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Donald Christie from Catalyst was up first after lunch to talk to us about celebrating, promoting and supporting free software in libraries.

First up – Freedom. With free software we have the freedom to have new ideas, learn, share, remove arbitrary controls, collaborate, form communities and spread knowledge.

Donald also brought up the anti-features that Fran├žois mentioned and pointed us to a site where you can find a list of anti-features. He also talked about why open source software doesn’t have anti-features – and it’s basically that open source developers are lazy and don’t want to take the time to put in things that they aren’t asked for.

Donald talked to us more about freedom by saying that “freedom is a competitive landscape offering real choice of systems and suppliers.” One freedom that I always mention is the freedom from vendor lock it and vendor capture. Most importantly of course is having control over the software – along with the ability to share our experiences and adapt the software accordingly.

I mentioned yesterday that we have to get over our culture of ‘learned helplessness’ and Donald pointed us to an article on Wikipedia that included a clinical trial that showed what this looks like. When you read that you start to see how silly it is that libraries are using the system they’re using (dealing with the crap support that they’ve been dealing with) when they have so many options.

When Catalyst decided to offer MyKoha as software as service they needed to think about the possible freedom losses with hosting data in “the cloud.” If everything is stored in the cloud, then who owns your data? You also have to think about the fact that you don’t know what’s happening to your data because there are applications running on the server that you don’t have control over or access to. And the most popular example is Facebook and their ever changing terms of service. To get around these possible issues, Catalyst have built in tools to give the customers complete access to their data.

Another reason for offering this service was that upon looking at the Koha map it was quite obvious that Koha is used worldwide, but not many libraries in NZ actually use it. This was a way to try and get more NZ libraries to realize the power of the application that was born here.

Another step in this direction is the creation of Open Network Libraries. From the website:

Open Network Libraries is an initiative created to enable libraries to collaborate on the shared goal of serving their communities better. We advocate the use of free and open source tools so that libraries can spend money on books, not on licence fees. By joining Open Network Libraries, you’ll be joining an active and diverse community of librarians and technologists who are dedicated to openly sharing knowledge, information, and ideas to facilitate cost effective solutions.

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