Open Source Scare Tactics

I posted this originally over on my work site, but thought it bared repeating to a bigger audience.

I recently heard something a bit disturbing from a library friend and thought I should use this as a teaching opportunity. This library friend was doing research on ILSes and was told by a proprietary company’s sales person that with an open source system, such as Koha, if they don’t contribute to the community, the support vendors will charge you an annual “development fee” as a penalty. While I’m of course a strong proponent of participating in open source and so are my colleagues at ByWater Solutions we have no such fee in our contracts and I don’t know of any other Koha vendor who would either.

We have many partners at ByWater who have been using Koha happily for years without ever once having the need to contribute a development or the time to actively contribute in other ways (documentation, monthly meetings, etc). I hope that any other librarians hearing such things from friends, colleagues or sales people will take a moment to educate others both about what open source actually means for libraries and what choosing a support provider for that open source product entails. If we ever want people to truly understand what open source is and how it can be used in libraries we need to refute these types of scare tactics!


  1. I’m not sure if they do, I’m not privy to their business practices, so maybe that’s where the info came from, but like with all open source you can’t make assumptions about all products/vendors based on information from one.

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