
wouldn't they? Currently Koha (LibLime) has nearly every module
complete and working that is available from current commercial vendors,
and Evergreen's (Equinox) is not far behind. Both Koha and Evergreen
modules appear faster and have better functionality than currently
Additionally, the philosophy and reasoning for the Open Source ILS
companies' willingness to take on the commercial ILS market for the
good of the users and not their pockets is obvious. They are not
'suits,' they know their product inside and out, can demo at a moment's
notice, willing to share all their information, and the price is less
than going commercial (based on what I've seen and heard from libs using
or moving to OS).
And, as always, Carl's comments are dead on!
Chris Barr wrote:
> Hi Code4Libers,
> I am forwarding a post on NGC4Lib from Joe Lucia of Villanova University
> (my boss) that I think might provoke some discussion here.
> Now back to work on that Code4Lib proposal...
> Chris Barr
> Villanova University
> [NGC4LIB] A Thought Experiment
> Joseph Lucia <[log in to unmask]>
> Tue, 06 Nov 2007 17:01:12 -0500
> "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>
> "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>
> My reply to Eric's message has spurred me on to share a few other thoughts that have been kicking around in my head about the success prospects for open source applications in libraries. What most frustrates me in a general sense is the degree to which in libraries our human capital and our financial resources are tied into commercial software that rarely meets our needs well. That is old news. The issue is how to break free of the inertia that keeps us in a technologically paralyzed state.
> I have initiated a number of conversations within the mid-Atlantic region about the very real potential for a shift of those investments from commercial software support (and staff technical support for commercial products) to a collaborative support environment for open source applications facilitated by our regional network (in this case Palinet, where, in the interest of full disclosure, I currently serve as board president).
> It is frightening for many to contemplate the leap to open source, but if there were a clear process and well-defined path, with technical partners able to provide assistance through the regional networks, I suspect some of the hesitancy to make this move, even among smaller libraries, might dissipate quickly. Within Palinet, for instance, we have a small regional public library system that has successfully made the transition to Koha and has been able to re-direct funds that used to go into software support to local initiatives. There's also a publlic library that has transitioned its public computing environment to Linux, at considerable savings and with reduced support & acquisition costs for technology. The success models are there and developing best practice frameworks and implementation support methods that will scale will not be rocket science.
> These are small test cases but I think they prove the concept. Evergreen is clearly a project on a much larger scale that is working. And it seems to be driven by the same economies I am trying to describe here. I look at my own technology budget and think about how much we expend annually for inferior commercial software. Then I ask myself what if I could find even just a handful of regional partners to pool funds and initiate a support & development consortium for Evergreen (as one obvious choice). I can easily envision a collaborative group of academic libraries identifying a million dollars of "liberated" software support funds within a year.
> What will it take to break this logjam? Is it intensive, informed outreach by people like myself to other directors? Is it credible tech support offerings from organizations such as regional consortia for open source applications? Is it both of these and more?
> If we look beyond money to personnel, the option looks even better. Let me suggest some numbers. What if, in the U.S., 50 ARL libraries, 20 large public libraries, 20 medium-sized academic libraries, and 20 Oberlin group libraries anted up one full-time technology position for collaborative open source development. That's 110 developers working on library applications with robust, quickly-implemented current Web technology -- not legacy stuff. There is not a company in the industry that I know of which has put that much technical effort into product development. With such a cohort of developers working in libraries on library technology needs -- and in light of the creativity and thoughtfulness evident on forums like this one -- I think we would quickly see radical change in the library technology arena. Instead of being technology followers, I venture to say that libraries might once again become leaders. Let's add to the pool some talent from beyond the U.S. -- say !
> 20 libraries in Canada, 10 in Australia, and 10 in the U.K. put staff into the pool. We've now got 150 developers in this little start-up. Then we begin pouring our current software support funds into regional collaboratives. Within a year or two, we could be re-directing 10s of millions of dollars into regional technology development partnerships sponsored by and housed within the regional consortia, supporting and extending the work of libraries. The potential for innovation and rapid deployment of new tools boggles the mind. The resources at our disposal in this scenario dwarf what any software vendor in our small application space is ever going to support. And, as is implicit in all I've said, the NGC is just the tip of the iceberg.
> Yes, we'd need to establish sound open source management protocols and we'd have to guard against forks and splintering of effort that might undermine the best possible outcomes. But I keep thinking about how successful Linux has been, with developers around the world. Surely librarians and library technologists could evolve a collaborative environment where we'd "play nice" and produce good results for all.
> Let me add one more point. Libraries are committed to the notion of the "commons." Libraries are in fact one of the last best hopes for the preservation of the intellectual commons. That value system should extend to the intellectual work we do on our access systems. We should reclaim the domain of library technology from the commercial and proprietary realms and actualize is as part of our vision of the commons. I think there's a clear path to that end. We are also congenital collaborators. Can you think of any other group of institions that share their stuff the way we do through ILL? So how can we marshal the courage to make open source technology happen in more than a few isolated library environments?
> BTW, we at Villanova are looking seriously at migration module by module over the next year from commercial applications to open source solutions in every area where this is a viable option. I intend to put my money where my mouth is. VuFind is the first (necessary) step.
> Joe Lucia
> University Librarian
> Villanova University
Deb Bergeron <mailto:[log in to unmask]> System Admin: User Support
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