CIL11: Learning from Inspirational Libraries

Marshall Breeding was up this morning talking to us about learning from libraries he’s visited around the world! I don’t see Marshall’s slides online yet, but I hope to find them sometime because he has a ton of awesome pictures in them to share with us all.

First up, in 2007 Marshall visited Yonsei University library in Seoul, Korea. Marshall feels that they have done everything they could with technology. This library kept one library with all of the books, and built another library with technology and unique spaces. If ever there was a building that embraced web 2.0, this is that library. Marshall showed us pictures of large touch screen monitors that people walked up to get directions in the library and/or search the library catalog. They also had a touch screen monitor with a note board – meaning people left notes for each other on this monitor using the app installed and then came and picked them up at the library.

Next up DOK in Delft (which we’ve all probably heard about for their awesome innovations). Lots of awesome spaces in this library. The children’s room is for the children to do as they wish, there are gaming areas in the library and a bunch of awesome architecture. One of the cool pieces of furniture in the library is a pod chair where you have a monitor and speakers and can watch a movie without others around you hearing it. At DOK they built their own ILS because they couldn’t find another one out there that was as innovative as they are.

In Sidney, Marshall visited the Customs House Library. The circ desk in this library is really pretty and unique looking. The building on the outside looks a bit like a historic building, but inside it looks modern and clean. One innovative thing they had was an interactive art exhibit that changed from time to time.

National and University Library in Slavania is up next. This library was built over a 150 years ago and is gorgeous, but difficult to fit a library in to.

The British Library is one of the most advanced libraries in the world. They are very innovative in their uses of technology – pushing the limits of what any platform can do. They have showcased the original collection from the library in a gorgeous glass case that looks like it spans floors. The British Library still holds on to the library as quiet place kind of atmosphere (which is something I sorely miss).

The Library of Congress Culpeper facility focuses on digital preservation. Marshall talked about the fact that they innovated new technologies to get movies out of the paper that the film was wrapped in – the film had disintegrated, but the paper held on to some of the images.

Next on to Argentina. The picture of this library looks like it couldn’t possibly stand up … pretty awesome looking. The library itself looked awesome, but their technology isn’t really state of the art and they still have piles of library cards that have to be entered into their automated library system.

Next up the libraries in Medellin. They offer library services in the metro stations where you can drop off and pick up book on your way to and from work.

Technorati Tags: ,

CIL11 Keynote: Dancing with Digital Natives

Michelle Manafy was our keynote speaking this morning talking to us about the digital natives – those who have grown up with nearly ubiquitous digital technologies. Michelle started with a series of quotes:

By the time they finish college, kids will have spent over 10,000 hours playing videogames, sent and received over 200,000 emails and instant messages and spend more than 10,000 hours talking on cell phones — Mark Prensky

Those who turn 15 in 2016 are likely to spend between 1,200 and 1,500 hours a year on digital technologies. — Urs Gasser

By 2018, Digital Natives will have “transformed the workplace,” changing organizations, sweeping away many previous expectations in the process. — Gartner Group

Digital Natives will be “the beneficiaries of hidden advantages … that allow them to learn and work … in ways that others cannot.” — Macolm Gladwell

She then went into to the three keys to engaging digital natives.

Living Publicly

Kids these days are living their lives more publicly than anyone. These digital natives are about public opinion not private lives.

Tara Hunt in The Whuffle Factor says that “Andy Warhol’d saying ‘everyone will be famous for 15 minutes’ has changed to ‘everyone will be famous to 15 people.’ This is how the digital natives see the world. Examples of this lack of concern for privacy would include sites like, Twitter, and Facebook. Michelle talked about how the police monitor Twitter for gang activity because gangsters like to talk about their conquests.

One way we can use this behavior in libraries is to allow patrons to use social sign on to log into our sites – things like connect with Facebook or connect with Twitter. Letting users use their existing social profiles to log in to see and share your content.

Knowledge Sharing not Knowledge Hoarding

The digital natives are about sharing and crowdsourcing, not keeping information all locked up. I’m not officially a digital native – but I too believe this whole-heartedly!! Michelle showed us the haul video series on YouTube where people share their shopping stories. They talk about deals and finds and model their purchases – sharing all the info they can about what they found instead of keeping it to themselves. Next she talked about Quirky a site where the community decides what products will be produced! Other tools mentioned were ProPublica, DigitalKoot, and SchoolsApp – all of which take advantage of sharing knowledge and crowdsourcing.

