Open Source Systems IG Meeting

LITA Open Source Systems IG business meeting
Midwinter, 2008
January 14th
Marriott Philadelphia

Present were representatives of the National Archives of Canada, Liblime, Rowan University, Index Data, the Texas State Library, City College of San Francisco, Georgetown’s Law Library, Texas Wesleyan, the Massachussetts Trial Court Law Library, Florida State University, Wayne State University, Minnesota’s CLIC consortium, PALINET, Eastern Michigan University, and Wofford College.

Who’s Using What

Open-source content management systems were the most commonly used type of software, with Plone and Drupal coming up most frequently. About half of those present were at some level of consideration or implementation of an open-source ILS, with Evergreen and Koha being most mentioned, though there was also discussion of VuFind, Blacklight, and the eXtensible Catalog project; several had been to the Next Gen Catalog IG meeting the previous day where several of these projects were discussed. DLXS (digital library image management), WordPress (blogging), Moodle (courseware), and MediaWiki were also mentioned.

There was a lively discussion of programs planned for Annual in Anaheim.

Getting Started With Drupal (preconference). Cary Gordon, the speaker, was present by phone from the sunny West Coast.
Building and Supporting Koha, an open-source ILS. Speakers: John Houser of PALINET (present) and Joshua Ferraro of Liblime.
Legal Issues for Developing Open Source Systems for Libraries. Speaker from the Software Freedom Law Center.

The first-time chair got a lot of excellent advice on running successful programs, which he will try to honor in implementing them.

George Harmon of Florida State University volunteered to be co-chair between Annual in DC and Midwinter, and was duly elected. He will become chair at Annual in Anaheim.

A long-time member brought a couple of boxes of Linux live cd’s, the current version of Freespire. They were gobbled up enthusiastically.

The group decided to make use of ALA’s Online Communities and the LITA wiki to communicate about programs and other subjects between conferences.

The meeting flowed quite naturally into a discussion of practical issues with open-source in libraries, including the common perceptions that using open-source requires in-house expertise, and that commercial support is not available. Neither is necessarily true, as there are hosted services and a small but growing list of companies specializing in support of open-source library operations. Lots of those present were interested in the actual process of acquiring and migrating to an open-source ILS. The consensus was that open-source migrations are about the same as commercial migrations, but that there are some significant differences in the initial review and selection process. Specifically, assessing the health of a company and an open-source project are different things. Also, the usual RFP approach is to list features and see which service matches them–which doesn’t include the option to build the feature or have it built, as is possible with an open-source project. It is additionally entirely possible that the selection process will include dealing with the project, the support vendor, and possibly a developer of additional features. This creates a “gap of information” between the usual commercial process and what’s possible with open-source. Filling that gap is an additional part of the selection process, as is addressing the tendency to be skeptical of open-source and to have blind faith in products one pays for. Many of the concerns about open-source also apply to commercial vendors.

Chris Strauber

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