Paying Much, Receiving Little
A few more thoughts on FOSS in libraries. Even though I've been beating this dead horse for years now, I've found others writing on the same topic so I'm going to push a little harder and see where we can go with it. Just a few more thoughts this time. First, a couple quotes from my last 2 columns on this:
"They need to begin viewing open source products as commercial alternatives. They need to begin reallocating human and fiscal resources into the development of new systems that can change and adapt as fast as our environment. They need to rethink the services they have and how they are delivered. ""
"Where does III fit? I'd say it's a like the crazy cousin you have to deal with because he's family! It doesn't fit, we are a very open IT environment, we have applications all over that need to talk to each other nicely and the III system is a brick wall preventing us from getting the information we need and sending the information we'd like."
"When something sucks I will say so. When vendors spout crap I will call them on it. My staff deserve good tools, my users need good tools, and I can't afford to buy stuff that sucks. Together, we'll fix the world one product at a time."
Some of us have issues with our ILS/OPACs or whatever you wanna call them:
1. They're made for librarians. From what I can see, librarians talk to vendors, who tell them what they want, or what they think their users want. If their users want something that goes against what the librarians want, it doesn't get passed along.
2. Many of them are web front ends on telnet based systems. There's no small number of librarians (those who use the system most ofter) who still use the old telnet interface. It's a bad thing when the people who use the system most don't use the same system the most important users (patrons) use.
3. They're up against Google, Yahoo and Amazon. It's impossible for vendors or librarians to compete, and yet when it comes to web services we are. We (and our vendors) can't possibley attract the talent it takes to code systems that will compete. Even AOL can't compete:
"But even if AOL manages to surprise Wall Street this week by doing better than analysts expect, it will remain the gilded punching bag of the so-called Internet age. There are several reasons for this, and all appear to stem from one fundamental problem beyond expected declines in revenue, earnings and subscribers: AOL's inability to attract its share of the best talent in its industry, and hence to demonstrate that it has the technological chops to compete with its fiercest rivals."
According to the NY Times. AOL is set to have revenue of $45 billion this year. How can III or OhioLINK possibly compete with that?
4. We have precious little control over anything in these systems. Vendors are jealously guarding far too much and it works against us. An open source system would give us all the control we want.
5. This all adds up to: Paying For A Lot, Receiving So Little. Big libraries pay tens of thousands of dollars for a system that is sealed shut and for customer service that from my experience I can only describe as "user hostile".