CIL2008: Open Source Applications

Glen Horton talked to us about how libraries can give back to open source.

Libraries and open source are fundamentally related – both …

  • believe that information should be freely accessible to everyone
  • we like to give away stuff
  • we benefits from generosity of others (part Glen is going to talk about)
  • are about communities
  • make the world a better place

One of the ways libraries can give back is to create open source software. In a lot of the cases of open source projects they could have been kept in the libraries that developed them but instead they opened them up to share with others.

If you’re asking, “but Glen .. what if we don’t have a developer?” – you can give back in many other ways.

Teach open source software like this video on edubuntu for libraries.

Computers in Libraries

You could document open source – like I’ve been doing for the last few months. Don’t assume that you’re the only one that can benefit from it – share what you write just in case there are others like you out there.

You can debug open source by reporting bugs to authors and on support forums. You can identify usability issues or if something isn’t working quite right – instead of dealing with these things (which we’re all used to doing) you can share it with the community to make the product that much better.

“But glen – what if we don’t use open source software?”

You can promote open source – just because you’re not using it internally, doesn’t mean your patrons won’t benefit from it – add links to it from your site. Or pass out CDs or sell flash drives with open source on it. Check out

Open source or die

It’s a strong statement – but it goes back to open source and libraries being linked at the core. Glen points us to the number of sessions on this track (a pretty high number if you look at all of the speakers sharing time slots) and he bets that it’s going to be more next year.

Open Source Desktop

Next up, Julian Clark who uses open source for nearly application on his computer.


  • a lot of people say it’s free – but it’s free as in kittens
  • control and customization
  • security – with os implementation the security is the same as what you’re running on your servers
  • changing marketplace
    • people are becoming less satisfied about what’s being offered
    • windows vista example – people went back to xp because they were unhappy causing ms to keep supporting xp

When is the best time to change?

  • no set formula – every library operates differently
  • a good idea is when you’re ready for a major upgrade (when you buy new desktops or upgrade your ILS)
    • you’re going to have major changes imposed upon you either way
  • another time is when you have reduced funding in your library

To do this…

Assess the hardware

  • full hardware inventory
  • not all hardware will be oss-friendly (wireless connectivity may be an issue)

Assess the software

  • what do you really need/use for productivity?
  • what can’t you live without?
  • think function, not brand (don’t think you need ms word – think you need a word processor)
  • not everything is “ready for prime time”

Assess the organizations

  • who runs IT?
  • expertise on staff?
  • local culture

Where should you start?

  • start with your desktop – what apps do you have on your desktop? What do you use most?
  • keep in mind that there are some apps that may not have a viable os option

Options for support

Third party support

  • can be purchased directly
  • does not always require on-stop shoppings
  • allows for faster initial setup
  • initial setup and maintenance do not need to be very hands on


  • local needs can best be understood
  • better integration with local initiatives
  • wealth of institutional knowledge

Selling it

  • consider your audience
  • quantifiy things
  • re-allocating resource savings
  • be positive

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