Open Source ILS Survey

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I received this via email and thought you might all be interested in participating:

This is a call for participation in a survey about the decision-making process of choosing a proprietary versus an open source integrated library system (ILS). The results will be tabulated and used to help other libraries learn from and use your experience as they make decisions regarding their ILSs.

This survey is part of a research project, funded by IMLS, comparing the technical support of Open Source ILS with technical support of proprietary ILS. One product of this research is an information portal ( for disseminating resources about OSS ILS. We appreciate the many responses we have had to previous calls for surveys and interviews and hope to hear from many librarians again for this survey. Participants will be entered into a drawing for 1 of 5 $20 gift cards for

The survey can be accessed at and will be open for one month. Please feel free to forward this notice to other interested parties.

You can also direct any queries or suggestions to with the subject “ILS Survey” in the subject line.

We really appreciate your time and support and look forward to reporting back the results from this study!

MarcEdit to offer Direct Koha ILS Integration


MarcEdit, a free MARC editor/manipulator is going to offer Koha integration in its next release!

At this point, the program is primarily supporting search and update/creation of records. Essentially, users will select their ILS system from the list of supported ILS’s (at this point, just Koha) and MarcEdit will add a new option to the MarcEditor window. I’ve been working hard over Thanksgiving so that a first version of this function can be made available in the next update.

I’m pretty excited about this and can’t wait to play with it! Learn more from Terry Reese.

Open Source Scare Tactics

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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!

Participate in the Perceptions 2012 Survey


Every year Marshall Breeding conducts a survey of library automation, but he can’t do it without you.

It’s time to collect data for the 2012 edition of the survey. This is an opportunity for libraries to register their perceptions of the ILS product they use, its vendor, and the quality of support delivered. Is support getting better or worse? The survey also probes at considerations for migrating to new systems and the level of interest in open source ILS. While the numeric rating scales support the statistical results of the study, it’s the comments offered that provide the most insight into the current state of library automation satisfaction.

Please help your fellow libraries who might be in the process of evaluating library automation options by responding to the survey. Any information regarding vendor performance and product quality can be helpful when making strategic decisions regarding automation alternatives. A large number of responses strengthen the impact of the survey and the subsequent report.

Make sure that your library participates – and participates honestly because the results of this survey help your colleagues make decisions about their future automation changes. Participate here.

ILS Survey Limited

I posted earlier today about a survey for libraries to share their satisfaction with their ILS. What I didn’t know was that if you chose the library type of anything other than Academic or Public you would be kicked out of the survey.

As an SLA member and a special library supporter I find this a bit offensive. Why don’t our opinions matter? A survey of libraries in the US done by the ALA finds that there are actually more special libraries than there are academic libraries (in fact there are many many more school libraries than publics or academics and they too are excluded from this survey) – this is a big portion of our profession and sharing their opinions will help others make informed decisions about their future ILS purchases.

If you’re looking for an more inclusive survey you might want to participate in the ILS Perceptions survey over at (which is closing any day now so get in there quick).

Survey on ILS Satisfaction

This came across my email today and I thought I should share it with you all.

Library Journal is conducting a snap survey to determine library and patron satisfaction with integrated library systems (ILS) in both public and academic libraries. Are you in charge of technology, collections, or reference at your library? We are eager to hear your thoughts about the systems that you and your patrons use every day.

Please click on this link to take a very brief survey (which will only take a few minutes to answer):

Results of this study will appear in an upcoming LJ article in Spring 2012. Thanks for supporting our research efforts!

The Open Source Mindset

Over my years of working with Koha and libraries using Koha I have learned a lot. One of those things is that libraries need to understand that switching to an open source ILS is a game changing experience. You no longer follow the same rules you followed when with a proprietary vendor – in so very many ways. Owen Leonard (who’s library has recently switched support vendors – but not their ILS software) has a post at the Koha Blog that talks about how libraries need to take ownership of their ILS when using open source.

