Open Source Culture in Business

Several years ago (seems like a lifetime ago to me) I left the library to work for a vendor, an open source vendor of course, but a vendor nonetheless. I used to joke that I had crossed over to the ‘dark side.’ Five years later I can’t imagine ever going to back to working in the library itself. It’s not that I don’t love libraries – of course I do! I want to keep working with libraries forever and ever – I just don’t want to work in them.

Until today I thought that was just because I had the best work environment ever. I work for a company that is open, supports openness and takes everyone’s opinions in to consideration … in short, we’re all treated like the experienced adults that we are. I thought this was unique to ByWater, but have just finished reading a post by Shay Chapman on about her experience as an intern at Red Hat (another open source company – if you didn’t already know that). Shay says:

This internship wasn’t my first experience in a corporate environment. I worked full time after completing my undergraduate studies and while pursuing my Master’s degree in Informatics, and I have seen managers take a very micro-management approach. I’ve noticed how some employers treat employees as if they are numbers rather than assets with unique skills and talents.

Working at Red Hat has been different, and I think that’s because of the company’s open source culture. Anyone at Red Hat—whether they’re an employee, customer, or partner—has the opportunity to voice their opinion about the products being offered and the direction of the company. I saw the power of that during my internship. When employees are kept in the know about crucial events and plans, they are quick to point out the good, the bad, and the ugly. It can be a painful process, but no stone is left unturned and the community grows stronger.

I still think I have the best job ever – for the best company ever – supporting the best open source product ever 🙂 but now at least I know that others out there are getting to have the same experience that I am and doing what they love at the same time. I think that libraries (and many other companies) could learn from this style of corporation and management and benefit greatly from treating their staff as a community rather than just employees.

If you want to read more, check out Shay’s post and/or my column in Vol 3/Issue 3 of Collaborative Librarianship on Collaborative Leadership [PDF].


  1. It can be like that in libraries, too:-) It certainly is like that here in the library where I work. We are all treated with respect as individuals, but we are also encouraged to work together as a community. 🙂

  2. Karen,

    That is awesome! I’m sure it can be like that in many different environments, it’s just that this is the first place I’ve had this experience so completely.


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