One of the key activities that brought me to LYRASIS many months ago is going to see the light of day in about 10 days at ALA Midwinter — a set of tools to help libraries determine if open source software is right for them and what open source software works the best. Here is the announcement snippet from today’s LYRASIS newsletter:
Welcome to the new year! Threads this week include a brief analysis of the legal problems in store if SOPA and PROTECT-IP become law, what an analysis of the problems with Best Buy might teach libraries, and why open source licensing of clinical tools is important.
With Thursday Threads coming on a Thanksgiving Thursday, it seems appropriate to use a theme of what I’m thankful for. So, in this edition of DLTJ Thursday Threads I’m offering three things: open source software, the internet, and public libraries. Reading this on Thanksgiving? Feel free to offer what you are thankful for in the comments.
This week brought news of the Kindle-based e-book lending program through Overdrive, and Peter Brantley has an opinion piece on what this means for Amazon, publishers, and even libraries. From the other e-book powerhouse — Google — is a TED talk presentation about the Google Books ngram Viewer. Finally, there is a view of one of the benefits of the open source software model with an announcement that six libraries are funding development to meet their needs.
One of the more fascinating aspects of open source software is the role that its creators and users play in its evolution. (For more on the community nature of open source software, see a previous article, The Challenges and Rewards of Open Source) With proprietary systems, the creators and users are separate groups, and the control over the relationship is bound up in proprietary rights and contracts. (This doesn’t diminish the role of robust user groups for proprietary software; rather it is a reflection of where the ultimate control lies – with the creators of the software.) With open source software, the creators and users are commonly the same or closely overlapping. How do creators and users work with each other? This is a question of governance.
My employer (LYRASIS) is seeking to engage consultants to create decision support tools in the form of whitepapers, self-guided assessments, and worksheets for libraries considering open source software. This work is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help libraries of all types determine if open source software is right for them, and what combination of software, hosting, training, and consulting works for their situation. These tools are to be paired with a software registry to become a community exchange point and stimulant for growth of the library open source ecosystem by connecting libraries with projects, service providers, and events.
As part of the Mellon Foundation grant funding the start-up of LYRASIS Technology Services, LTS is to produce a series of tools that enable libraries to decide whether open source is right for their environments. The grant says:
As part of the Mellon Foundation grant funding the start-up of LYRASIS Technology Services, LTS is establishing a registry to provide in-depth comparative, evaluative, and version information about open source products. This registry will be free for viewing and editing (all libraries, not just LYRASIS members, and any provider offering services for open source software in libraries). Drupal will be the underlying content system, and it will be hosted by LYRASIS.
I’m seeking input on a data model that is intended to answer these questions:
- What open source options exist to meet a particular need of my library?
We’re taking a break this week from the HarperCollins e-book story; although the commentary continues from librarians (and a few authors), there hasn’t been anything new (that I’ve seen) from HarperCollins itself. There is still plenty more to look at, though. First up is a report from the health care sector on the applicability of open source and open systems. Next is an interview with a financial analyst that sees the end of the “big deal” for library journal subscriptions. And lastly is a list of web archive services that you could use to find old copies of web pages.
One of the challenging and rewarding aspects of open source software is building and sustaining the community that surrounds the software. It is challenging because people and institutions use open source software for a variety of reasons. For some, having the computer source code means that they are empowered to adapt the software to fit their needs. For others, contributing talent and budget to a communal effort – something arguably aligned with the general ethos of libraries – means that ultimately a better solution is created for their own users. Yet another group sees an open source solution as simply the best tool to solve a particular problem.