Evergreen: an enterprise-strength OSS solution for library ossification, Part 1.


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An Evergreen talk I gave to FSOSS at Seneca College in October of 2008.

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Evergreen: an enterprise-strength OSS solution for library ossification, Part 1.

  1. 1. Evergreen: an enterprise strength OSS solution for library ossification, Part 1. John Fink Digital Technologies Development Librarian McMaster University
  2. 2. My relationship with the ILS, 1995-2008:
  3. 3. Hey but... What is an ILS?
  4. 4. <ul><li>It's an Integrated Library System , software that... </li></ul><ul><li>Tells people what books and magazines a library has ( catalogue) </li></ul><ul><li>Handles checking them out to people ( circulation) </li></ul><ul><li>Usually helps with ordering stuff ( acquisitions) </li></ul><ul><li>And other functions. </li></ul>
  5. 5. They replaced...
  6. 6. In other words... It handles a lot of what we typically get in our heads when we think library , even though the nature of the library – especially in academia – has changed dramatically over the last fifteen years or so, with the rise of databases, websites, reference services over IM and SMS, things like that.
  7. 7. But about fourteen years ago, when everything was changing, just around the time I installed Slackware and bought a jar of hot sauce over the Web and thought holy crap, this is the future , libraries pretty much were their physical collections – those books and magazines – and had been since, well, the invention of libraries.
  8. 8. And the ILS, then, was a major thing.
  9. 9. It ran on Important Machines :
  10. 11. <ul><li>And it cost a lot of money. </li></ul>
  11. 12. And we paid. We paid because we couldn't do it ourselves, and the benefits that the ILS gave us over the card catalogue were wonderful.
  12. 13. <ul><ul><li>And even though the money is a lot, the issue isn't really money... </li></ul></ul>
  13. 14. <ul><li>Libraries and librarians like open and free standards and working with other libraries and the public. </li></ul><ul><li>That's why we made interchange standards like MARC, Z39.50 and SRU, and, oh yeah, loan all those books out to people with no upfront costs. </li></ul>
  14. 15. <ul><li>But to traditional proprietary companies, interoperability is undesireable... </li></ul><ul><li>... because it means you have options ... </li></ul><ul><li>... which means you might go somewhere else... </li></ul><ul><li>... so they (generally) will only support a minimal amount of interoperability </li></ul>
  15. 16. So, we're going somewhere. <ul><li>What is Project Conifer? </li></ul><ul><li>In 2007: </li></ul><ul><li>Laurentian University </li></ul><ul><li>University of Windsor </li></ul><ul><li>McMaster University </li></ul><ul><li>In 2008: </li></ul><ul><li>NOSM and Algoma University </li></ul>
  16. 17. We're doing this because: <ul><li>All of us, in one form or another, have had proprietary software companies fail us; whether it's because the software or hardware is being end-of-lifed, and migration costs are exorbitant . </li></ul><ul><li>And nowadays, we're smart enough to take some measure of responsibility for the operation and development of our own software. </li></ul>
  17. 18. So we decided, in early 2007, to move off our various proprietary ILS systems to something called Evergreen. We formed the Project Conifer to do this.
  18. 19. But first, for the uninitiated <ul><li>What is Evergreen? </li></ul><ul><li>It's an ILS that... </li></ul><ul><li>Is scalable... </li></ul><ul><li>Built on open standards... </li></ul><ul><li>Runs on cheap-ish hardware... </li></ul><ul><li>And is open source! </li></ul>
  19. 20. <ul><li>That sounds terrific. Why isn't every library everywhere doing this? </li></ul><ul><li>As an industry, we're conservative. We're afraid of change. </li></ul><ul><li>Many many different pieces == many many places to break. </li></ul><ul><li>Install process getting better , but... </li></ul><ul><li>New ways of doing things == learning curve... </li></ul><ul><li>...but... </li></ul>
  20. 21. <ul><li>Right now, Evergreen is sort of how Linux was back in my hot sauce ordering days – workable , yes. Lots of installs, even. But still scary. Not trivial to install. Not how we're used to doing things. </li></ul><ul><li>Not safe . </li></ul>
  21. 22. Break the shell and you'll find magic.
  22. 24. So we've got ths project, but: <ul><li>It's not... </li></ul><ul><li>Provincially comprehensive </li></ul><ul><li>Official at any sort of high level </li></ul><ul><li>Its own, separate entity </li></ul><ul><li>Operational (May 2009!) </li></ul>
  23. 25. Fortunately, we're not alone <ul><li>Examples of Evergreen installs: </li></ul><ul><li>Georgia PINES (~280 libraries) </li></ul><ul><li>BC SITKA (18 libraries) </li></ul><ul><li>Michigan Library Consortium (Welcome GRPL!) </li></ul><ul><li>The Indiana Open Source ILS Initiative </li></ul><ul><li>UPEI </li></ul><ul><li>And eIFL-FOSS in Nepal, Zimbabwe, and Armenia. </li></ul>
  24. 26. So it's proven, but... <ul><li>At the moment, it lacks what we would consider more ”academic” features. </li></ul><ul><li>These are due in with version 2.0 later this year. </li></ul><ul><li>And other things, like internationalization, a Z39.50 server, a better admin interface... </li></ul><ul><li>...these come in 1.4 (this month!) </li></ul>
  25. 27. At the risk of sounding like this guy:
  26. 28. Or (maybe) worse yet:
  27. 29. <ul><li>We want freedom. We're scared: </li></ul><ul><li>Of being told we can do something but then having it taken from us </li></ul><ul><li>Of being locked into a platform that is dying a slow death due to corporate takeovers or an arbitrary technology shift. </li></ul><ul><li>Of dependencies. </li></ul>
  28. 30. tl;dr If you can't open it, you don't own it.
  29. 31. <ul><ul><li>So really, it's less a ”hey this software is free and we don't have to pay for it woo-hoo” kind of thing and more a ”holy cripes we need to take a little more interest in what, exactly, this piece of software – long the central kernel of the library – is doing.” </li></ul></ul>
  30. 32. Because it's not cheap – there are hardware and opportunity costs involved, and just about any change means at least some modicum of training, and a whole lot of headache.
  31. 33. Ten years on?
  32. 34. One year later, they went out of business.