After Chris Barr forwarded my message from NGC4LIB, I signed onto this
list so I could see any replies.  A bit of "response latency," then, but I
do want to react to what Carl Grant wrote.  He made some very pertinent
points and I think he's right on many points.  To some degree, we are coming
at the same question from different directions and with complmentary solutions.

   I am aware of the emerging breed of commercial players offering support
services for open source applications in libraries, and I am very happy to
see them in the library technology eco-system.  At least one of those
companies (LibLime) is working with Palinet (my regional network) to provide
implementation and support options for open source in libraries without
local means to take on those tasks.  That is great. Such companies will
clearly occupy a very important niche if open source applications are going
to become mainstream / widely adopted solutions in libraries.

   Let me stress that I am not against for-profit private sector ventures in
 this arena by any means.  They will be essential, long term, to make open
source alternatives viable for many libraries.  But what I was trying to
describe was a "landlocked" resource pool within libraries right now, in
terms of software support funds and technical talent, that could potentially
be liberated to flow in the direction of cooperative / collaborative
development work that is not concentrated in a relatively few commercial
nodes but that is instead molecular and broadly participative.

   I think such a movement needs to start in those libraries with the means
to put technical staff at work on developing applications, using
lightweight, open tools and the sorts of "web services" approaches elsewhere
advocated on this forum.  I envision something rather more consortial than
corporate in this regard.  If I wanted a drop-in in one-size solution for
resource discovery, from a "corporate" supplier, for instance, I'd have to
say that WorldCat local looks pretty darn interesting.  But the kind of
locally-iterable, modular, extensible toolkit that I think positions
libraries well for experimentation and innovation requires lots of talent in
lots of places trying little things and somehow developing a vetting process
that streams the best stuff into regular releases of continually evolving
software.  I laud Evergreen to the skies, but (unless I am poorly informed)
I believe that commit-level access to the source code is pretty much
in-house at the moment.  Which means that  incremental changes and
innovative extensions in local settings won't automatically flow into the
mainstream release.  Whatever the case, I'd be the first one in line to
argue than the Evergreen model is better than the closed-shop offerings of
current library software vendors.

  I know that I am speaking to the converted here, but I am trying to
describe a "network effect" transformation of our technical infrastructure

 that involves more than only the re-direction of our software support funds
to a commercial supply chain for open source applications.  That commercial
supply chain is important and it will grow as our collective investment in
legacy library vendors erodes over the next 3-5 years.  But I think what
happens in our local settings (as we re-think what libraries do and what the
work of library staff ought to be) is at least equally important.  What if a
150 good library developers really were to be working collectively on a
suite of library tools using a shared modular architecture?  That is
fundamentally different from the supplier model that would work for a core
portion of the library software market that requires certainty & security.
But in contexts where rapid innovation is privileged and supported, the new
collaborative development environment would be a huge boon.  I think that
such a migration of creativity from product-oriented contexts (i.e. here's
fixed deliverable a firm can install, support, and enhance, for you, the
customer) to a "shared risk / shared advantage" cooperative would enable us
all to be more experimental and to garner the results of those experiments
more quickly.

   OK, maybe I'm being naive and overly optimistic.  Before I close, though,
I want to re-state one theme from my earlier musings: libraries are by their
very nature cooperative entities.  Our regional consortia provide ideal
venues for experiments in coalition building around open source application
support for those of use who are looking to do more than contract for
services from CARE, LibLime, etc.  Those consortia are business operations,
non-profit, but commercial, and their business environment is changing as
well, as OCLC repositions itself in the networked information landscape.
They (the regional networks), too, are looking for new business lines and
new opportunities. I suppose at some level I am saying let's create new
cooperative contexts as the largest legacy cooperative we have, OCLC, begins
to operate more like an entity in the for-profit sector than as a library
collective.  And what better arena to do this in now than open source
technology development?

On Thu, 8 Nov 2007 15:42:17 -0500, Carl Grant <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>I'm seeking some help understanding here.   From my perspective
>(again, that of a long time vendor of "commercial software" having
>recently moved to "commercial service for OSS software") this is
>exactly what a number of us (LibLime, Evergreen, Index Data, CARE
>Affiliates) are *trying* to do.   We're not only providing the
>services to allow libraries to adopt open source, we're also doing
>the marketing and selling that libraries seem to require before
>they'll even consider the option.   It would seem to me that if
>libraries would move to adopting the open source faster by working
>with companies like these (or others) we would see a couple of
>interesting results:
>1.      The shift to OSS logarithmically expand.   This profession tends
>to be low on risk taking until they see enough leaders move to show
>them they won't get burned.   The problem with leaders here moving is
>that they do it with their own software support, which causes the
>smaller, less resource rich institutions to balk thinking they can't
>afford to do it.   Yet, if we could get more business for the
>commercial firms providing support, they'd grow and be more visible
>and known to the rest of the profession -- who would then also follow
>2.      The commercial firms would also make a shift to using more open
>source, more quickly.  Existence they understand and they'll move
>when they see the train is leaving the station.  This will ultimately
>benefit their customers, maybe not as much as the pure OSS adopters,
>but then we all know, the pure OSS option won't be for everyone.
>So, I think the "framework" is already in place or being put into
>place by many of us.   We've got mechanisms in place to minimize
>forks.  We've got software development controls in place.  Now, maybe
>someone wants to take exception because these are "for-profit" as
>opposed to "non-profit" firms?  But, if you really want to see
>growth, more resources attracted to the cause, then the for-profit
>status is the right vehicle.  Sure, you don't want to see profits out
>of line, anymore than you did in the proprietary side.   But I think
>if you've talked with any of the people leading these kinds of firms,
>you'll usually find they're not driven by profit, they're driven by
>altogether different causes ranging from "right-thing-to-do", "taking-
>care-of-customers" to "just-want-to-produce-brilliant-code" to
>personal satisfaction.  Do they want to run successful, growing
>companies?  Sure, but so do librarians want to run successful
>operations.   The commons would be supported just a successfully and
>I would argue, more so, with this framework.
>If the same numbers Joe mentions came knocking on the doors of the
>firms available to provide what is described, this train would
>already be long gone from the station!
>Isn't the right framework (slightly different I agree) to achieve
>what Joe has described -- already there?
>Carl Grant
>CARE Affiliates