The New Books List: An Open Source Software Case Study

Michael Doran from the University of Texas at Arlington presented this session about the process of creating, releasing, and licensing open-source software. You can reach Michael at doran@uta.edu or visit his website at http://rocky.uta.edu/doran/

Michael wrote and released some open source software that he created for his library with a GNU General Public License. He recommends that before releasing open source software, you think about the release process as a whole and about permissions needed from your institution before releasing something as open source.

New Books List is being used by over 300 libraries in 34 states and 9 countries. New Books List is a suite of applications written in PERL. It’s fully automated and provides a list of recently added items to the ILS. The end user interface is web-based, and it was designed from the start for patrons, not staff. It integrates with the ILS web catalog (Voyager only).

Easy to Install: Make it easy to customize the library-specific aspects of the software. Minimize the pre-requisites.

Documentation: Create a website about the software with downloads, a demo, and FAQs. Create a list of institutions using your software to help encourage similar institutions to implement it.

Marketing: Use websites, mailing lists, conference presentations, articles. If the software tacks on to an existing piece of vendor software, the vendor may promote it as well.

Support: Realizing that you probably have a full time job, only the most basic support is expected. If your documentation is good enough, you can avoid most configuration and installation questions.

Enhancements: Focus on enhancements that help your own library (since your library pays your salary, after all).

Release: If you used any of your employer’s resources (e.g. paid work time, funds, computers, collaboration with fellow staff) then your institution most likely owns the copyright to what you have created. You will need to petition them to be able to release what you’ve created as open source. Your organization may want to attempt to license and sell the software, while you may have grand designs of giving it away for free. Have a game plan in place before pleading your case, be clear about what you want and why, and add context about the open source movement.