VALENJ: PINES & the Evergreen Open Source ILS

Elizabeth McKinney de Garcia, Program Director of Georgia PINES talked to us about how PINES decided to develop their own open-source ILS, Evergreen. Georgia PINES is made up of 49 public library systems which equates to 275 facilities and bookmobiles sharing a joint bibliographic database of nearly 9 million books.


The PINES library card is free to residents of Georgia and can be used at any PINES library as if it were their home library. In addition, materials can be returned to any PINES library – how convenient!! ILL is available through entire system for card holders at no charge. All libraries in the system have the same policies so that patrons all have the same experience no matter what library they’re at.

In FY07 the system had more than 540,000 intra-pines loads as compared with just 6,000 in FY00. Patrons like the convenience of one system.

There is one easy to use interface across the board. Users have dramatically increased access to one centrally administered statewide combined library collection.

Time for a Change

When they looked at their contract with their vendor they found that they were writing their policies around the system (once again a reference to the culture of work arounds). In the end they had a bunch of silly policies such as how to enter a person’s name (last, first). They also found that their system was coming to a screeching halt because of the load of the users hitting the system at the same time. In short, it wasn’t meeting their needs.

After talking to nearly all the vendors they found that there really was no place for them to go – in short, they were cornered into making their own system.

Enter Evergreen

The entire development process took a little under 2 years. They had to decide where to put the line – their libraries had never been able to use acquisitions or serials so they didn’t develop that in the initial program. In short, their ILS was designed by librarians for libraries.

Georgia PINES went live in September 2006 with their new ILS, Evergreen. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the first day they had so many hits they came to a screeching halt – this was probably because of all of the press that was sent out to librarians!! 🙂 Since then, things have been great.

Why Open Source

Elizabeth referred to open source as the difference between renting versus owning. By “owning” the software we’re responsible if the AC goes out or the roof leaks, but it’s a great place to be! We get what we need and we get what we want – don’t have to hope that in 2010 the feature we want will be up for a vote. In the end “owning” leads to an increase in control!


Another create example of how open source can solve a great many problems for libraries. I particularly like Elizabeth’s analogy of owning versus renting. In the end everyone owns the rights to the code behind the open source product, leading to more freedom and innovation.

I can give a personal example of this. When I was renting, I had to live surrounded by boring white walls and abide by rules like no pets and be considerate of your neighbors. Now that I own, I get have a house full of colorful walls and barking dogs!! I’m still considerate of my neighbors, but I don’t have to worry about playing music late at night or having the dogs wake up barking at 5am.

In short – owning your own place is a lot of hard work, but it leads to a more comfortable home (at least in my place).

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