One of the promises of using Koha or any other Open Source ILS is that you’re not tied any one support company. “No vendor lock-in.” But it’s important to understand that this isn’t a promise that libraries can take for granted–in particular, libraries who contract with a support company for hosting of their Koha system. We need to be aware of what that means in practical terms and be prepared to put that promise to the test when the time comes. There are steps that we can take to make sure we’re protecting our own interests.

Owen goes on to list the ways librarians can take ownership of their ILS:

  • Insist on access to your database
  • Know what’s going on in the background
  • Insist that any development you sponsor be released to the Koha community

Read the entire post for some awesome pointers on how to be in control of your system – after all you chose open source for a change – and that means much more than a software change.

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2009 Library Automation Perceptions

Marshall has published the results of his annual library automation perceptions report. The top findings are as follows:

  • Products and companies focusing on smaller libraries and narrower niches generally receive higher perception scores than those involved with larger, more complex organizations that and that serve multiple types of libraries.
  • Apollo, a system adopted exclusively by small public libraries topped the charts in ILS, company, support perceived satisfaction and in company loyalty, following the formula for success mentioned above. Most libraries adopting Apollo have migrated from abandoned products such as Winnebago Spectrum and Athena.
  • Libraries operating AGent Verso from Auto-Graphics and Polaris from Polaris Library Systems continue to receive extremely high scores, consistent with previous editions of this survey.
  • Companies and products serving large and complex library organizations and diverse library types receive a broader range of responses, and fall into a middle tier of rankings. Yet where they fall within this middle ground represents important differences. Millennium from Innovative Interfaces, Library.Solution from The Library Corporation, and Evergreen as supported by Equinox Software came out as very strong performers at the top of this middle tier.
  • Companies supporting proprietary ILS products receive generally higher satisfaction scores than companies involved with open source ILS. Evergreen, primarily supported by Equinox Software fell into the middle tier of satisfaction ratings. LibLime received especially poor marks in customer satisfaction; libraries implementing Koha independently gave themselves high ratings.
  • Except for the libraries already using an open source ILS, the survey reflected low levels of interest, even when the company rates their satisfaction with their current proprietary ILS and its company as poor. Other than libraries already running an open source ILS, and for Winnebago Spectrum and Athena, the mode score from libraries using proprietary ILS products was 0. These results fail to confirm the trend of broad-based interest in open source ILS; rather we observe a minority of early adopters voicing strong support.

Check out the entire list of results.

Open Source ILS Maps

David Friggens, Systems Librarian at University of Waikato in New Zealand, has been releasing a series of mashups that are close to my heart. They are a series of maps of libraries that are using an Open Source ILS.

The maps pull data from libwebcats (another project I love very much) and plot the libraries on a Google Map. Since libwebcats depends on libraries to enter their automation information, and open source is easy to implement without telling anyone, there are surely libraries missing from these maps. So here I repeat what I tell everyone on the Koha Mailing Lists – if you’re using an open source ILS – or any ILS for that matter – head over to libwebcats and enter your library information so that we can get a better picture of the spread of the open source ILS.

Open Source & the Letter of the Law

I’ve stayed mostly quiet on the issues that have been rearing their head regarding the newest LibLime software offering because of my connection to the company in the past. That said, I had to comment on Josh Hadro’s most recent post about the community uproar over LibLime’s Enterprise Koha. Josh starts his article by saying

Typically, a revamped vendor product line doesn’t result in a flurry of open letters to the community and lengthy message threads on mailing lists and blogs. But LibLime’s recent announcement of Enterprise Koha has generated just such a response, prompting many to reexamine the sometimes fluid roles that vendors, customers, and code contributors play in the open source software community.

He goes on to mention several of the more popular threads/posts/emails that are floating around on the issue. But what I think Josh is missing in his article is the real heart of what open source is – and that’s the community around it. Now, don’t get me wrong as an active member in the Koha community (both because ByWater wants me to be and because I love it!) – I sometimes want to reach through my computer screen and wring someone’s neck – but that’s just because everyone loves Koha so much and wants to see what’s best for the software and the community.