The act of social sharing and crowdsourcing is not limited to these obscure small communities though – IBM DeveloperWorks and P&G Connect + Develop also allow for the community to come in and share ideas with them. “Knowledge sharing is power” not “Knowledge is power.”

This knowledge sharing trend goes both ways – digital natives have more faith and trust in information from peers and those not involved in the company. Sites like Yelp would be an example of this. I know that’s the first place I turn to find a good restaurant in the area.

Interactions not Transactions

This is a generation that grew up steeped in digital currency – things like virtual world economies and itunes gift cards. This culture also includes social capital – things like ratings and reviews and followers on social sites.

Your library being on Twitter or Facebook is not enough – you need to respond and interact with your patrons. Michelle talked about Threadless which built it’s entire business on interaction with their customers!

Next example was from PBS and their Digital Nation project. And of course a library example from an library that does an incredible job of interacting with their patrons – Hennepin County Library and their BookSpace project I mentioned earlier.


There are many forward thinking organizations out there experimenting with the techniques necessary to engage digital natives and we need to start thinking about how to leverage the inclination of the digital native to share and interact is a great way for us to offset the costs of doing business in a tough economical time!! It also provides us with an opportunity to listen and do better business based on feedback from those who matter the most – our patrons.

Technorati Tags: ,

CIL11: In Pursuit of Library Elegance

This afternoon’s talk was taking the book ‘In Pursuit of Elegance‘ by Matthew May and how we can implement the theories in the book in libraries. Erica Reynolds started by talking to about a familiar topic – ‘less is more.’ In libraries we seem to always want to add more – more signs, more images, more everything and to be elegant you actually need to do more with less. Erica says that design if done well goes unnoticed!

By subtracting we actually create more value and impact when we take away. How can we take things away in our libraries to add value to our patrons. There was an example in the book of an intersection where they took away all of the signs and lights and identifying marks and what happened was that the flow of traffic actually became much better and fatalities at that intersection dropped exponentially. In libraries we have so many signs telling people everything and people never get to use their brains – what can we remove so people can actually use their brains – not all people are stupid.

The path to elegance then is to:

  • Resist the urge to act or add

  • Observe
  • Ensure a diversity of opinions and expertise
  • Carve out time to think and time to not think
  • Get away from your devices (lots of great ideas came to people when they didn’t have a computer in front of them)
  • Get some sleep
  • Get outside

Next up John Blyberg who read the book because Erica told him to. John focused on the networks in library – not all computer networks, but community networks, networks with people and with vendors. Nice little aside here from John – we have to work with our vendors and as long as they give us free and open access to what is rightfully ours – our data – we can work with them just fine (and get rid of the ones who don’t give us what’s ours).

John continued on talking to us about elegant technologies – where Erica was pointing out that we need to step away from these techs – John brings up the ones that we need to be aware of to make things more elegant in our libraries. A system to deliver books to the front of the library from the back efficiently, mobile systems, RFID, self check out systems, etc. All these things will let us be more efficient and by extension more elegant.

We also need to provide space for discovery and self-expression, down time for reflection – all those things that Erica mentioned we needed to be elegant.

Technorati Tags:

CIL11: Building Great Websites

First up this morning (for me) Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches-Johnson.

  • Disclaimer 1: That pesky catalog problem – we really don’t have any control over this in most of our systems
  • Disclaimer 2: Like the catalog we don’t really have a lot of control over what all the other systems we subscribe to look like

0% of searchers start their research at library websites (according to perceptions survey). Aaron and Amanda think that there are are certainly things we can do to improve our websites to get a better percentage here.

Introducing a new concept: Useful, Usable, Desirable – library websites need a balance of these three things.


What is the #1 thing people want to do on our library sites? This is where we need to address our content strategy (plan for the creation delivery and governance of useful content). One way to find out what people want on your site is to ask them! This is a good place for me to put in a plug for LimeSurvey (an open source survey application that lets you create and manage web based surveys – a great way to ask your patrons what they want/expect/hope to see).

Content on library websites is pretty much like our spice cabinets at home. You don’t know how things got there, where things are, if they’re good anymore, etc. One way to handle this is a content audit (a great task for a cataloger). The first part of a content audit is the quantitative listing of all the pages (create an id for each page and include other info about the page itself). The second part of the audit is the qualitative portion. This is the most useful bit of the audit. Here you ask is this info accurate, useful, used, on message and updated recently? Using that data you then rank those pages (don’t use a scale of 1-10 – that’s too granular, do something like a scale of 0-2).


