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Open Source Software for Libraries

Mar - 26 - 2006
Nicole C. Engard

I think my pup (Coda) is tired of me sitting on the couch with this laptop – when I sat down this morning she jumped up and sat on my notes :)

But that’s not the point of this post – I want to share with you the OSS options that Glen Horton shared with us at the conference.

Glen made a really good point at the beginning of his presentation – Libraries are Open Source. OSS coders and librarians both believe that information should be freely accessible to others. In my library there is no problem using OSS to solve our problems – but I have heard from and read about other librarians who hit a brick wall when the words open source come out of their mouths. We should be supporting and participating in the open source community not assuming that because it’s (mostly) free it’s not as good as the software we pay for.

In addition to asking us to use OSS, Glen calls for us to share OSS links with our patrons – which we do in our research links section where ever we can. If you want to go one step further you can burn the install files for packages like Firefox and Thunderbird onto a CD to make it easier for patrons who do not have high speed internet to install the OSS packages. You can then add this CD to your collection and let people borrow it because with the GPL you’re allowed to redistribute the software.

So what software did Glen show us?

He mentioned Greenstone Digital Library Software

Greenstone is a suite of software for building and distributing digital library collections. It provides a new way of organizing information and publishing it on the Internet or on CD-ROM.

He also added that there are plugins for PDF, Word, PPT and HTML that can be added to the package. To see an example of this software in use visit the Greater Cincinnati Memory Project.

Then he mentioned the ILS that I have been very curious about – Koha. Unfortunately (for me) Koha is meant for small-medium sized libraries. It includes serials, reviews, acquisitions and much more. The Athens County Library in Ohio decided to use their ILS budget to pay a programmer to customize Koha specifically to their needs – instead of shelling out the money on a yearly basis to a vendor. This way the improvements they paid for are now available to the rest of us for free. So if you’re in a small or medium library (I think we’re large – I’ll have to look at the numbers) why not take that money you’re wasting every year on a product that was built to please as many people as possible and have something built just for you??

Other open source library packages include Avanti and the GA Pines project (which I mentioned in my last post) – more info can be found at Open-ILS.org.

For public and academic libraries (we don’t filter anything – yet) there are open source ways to filter what your users are using your public PCs for. DansGuardian and Squidguard are both available and can be run with each other to offer double the protection.

If that wasn’t enough there is also the Open Source Software Bibliography:

This bibliography has been compiled by Brenda Chawner, School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, as part of her Ph.D. studies. It includes announcements, journal articles, and web documents that are about open source software development in libraries. It also includes articles that describe specific open source applications used in libraries, in particular dSpace, Koha, Greenstone, and MyLibrary.

Now you’re all going to run out and find the right OSS for your library – aren’t you?? Well, I am. If you have anythingto add to the list, feel free to comment here, I’d love to learn more.

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One Response so far.

  1. [...] Speaking of catalogues, Karen Schneider has a post titled How OPACs suck (part 1) at ALA Techsource Blog. It’s a well-written explanation of why OPACs need search engines (in order to enable relevance ranking). It explains how relevance ranking is determined by analysing term frequency versus inverse document frequency (e.g. how often a term shows up in a given document, compared to the database as a whole). I was also pleased to see a post on What I Learned Today on open-source library software that mentioned two New Zealand products Koha and Greenstone, and the Open Source Software Bibliography written by my former lecturer Brenda Chawner. A while back there was a study comparing the accuracy of Wikipedia and Britannica. Now Britannica has responded, criticising the study’s methodology. Librarian in Black has a roundup, and writes about the problems her institution found when they trialled Britannica. Too many irrelevant hits, and a too-small font size were the key issues. [...]


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