OPEN SOURCE ILSKoha, a More Than Reasonable Alternative to Proprietary Integrated Library Systems Jordan S. Sly
INTRODUCTION• Proprietary Integrated Library Systems can be such a huge drain.• An option for some libraries could be a Open Source ILS, such as Koha.• This option is not for everybody, however, given the requirements for successful implementation.• Great ‘free’ option when the burden of the proprietary ILS is too great.• There are, however, some downsides. Open Source is ‘free,’ but free as in speech, not free as in beer. • Learning curve for new software • Upkeep and installation costs (time, potential new or contract staff) • Potential migration issues (support from Liblime) • Potentially new server costs
KEY ASPECTS• 1st Open Source ILS (others available include Evergreen, OpenBiblio & Open Library Environment Project).• Includes modules for circulation, cataloguing, acquisitions, serials, reserves, patron management and branch relationships.• No contract (other than the general GNU)• Support available (Reference manuals, how-tos, tutorials, paid support and free support)• Flexibility• Z39.50 compatibility• OCLC• Collection Development vendor support• MARC21, and UNIMARCLinux Server (ex. Debian)• Appache (web server software)• MySQL (database management system)• Perl (Swiss Army programming language)• Command line proficiency• Web design and construction with database integration• Personnel to handle data cross-walking and maintenance• A bit of patience and elbow grease
WHO IS IT FOR?• Based on the current users, Open Source packages seem best suited for smaller libraries. • Small academic libraries (including community colleges) and special collections • Small public libraries • School libraries • Private collections • Developing nations’ national libraries • Any library willing and able to provide the support required
IMPORTANCE TO LIBRARY FIELDMission of Open Source goes hand-in-hand with that of librariesLike Open Access Journals, there is pressure on the proprietary vendors to adapt to a changing paradigm of business operation, and a more informed customer base empowered with more optionsThis changing vendor role forces innovation within the proprietary companies, and gives libraries who can afford these systems better products in the endIndividual OPACs can serve their community in the best way possible, provided they are technically proficient enough to do so
INFLUENTIAL LEADERS• Marshall Breeding, prolific writer on the subject of Open Source ILS use.• Nelsonville Public Library (Ohio), 1st library in the States to adopt an OS ILS• Joshua Ferraro, CEO LibLime and member of the Koha project since the implementation at Nelsonville• LibLime and PTFS, Offering long-term and comprehensive support for Koha• Richard Stallman, GNU project – Basis for Open Source ILS, provided the philosophical backbone for developers to create OS ILS software.• The growing list of OS ILS adopters, http://koha.org/news who may become leading torches for future libraries.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS• Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust libraries chooses Koha supported by PTFS Europe• Antonelli College (OH) launched their Koha system• The Northwest Harbor Library (ME) now using Koha• Progressive Technology Federal Systems Inc. acquired Liblime.
CONCLUSION• Koha and other Open Source ILS software are a viable alternative to proprietary systems.• One gets what one pays for with OS ILS, the value comes from the skill of the staff and the ability of the administration to understand the long-term value of implementation.• Libraries need to think long and hard about switching. While OS ILS software is free, there are still costs associated with making the move.• Before heading down the path of OS LIS, libraries need to evaluate their current system. What is good? What is bad? What is unnecessary? What can we recreate? What can’t we recreate? How will a change impact our users? Can we maintain an ILS all by ourselves (for the most part)?
KEY READING• Lugg, R. & Fischer, R. (2006). The Real Cost of ILS Ownership. The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances, 19(3), 111-123.• Open, L. T. (2008). Making a Business Case for Open Source ILS. Computers in Libraries, (March).• Tennant, Roy. (2003). ‘Open Source Goes Mainstream.’ Library Journal. 128 (13) August.• Breeding, M. (2009). ‘The Viability of Open Source ILS. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 35(2), 20-25.• http://koha.org/about - The basic information about Koha• http://koha.org/about/case-studies/horowhenua-library-trust - A case study discussing the migration to Koha.