Amanda and Aaron believe that less is more when it comes to library websites. Library websites are kind of like the junk drawer! A lot of library sites take the ‘just in case’ approach to design and put things on there ‘just in case’ someone might need it one day. Instead you should be focusing all of your development goals on the majority of your users and what they want. There is way more value in delighting 50% of your users than having 100% of your users feel kind of blah about your website.

They have come up with a template they can use to create a simple library website at A great way for libraries to create a completely useable site that helps patrons find what they really want at your library. If you do decide to try this out Aaron and Amanda would like you to let them know about it.

To make your site useable you want to make sure you are writing for the web. When on the web, people don’t really ‘read’ they ‘skim.’ Conversational tone is very important for writing on the web. Instead of saying “A library card is required to check out items” say “You can check out all sorts of stuff once you have a library card.” What we were taught in school is not appropriate for the web .. a page that has a lot of paragraphs (an intro, a body, a thesis) is not going to work on the web. Instead use conversational language and break things out in to bullet points for easy skimming and making the important points findable. Another way to make your page useable is to add headings so people can find the area they are most interested in – also putting extra white space in there to make the content more scannable. Along those lines, par down your URLs! Don’t have super long addresses that aren’t easy to remember or type.

Use friendly words. Instead of ‘the library’ say ‘we,’ instead of ‘the patron’ say ‘you.’ Instead of ‘how you reset your pin’ say ‘how do i reset my pin’ – make it more personal and friendly. Also (and this has been said forever and ever now) do no use ‘click here.’ Instead of ‘click here to access your account’ say ‘access my account.’

Finally make sure you do usability testing!!


First tip – you can’t just choose random colors! Find a professional or use one of the many color pallet websites out there to find colors that work together. Next (and I whole-heartedly agree with this one) skip the clipart!!

Another way to make our sites desirable is to make them convenient and that means making them work on mobile devices. If you design for mobile first you’ll probably create a better website simply because you’re designing for a device with a smaller screen it will force you to follow a lot of the instructions already mentioned above (less is more).

The future:

There are four types of library website development that we need to focus on.

We need to start with the Basic – and many libraries don’t have even basically good sites. This site should have necessary info: how to pay fines, get a card, etc. If all of us got to just this state the library world would be much much better.

Next a Destination website. A site where librarians create the content and have conversations with their patrons.

The Participatory website is a lot less common, but this is the site where the patrons are very involved in content creation. Providing patrons tools in house to create that content and the librarians aggregating this content and making it available to all. An example would be Hennepin County Library’s BookSpace.

Moving beyond those sites would be a Community Portal. This is a place where the patrons go to help solve community problems. Kete might actually work to meet these needs.

Technorati Tags:

CIL2010: SOPAC 2.1

I’m now ready to drool over the new features coming to SOPAC 2.1. John started by telling us what SOPAC was and if any of my reader’s don’t know it’s a social OPAC built using Drupal — and it’s open source so that moves it to the top of my list :) To learn more about SOPAC there are plenty of articles out there and of course a chapter in Library Mashups.


So why do you want SOPAC? John puts it best when he says: “Your web site is great, but when people click on the catalog link, Boom! They’re in the ghetto!” Our websites can be the most gorgeous easy to navigate site on the planet, but then our patrons need to search our catalog and they’re dumped in this horrible mess of a site. So one of the key design directives for SOPAC was that it had to “look good.” Drupal makes that easy because you have access to tons of canned templates and the ability to design your own templates on top of it.

One example of the social capabilities in SOPAC is tagging. Tagging is of course a feature for patrons, but the staff love it too! They’re using it to generate staff favorite lists by tagging things as ‘staff favorite.’ Another staff tag that is used often is ‘better than the book’ to make it clear which DVDs are actually better than the book.

Next there are reviews & ratings like Amazon or other online booksellers. In addition to the community reviews you can get content from Syndetics (a pay service they subscribe to). They even made it so that you can follow the reviews from a specific user – in the case of their library lots of people follow the reader’s advisory librarian’s reviews.

