VALENJ: Evergreen Open Source Library System

Bob Molyneux of Equinox was second to speak at the VALE Symposium the other day.

Bob started by filling us in on the state of the open-source software US public library market which is only about 1%, give or take. He didn’t have the data for academic libraries yet, but he was sure it was less than the publics.

That said, a new wind is blowing and big consortia like MassCat, WALDO, Indiana open source ILS initiative, and the Michigan library consortium are all looking into open-source alternatives. The first biggy to switch was Georgia PINES using the Evergreen system that they developed to “scratch and itch” as Joe put it.

What we learned from PINES

Library users like access to the large virtual library – they don’t care about our politics or the difficulties under the hood. Patrons will also bypass libraries without access to consortial resources in favor of libraries with that access. Bob welcomes us to the long-tail 🙂

Bob states that “we [libraries] have failed.” We have let our libraries become information silos – separate, barely communicating collections of information – “and Google is eating our lunch.” The logic of IT is to break down silos and to integrate these collections. Unfortunately, we have these problems because of several reasons – some our fault and some the fault of others. Two biggies on this list are that our legacy vendors lack vision and we as librarians lacked vision.


The open-source ILS (OLS) may look similar to our old systems, but under the hood it’s completely different – it’s modular and the code is being shared – even between possible competitors like Evergreen and Koha, simply to make both systems better – we’re not just duplicating what has already been done, we’re fixing the wrongs of our past.


Another great talk! I love the idea of libraries breaking out of their silos and sharing information for the good of the people – or as Joe would have said for the good of the “commons.” I agree that I’d rather search a group of libraries at once than just one local library at a time. When in library school I used to love using DIALOG because I was able to search multiple databases with one search, eliminate duplicates and get citations all in one easy action – why should our catalogs be any different?

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