So, as I said, I had to reply to the article and my reply can be read on that article itself or right here:

To follow up on Owen’s comment I had a friend explain it in a great way – I hope he doesn’t mind me stealing his words :)

“The easiest way to explain this is, you know in word processing there is a feature you can see the changes someone made? Well if I can see the changes I made, and the changes you made, then combining the two is much easier. Imagine now you and I take a half finished novel, that we have been working collaboratively on, I keep publishing my changes incrementally, but you instead go away and work for a year and then hand back a book, with 300 new pages, and edits to almost all the other pages.”

As an author myself this was a great way to explain the situation to me – like Owen said there is no if about it – eventually the two versions of Koha will be so out of sync that it will be too much work for anyone to merge them back together.

That is why a call was made on the Koha mailing list for LibLime to share their code in a public Git repository – allowing developers who have time to make the merges incrementally instead of trying to do it a month or two or twelve down the road.

All that aside – open source is not just about software or licensing or code – it’s about community and an open source application developed in isolation isn’t really an open source application. It’s the community that drives open source, it’s the community that keeps open source alive, and it’s the community that took Koha to where it is 10 years after a small library trust in NZ decided to share their ILS with the world.

This last note is very important to repeat – it’s one I say over and over when I teach open source to librarians. Open source isn’t just about the software – it isn’t just about getting things for free – it’s about being part of a community of software users and developers and fans who all pour their heart and soul into the project to make it its very best. And that is why there is so much uproar and that is why there is so much being written about this topic – because people love Koha and want to see what’s best of it.

Just my 2 cents – take it or leave it.

[update] The official company opinion from ByWater Solutions was added after I posted my comment on my own. I want to add that here:

Since the release of Enterprise Koha, ByWater Solutions has done its best to stay neutral with the hopes that a quickly deteriorating situation would eventually turn around for the better. We held this hope not for the sake of the Koha community, for its stability is not under question, but for a fellow support vendor that seemed to be going through somewhat of an identity crisis. Unfortunately for all involved, this vendor chose a path that has stirred up much controversy, mainly surrounding the fact that their version of our community software is no longer open source. Some say it is; most say it is not. The very simple question we pose is this: Can one obtain Enterprise Koha without paying a vendor to install and support it. If the answer is no, then the software is very clearly and undeniably proprietary; and those who use it are a victims of vendor lock in. Unfortunately many of these customers chose Koha to avoid exactly that.

Regardless of the fundamental wrongs surrounding this idea, ByWater Solutions has seen it as inevitable growing pains for a developing software community and has continued with business as usual. However, there is one trend we are beginning to see that has inspired the writing of this post, and that is the growing vilification of the community and the martyrdom of the vendor who has left it. We have been recently compared to religious extremists, hell bent on banishing anyone who is less than pure from our rigid society. This is an unjust picture to be painting because in actuality, we are comprised of very passionate people, some of whom have poured their heart and soul into this project in many cases without compensation.

We think it is important when reporting on a topic such as this that elicits such strong emotions to research all areas surrounding it. An important fact not yet discussed is that the developers of Koha are not the only ones having issues with Koha being forked. Customers of the company that has forked the code are also feeling the pain. Many customers are furious that they are not getting what they signed on for and are having a hard time getting the patches they want implemented in their systems. In one instance, a customer was taken off of the company’s user list for voicing their concerns about the numerous “process changes” even though they were still under contract with the company.

The recent change in policies and participation from this vendor has prompted us to make it clear to librarians that ByWater Solutions is in complete alignment with the true ideas and values of open source. Open source is about so much more than the source code and the license; it is about the community around it. It is for this reason that the community is in an uproar. It is a real shame this major contributor has pulled away from all community participation, communication and general niceties, but thanks to the community model we will only grow stronger from these growing pains. That being said, ByWater Solutions will continue to contribute 100% of their development, continue to participate in as many community activities, meetings, and day to day chats, and continue to deliver the best service to those seeking support from a company that has built its business model around our customer’s and the community’s needs.


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