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An Open Source Interview

I recently talked to Ellyssa Kroski about open source. Here are my notes in preparation for the interview.

1. You are the Open Source Evangelist, (a fantastic title by the way), for LibLime, a company which provides commercial support for libraries using OSS. Can you start by telling us a bit about LibLime and what exactly you do in your position there?

Sure, LibLime’s primary role is to provide support for open source products in libraries. One of the biggest fears that libraries have when it comes to using open source is that they have to do it all themselves, that’s where LibLime comes in. They help libraries with migration issues, development, hosting and training. Primarily, LibLime supports the Koha ILS and the YakPac OPAC, but we also have customers who are using MasterKey Federate Search Engine and OpenTranslators. My role at LibLime is primarily to educate librarians and library staff about what open source is and how it can be used in our libraries. I am the documentation manager for the Koha ILS and the author of the Koha 3.0 manual. I also try to keep up with Koha by doing onsite and web training for new LibLime customers who will be migrating to Koha.

2. Your background is in technology, and specifically working with some major open technologies such as PHP and MySQL, can you tell us a bit about how you first became involved with OSS, and your experience working with these technologies?

To be honest, I just sort of fell into it. I learned PHP and MySQL because that’s the class I could take first. I was anxious to change the way we were working at Jenkins Law Library, where I was at the time, and I wanted to learn how to create database applications to make our lives easier. I started by automating a lot of my duties as Web Manager. I didn’t think it was a good use of my time to make daily updates to the website and so I wrote scripts to change to the library homepage on a set schedule and to empower the librarians to add content themselves. My biggest project was the Jenkins Law Library intranet – a complete content management system built in house by RayAna Park, the web assistant, and myself. I think the key reason I became interested in open source tools and software is because it empowered me to customize applications to the needs of our library. I’m also a control freak and when I can’t access my data and manipulate it the way I want I get very frustrated and tools like Koha, Drupal, WordPress, etc all allowed me complete control.

3. What are some of the ways that you are using OSS today both professionally and personally?

Personally, I am a huge Firefox fan. When I go out and teach open source at library meetings, I always make a point to tell people to switch to Firefox as soon as they leave. Professionally and personally I use Adium for my instant messaging client, and open source client for Macs and Filezilla as my FTP client. I am also a fan of VLC – an open source media player, it has been much more user friendly than Quicktime. I find that many people (myself included) are using more open source software than they realize – usually we just find the software that meets our needs and use that.

4. Do you have any future OSS projects you’re thinking about, maybe some technologies that you would like to learn how to use?

Since Koha is programmed with Perl, I’d love to learn Perl, but right now I’m loving my job as writer, trainer and educator.

5. Libraries are increasingly opting for OSS tools, how do you see the use of OSS evolving in the field of librarianship?

I certainly see it becoming more common – if for no other reason than the fact that our library budgets are shrinking and everyone is looking for new ways to save money without losing quality. I also hear from a lot of those who are switching that they’re frustrated with the current business models they’re used to in libraries. I think that as people like myself go out and train libraries on what open source is and how it can be used in our libraries, we’re going to see more and more libraries making the switch. That said, I’ve already talked to many librarians who are using Firefox, Ubuntu and Open Office in their libraries already – so usage of open source software in libraries is already on the rise.

6. Have you any favorite examples of libraries using OSS and/or people or organizations that you look to for ideas or inspiration?

Howard County Library! They are doing some amazing things with open source – in fact they’re going completely open source in their library. They are already using Linux on their public machines and will be migrating to the Koha ILS. They’ve also replaced several other applications in their libraries with open source, but I’m not sure where they are in the process thus far.