In true social site form, you can create a profile for yourself in the OPAC, complete with avatar and access to content you’ve added to the catalog for editing and deleting. You can also save searches and then subscribe to the RSS feed for that search. In the future they’re going to have a feature where it will automatically place a hold on items that appear in your saved searches!! That is SOOO awesome!!

How then do you connect the website to the physical library? One way they’re doing this is by showing a list of recently returned items on a screen in the library (pulling data from the SOPAC). So you can now see what has been returned recently (that are not on hold for someone else) and ask a librarian for them. This was done because they no longer had room for a ‘returned books’ cart on the library floor. You can also show items that have just been cataloged up on a screen in the library and have it pull data from SOPAC like cover images and show that as well.

One cool feature they are working on is Twitter integration. An example would be tweeting to the catalog to do a search and have the catalog reply with a result. That’s kind of a neat feature that maybe not everyone will use, but it will be used by some, so why not?? Other new features include apps for iPhones and Android that any SOPAC library could configure for their library and make available for download to their patrons.

Totally awesome!!! And of John has just told the audience that Koha 3.2 has a SOPAC connector written – so you can have a completely open source ILS and add on a cool OPAC layer if you’re interested :)

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

CIL2010: Keynote

Lee Raine from the PEW Internet & Life Project was our keynote this morning at Computers in Libraries. He talk was titled ‘Information Fluency: How networked creators have changed the ecology of information and the world of libraries.’

This is going to be a post full of statistics (if previous years are any indication) .. so let’s get down to it.

Keynote at CIL2010

At the dawn of the PEW project in 2000 there was no wifi and broadband was a rare highly expensive thing. Now 62% of those answering the survey have broadband at home and 53% connect to the Internet via wifi. That said 25% of people do not use the Internet. These are older Americans, disabled people and the poorer population. So, digital divide issues are still out there! Time has made a difference and more people are online now than before, but we’re not at 100%.

That said, people who are online are doing a lot!

  • 57% of adults are social networkers (freaking out the kids cause we’re invading their spaces)
  • 37% share photos
  • 30% share personal creations
  • 30% contribute rankings and ratings
  • 28% create tags
  • 26% post comments on sites

(my question – how many of you allow one or more of these actions via your library website or catalog?)

Lee then spoke to us about the new culture of networked creators who

  • have democratized the voices in media
  • challenged traditional media gatekeepers
  • inserted themselves in “expert” affairs
  • enhanced their civic and community roles
    • 37% of internet users contributed to news
    • 20% had contributed to health content
    • 15% have participated in political and civic activities

What are the advantages to this creator role? The new tools are being used as a new way to negotiate friendships, statuses and identity. These people are creating spaces for building social networks among friends and those who share their interests – and these ‘friends’ don’t have to be local people they have met in person. One point that I love (of course) is that they are creating learning opportunities!

Content creation can also be used to solve problems. An example that Lee gave was about a man who had his car bumpers stolen and complained online. A group then formed around this problem and the public searched for this person stealing bumpers and they used online tools to find the man, his family and share the info with authorities. This is just one such example, I have heard about other similar stories. These ‘posses’ can use the wisdom of crowds to share a common purpose and do fact-checking online to solve a problem.

Another such community of content creators is the ‘just in time just like me support group.’ For this type of community, Lee gave us the example of a librarian who had lung cancer and used online support groups to get through it and then developed her own resource to help others like her. These are communities that matter to people because when they have needs they want someone who has been as close to their situation as possible – this is possible because of the nature of the internet – no matter how rare their situation might be.

So what are the implications for libraries? Lee says (and I agree) “You can be a node in people’s social networks as they seek information to help them solve problems and meet their needs.” In addition you can teach new literacies of how to navigate in this new world. Some of these include: screen literacy (symbols and icons and understanding them), navigation literacy (how not to get lost by clicking too many links), skepticism (be aware the knuckleheads can post anything online), the skills for creating content (if you don’t you’re going to be left behind in this new social environment), and the ethics of this new world (librarians are centrally positioned to drive this conversation/literacy).

Great big scary word time … this all all means change. We need to re-vision (a fancy way to say change) our roles in this new world.

And so it turns out I was wrong – not a lot of stats and numbers in this keynote :)

Technorati Tags: ,

CIL2008: Open Source Solutions to Offer Superior Service

Amy De Groff, Head of Library Technology Services talked to us about using open source at the Howard County Public Library. Amy started by telling us that she was not going to convince us that open source is a good thing – the other speakers had already done enough of that.

