Save the Libraries – With Open Source


Over on Linux Journal Glyn Moody takes a poke at OCLC:

For some in the world of free software, libraries are things that you call, rather than visit. But the places where books are stored – especially those that make them freely available to the public – are important repositories of the world's knowledge, of relevance to all. So coders too should care about them alongside the other kind, and should be concerned that there is a threat to their ability to provide ready access to knowledge they have created themselves. The good news is that open source can save them.


With all the threats libraries face these days, I didn't realize that it was the software they've relied on for decades that would actually lead to their demise.

What a joke...

....and are you, like almost every other library out there still using an OPAC that looks like it is straight out of the late 90's?


Yeah, the same could have been said about horses vs autos way back when. "Autos will push horses off the road? Nonsense. Imagine the structure you'd have to build up? Are you going to cart that petro for you for an entire journey? Horses have served us for decades, they're not going anywhere".

While there's aspects to this whole story that is overblown, I certainly would be worried if I was OCLC about future service models that could endanger them. Part of the point of the story has nothing do to with technology but rather is talking about a perceived cultural shift within OCLC. The point isn't that OCLC's technology is inadequate, it's the fact that it might be replicated elsewhere for a lower cost. It's not something that can be dismissed as easily as saying "well, it has worked for decades".

The tech head is wrong in the fact that digitizing all data is a good way to save it, but let's be fair, that's professional knowledge we have that most don't because we're involved in the process and know what can go wrong. You can and still should visit a library because not everything can be accessed by the web, hard copies keep the data from being corrupted or edited, etc.

The thing is though, open source is really a good idea to look into. It's relatively cheap, constantly upgraded, is not owned by anyone so you can have tech services take it and alter it's code for your library's use and tech support is generally done by people who know this stuff and love it. The time to train staff and library users at the moment is like prohibitive at this moment, but as systems like Vista continue to flounder and tie users hands with restrictions and cookie cutter software that may or may not work with existing programs Linux is looking less like a hobby and more like a real alternative.

As for those old DOS things: They look like crap and many of the codes are in such controlled language as to be silly - but they work and keep working. Once a system platform can do that just as well using more "plug and play" methods, then we might have a terrific inexpensive system to offer ourselves and our users.

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