7. Why do you think it’s important to librarianship to promote OSS?

At computers in libraries this past spring, Glen Horton gave a talk on how libraries can help with open source, in one of his slides he put it perfectly – I’m going to read that slide to you:

Libraries and Open Source Both…

Believe that information should be freely accessible to everyone
Give away stuff
Benefit from the generosity of others
Are about communities
Make the world a better place

While that last point is subjective, I agree with this slide 100%. I have read up a lot about what open source means and both libraries and the open source community have the same ethic. One author I read actually said “[Librarians] are almost ethically required to use and develop open source software.” And another said “The open source movement and libraries have a lot in common, not the least of which is the belief in free and open access to ideas and information”

I have to agree with all of those who came before me and say that it just makes sense that libraries use and promote open source.

8. Have you anything else you’d like to tack on about OSS, your own experiences, how it relates to librarianship, etc?

Don’t let fear get the best of you! I hear stories all of the time from librarians who are interested in learning more but are being held back by fear within their organization. Education is the only way to combat the fear and you can’t make educated arguments if you don’t go out there and learn and play. It may not be possible for a library like yours to do what Howard County is doing, but there are lots of ways you can benefit from the work done in the open source community in your library without making a huge change.

Web 2.0 for Court Librarians: Bibliography

What is Web 2.0
… and How Can it Help Court Librarians?


Web 2.0 Titles

Personalized Homepages:

RSS Aggregator Options:

Blogging Tools:

Wiki Tools:

Social Bookmarking:

Professional Networking sites focus more on careers and professional contacts

Instant Messaging:

  • Sign up for usernames from AIM, Yahoo! and Gtalk
  • Use chat aggregators to use all logins at once
    • Meebo – online chat interface
    • Trillian – Windows desktop chat client for AIM & Yahoo!
    • Pidgin/Adium – desktop chat client for Windows & Mac

Learn More:

My bookmarks for 2008-05-30

  • The Case for Open Source Software in the Library Market
    Solutions based on freely distributed software will give libraries another choice for obtaining the support services that best meet the needs of their users.
  • Portaneo solutions
    Posh is a open source personalizable portal (Netvibes, iGoogle, …) developed with PHP/MySQL/Ajax.
  • Portaneo Solutions
    Portaneo enables all employees to fully customise their information/intelligence system using free or fixed content, internet or intranet, on the basis of their requirements, providing more efficient access to more relevant information.
  • Information With A Twist – 5/15/2008 – Library Journal
    Vendors keep the party going with Web 2.0
  • BrowserPlus?
    BrowserPlus? is a technology for web browsers that allows developers to create rich web applications with desktop capabilities.
  • Glide OS 3.0
    The first complete online operating system
  • Sweetter 2.0
    Sweetter is a open source and fun microblogin service.
  • Text 2 Mind Map
    An online text to mind map converter

More of my links

My bookmarks for 2008-05-23

More of my links

Where I’ll be this spring

So far, here’s my spring schedule:

  • Open Source for Libraries: All Grown Up — Greater Philadelphia Law Library Association (GPLLA), March 5, 2008
  • The 2.0 Office: More Than Just Wikis & Blogs — South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative, Voorhees, NJ, March 11, 2008
  • Attending PLA Annual Conference, Minneapolis, MN – May 24 – May 28, 2008
  • Open Source for Libraries: All Grown Up — Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative, Princeton, NJ, April 2, 2008
  • Attending Computers in Libraries – Alexandria, VA, April 6 – April 9, 2008
  • Moderating Open Source Track — Computers in Libraries, Alexandria, VA, April 9, 2008
  • Panelist — Drexel University Libraries’ Scholarly Communication Symposium, Philadelphia, PA, April 16, 2008
  • Attending NJLA, Long Branch, NJ – April 29 – May 1, 2008
  • The 2.0 Office — NJLA Annual Conference, Long Branch, NJ, May 1, 2008
  • Intranet 2.0 — NJLA Annual Conference, Long Branch, NJ, May 1, 2008
  • Online Office Tools — Princeton Public Library Tech Talks, Princeton, NJ, May 6, 2008
  • The 2.0 Office: More Than Just Wikis & Blogs — Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative, Princeton, NJ, May 22, 2008
  • Attending SLA Annual Conference, Seattle, WA – June 15 – June 18, 2008

I expect more to change over the next few months, but I just thought I’d share this list with you all! Keep and eye on my schedule online to see if things change – or if you’d like me to come talk to your library or organization.