Amy’s library will be entirely open source by September – which is pretty darn awesome!! With open source software there is nothing you can’t do. That said, she reminded us that open source deployment is going to create emotional turmoil – but what change doesn’t?

Before going on, Amy warned us that she was going to talk about dirty underside of our profession and that it may cause discomfort. The truth is that as information professionals we must know it all and that it’s always been this way – and this is the wrong way to think about things.

The library profession can learn from the open source community and the open source community will benefit from the library profession’s commitment and standards of service.

People ask her how she did it – how she changed the library over to open source – her answer of “we just did” didn’t seem like enough for many librarians – but it was good enough for me! The fact is that we spend way too much time debating and meeting and discussing – and not enough time doing! Good job Amy for “just doing!”

Technorati Tags: ,

CIL2008: LibX

Kyrille Goldbeck and Dr. Godmar Back of Virginia Tech talked to us about LibX. I (probably like you) have heard of this tool before – but I had no idea how cool and powerful it was!!

LibX was originally developed as a way for patrons to take the library with them on the web as a sort of a “virtual librarian” that guides user to library resources while they use the web. LibX is a Firefox tool and an IE plugin (view screenshots and screencasts via the LibX site).

This handy tool adds a toolbar to your browser where you can search the catalog for your institution. It even lets you add additional lines for advanced searching and choose the fields you’d like to search. When you perform a search, it opens the results in a new tab/window – so that you don’t lose the page you were on. Another (seemingly simple – yet often overlooked) awesome feature is that the search terms you entered in your toolbar come down into the catalog interface so you can alter/re-run the search.

In addition to allowing catalog searches via the toolbar, LibX also integrates itself into various websites. When on each book page has a LibX link to the library catalog (this uses xISBN) that searches for any edition of the book you’re viewing.

You can also highlight the book title or ISBN and right click to see search options in the catalog (and LibX knows which you’re highlighting – title or ISBN and runs the right search).

Next, if you have the tool installed and you visit Barnes & Noble’s site, you’ll see that the ISBN is linked (the dashed underline means that the page has been altered by an external app). If you click that link you’ll be brought into the catalog with results for an ISBN search.

But that’s not all! LibX also searches for articles! You can choose to search Google Scholar and then on the results page the links automatically reformat to go to the library’s databases (if the articles are available) with openresolver links. This works both on and off campus. If you’re off campus, you can reload the page using EZproxy and access the resources from home.

And as if that isn’t enough!! We’re always told to check the references in the articles we’re reading – well LibX makes this super easy! You just open up the PDF file and drag a reference onto the Google Scholar button on the toolbar. A new tab will open with the results!!

How is it that I went through library school without realizing how handy this tool was???

If you’re wondering how you can get this for your institution, it’s actually pretty easy!

Originally, institutions had to contact Virginia Tech to ask them to create the toolbar for them – but now you can use LibX Editions and create your own toolbar in minutes. Keep in mind that some manual customization will be required to make this toolbar meet your library’s needs.

That said, Editions has had a great impact on the usage of LibX. This tool allows anyone to build a LibX edition, share it, copy it, modify it and distribute it. All in the spirit of open source!


I wish I was still in school so I could use this tool all of the time – for now I’ll have to settle for using it when researching blog posts :)

Technorati Tags: , ,

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

Technorati Tags: , ,

CIL2008: Open Source Landscape

I love listening to Marshall Breeding present – it always makes me feel better to know that someone can talk faster than me ;) Marshall started his talk by showing us the lib-web-cats advanced search which allows you to search for libraries running specific systems. He did remind us to keep in mind that the systems shown are the ones that have made a commitment to a system (may not be live yet).

Broad Trends

Open source is highly used in the general IT arena with examples like Linux and Apache. If you believe the blogosphere, open source is going up up up – but it’s not necessarily true – Microsoft is also gaining a footing – showing that they are all good options. You need to make your decisions with all the facts in hand.

Open Source

Did you know that your general library infrastructure is open source? z39.50 is open source! And Index Data has been making tools based on this protocol for a long time (the Yaz toolkit is the main z39.50 tool being used).

