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.
It has been the longest of weeks and the shortest of weeks. Longest because of a working weekend with the ALA Midwinter conference in San Diego. Shortest because the activities leading up to, during, and after the conference didn’t leave much time for reading items to prepare a DLTJ Thursday Threads article. This edition has three short pointers: a report from Midwinter on a project from OCLC to offer a basic website for every library, why governments are coming around to liking open source software, and a discussion of measurements of reliability.
The turn of the year brings commentary on the past 12 months and thoughts on the future. This edition of DLTJ Thursday Threads looks at the relationship between libraries and electronic books with an offer by Sony to explain e-reader hardware to libraries and an opinion piece that libraries need to get their act together on the adoption of e-books. Then there is a look forward at possible trends for the new year; I try to pick out the ones that I think will have an impact on libraries. One trend that does seem to be emerging is the migration of libraries from proprietary software to open source software for their integrated library systems. Lastly, we’ll wrap up with a look at Public Domain Day.
I was reading a story last week about the Linux Foundation‘s third annual report [PDF] of the Linux kernel, and in it was a section that talked about the affiliation of the programmers that contributed to the development of the kernel. This got me thinking about the affiliation of programmers in the library open source community. More on that after a brief detour to explain what the “kernel” is.