Communication 2.0 at EMA

I presented with Sarah Theimer from Syracuse this morning. Sarah talked about how they use MediaWiki for keeping track of procedures. She started by asking “Will a wiki work?” and her answer was “Sort of” – my answer is YES! :)

It was fun to listen to Sarah because a lot of what she said was repetition of what I’ve heard from others. It’s nice to hear that you’re not alone.

She talked about how she was the sole editor of procedures and didn’t want to be anymore – the wiki seemed like the best solution. Her actual comment was that others should be allowed to share in the “pleasure” of editing these documents.

I think that the reason that Sarah has had a harder time that I did at Jenkins is because she was forced to use MediaWiki. While this tool is very powerful and awesome – it’s not easy to learn the syntax or to organize your content in the way that librarians like to. It’s a shame that I didn’t realize how useful our Intranet was going to be – if I had the foresight I would have written it so that it could be released as and open source app for all libraries.

For those of you who want to see my presentation here you go:

Communication 2.0 with Blogs & Wikis
Exlibris Mid-Atlantic Users Group, Rider University, NJ, October 30, 2007

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Free Webcast: Understanding Users

There is a SirsiDynix Institute that sounds pretty interesting on the 2nd of October. I have an appointment in the AM, so I probably won’t be able to attend :( , but you can:

At the Elbow: Understanding Users’ Perception of Process and Effort
Presented by: Ulla de Stricker "”Consultant, de Stricker Associates
Date : Oct 02, 2007
Start Time : 11 a.m. Eastern

A key step in designing any user oriented service is recognizing the fact that people are careful investors of their time. When clients perceive a process to be too lengthy or cumbersome in relation to the benefit it produces, they will generally ignore it or seek an easier or faster alternative. Therefore, it is essential that we “sit at their elbows” to gain a detailed understanding of the activities they perform in their work and how they experience “us” (or not!). Whether we are constructing intranets or supporting research, we need to know when and where we ought to “pop up” to make them an offer they can’t refuse – because it meets an immediate requirement, because it is effortless, and because the investment of time pays off for them.

I’ve heard Ulla give another webcast in the past and it was well worth the listen. I’ll be waiting for the archived podcast to be posted!

Office Communication the 2.0 Way

Yesterday I gave a presentation at a special library on how to use the power of blogs and wikis to improve communication and collaboration within your organization. The slides are online, but if you’ve ever attended one of my talks, you’ll know that the slides are just a quick intro. The meat of the presentation was the live demo.

After giving this talk, I realized how much I miss have a great library intranet :( Guess I’ll have to start giving the same talk here :)

CMS Presentation

Last night I gave a talk on the value of the content management system (CMS) at the Princeton Public Library. Most of it was live demos of Drupal, Joomla and the Jenkins Law Library intranet (a homegrown CMS), but I also had a few intro slides that are now on my Publications & Presentations page

What a crazy ride!

This is my 1000th post!!! And what a crazy ride it’s been getting here.

It started with me trying to find my place among a group of bloggers I respected and had learned so much from. In November 2005, I wrote 65 posts (a number I only topped 6 times in the last year and a half). That month I was learning all about blogs, RSS, wikis – yes, it has only been a year and a half that I’ve been paying attention to these technologies!

So – while trying to find a place in the biblioblogsphere I:

Other blog stats (before hitting publish): “There are currently 999 posts and 845 comments, contained within 60 categories.”

Also, on a related note – I am going to catalog my blog tomorrow (or soon) in OCLC (with the help of Chris Schwartz – who got sidetracked with me today on looking at cataloging entries for popular blogs). This is very exciting for me – and will be a great way to learn about cataloging internet resources.

I wanted this post to be about something big & huge (like the number 1000) but I thought it’d be more fun to reminisce – so there you go – some links to my favorite posts and bits of info. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading – and here’s to 1000 more posts!