Other open source options:

  • Federated search – LibraryFind and Masterkey
  • OCLC offers some stuff – typically older stuff that they want other people to take care of now
  • Digital repositories – Fedora, DSpace, and Keystone

Next Marshall listed some open source discovery products – AKA – next gen catalogs:

  • Vufind – based on Apache Solr search toolkit — toolkits make it accessible for relatively small development shops to create this stuff
  • Extensible catalog – University of Rochester and the Melon Foundation
  • fac-back-opac
  • Scriblio – based on WordPress

Open Source in the ILS Arena – Products and Trends

It used to be bold and risky to move to an open source ILS. This move however led to a bunch of projects that are now products. That said, Marshall wants to make sure that people have the best information available to them when they make these decisions – he’s not an open source evangelist he’s a technology evangelist.

3 of the 4 open source ILS that were around in 2002 are now defunct so when Marshall wrote that the open source ILS it was still a distant future – it was true.

… then the world changed

In March 2007 the world had changed, but open source is a minority player. In March 2008 open source is a real option out there, but you need to use the same criteria you use when choosing a closed source system.

Now, April 2008 the open source ILS has launched into the mainstream – there is a lot of room for optimism and there is going to more and more of this over time.

The ILS market is an industry in turmoil with mergers and acquisitions left and right causing disruptions and business decisions to narrow options. This has fueled the open source movement by providing libraries with additional options.

Open Source v. Traditional Licensing

So what side is Marshal on? He says both sides! He wouldn’t want to see a world where one or the other is the only option and thinks they complement the each other. Each library has it’s own personality and can use that in choosing their systems.

Recommendations for making a choice:

  • avoid philosophical preference – make choices as business decisions instead
  • which best supports the missions of libraries
  • which approach helps libraries become better libraries?



  • first open source ILS
  • Koha + Index Data Zebra = Koha Zoom
  • 300+ libraries
  • while there are a lot of small libraries – there are also some biggies signing up now
  • the system has grown up to a level where it can handle these big libraries
  • has the interface we want – facets, clean, book jackets


  • developed by the GA public library system
  • small dev team
  • June 2004 – dev begins
  • September 2005 live production
  • streamlined environment – single shared implementation, all libraries, follow the same policies,
  • one library card
  • by far the most people using it are the GA PINES consortia
  • it’s a big difference between supporting 250+ small libraries and supporting a big library system (so it will make a difference when the Atlanta area switched)
  • has interface we want – facets, clean, book jackets


  • going gangbusters in the public school system
  • created by Media Flex
  • south central org of (school) libraries


  • ILS designed for the developing world
  • originally traditionally licensed, introduced in 2003
  • transition to open source in January 2008
  • 122 installations (India, Syria, Sudan, Cambodia)

Learning Access ILS

  • turnkey open source ILS
  • designed for under-served rural public and tribal libraries
  • defunct?? – has been trying to get in touch with these people – but can’t (email bounces)

There is also lot of commercial involvement these days:

  • Index Data (founded 1994)
  • LibLime (founded 2005)
    • small but growing
    • total of 20 FTP – hiring industry veterans exiting from traditional ILS companies
  • Equinox (founded 2007)
    • contracts to GA PINES library system
  • Care Affiliates (founded 2007)
    • recently formed founded by Carl Grant
  • Media Flex (longstanding company)
  • Duke is working on a proposal to create an open source ILS
  • …there are others afoot


Explosive interest in open source is being driven by the disillusionment with current vendors. Given this, Marshall makes the point that the open source ILS would be where it is if it wasn’t for what was happening on the other end of things. Open source allows for more flexible systems and lower costs (however, Marshall still feels that total cost of ownership is the same between the two over the long haul). With open source libraries are less vulnerable to the mergers and acquisitions that are happening in the proprietary world.

Cost Issues

  • cost shifted – no license fee
  • hardware
  • vendor support
  • hosting
  • conversion
  • local technical support
  • development costs
  • open source vendors should come up with a total cost of ownership report to show us that open source is really cheaper

Open source risk factors

Marshall still thinks that open source is a risky alternative because of a dependency on community organizations and commercial companies to provide development and support services. I’d argue that this is a reason that open source is less risky – with a community of developers and support services you’re more likely to find someone to help you out if your vendor goes under. That said, Marshall admits that the other side is risky too!

All that said the interest in open source (and the market share) is relatively low.


What he’s looking for is a new system (aren’t we all) – built for how libraries are today. This is not an open source system that does what our systems already do today. In short, we have a long way to go on both fronts – both open and closed source.

Technorati Tags: , ,