Library Journal "Digital Libraries" Columns 1997-2007, Roy Tennant
Please note: these columns are an archive of my Library Journal column from 1997-2007. They have not been altered in content, so please keep in mind some of this content will be out of date.
Open Source Goes Mainstream
A few years ago, I wrote about the role of open source software (OSS) in libraries ( LJ 1/00, p. 36). At the time, there were indications that OSS would be important, but there were few library-specific applications to point to as proof. Now there are several, from a complete integrated library system to a system that allows library users to tailor their own portal. For evidence that OSS is now an important part of the software market, MSNBC recently reported in "Microsoft Facing a Technology Gap?" that Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, exhorted the company's employees about the competitive threat OSS represents. When Microsoft flips from ignoring an issue to running scared, you know something is up. Open source software is clearly here to stay, and it is not just for geeks anymore. The Open Source Initiative web site offers a rather lengthy definition of what constitutes "open source" software. A simple definition is software for which the source code can be viewed and changed by anyone--unlike, for example, shrink-wrapped software such as Microsoft Word, where the source code is a closely guarded secret. For more on open source, see Frank Cervone's "The Open Source Option " (netConnect, Summer 2003, LJ 7/03). Open source software for libraries can be classified into two categories: complete systems that handle all of the tasks related to a service (e.g., a portal system) and tools that perform specific tasks and can be integrated with other components to create new services. Systems Koha. The Koha.org web site states that "Koha is the world's first free Open Source Library System." Made in New Zealand, the Koha system is meant to be a full catalog, OPAC circulation, member management, and acquisitions package. Unlikely to be robust enough for large libraries (it uses Perl and MySQL), it could be just the thing for small to medium-size libraries. Try the demos at the Koha web site. Greenstone. Originating from the New Zealand Digital Library project at the University of Waikato, Greenstone offers searching and browsing of digitized text and images. Browse the collections of the New Zealand Digital Library to understand what Greenstone can do. DSpace. Designed to accept digital file uploads from a large group of individuals (for example, the faculty and staff of a university), DSpace allows management of and access to those files ( LJ 9/15/02 , p. 28). MyLibrary. Users can create their own window on library collections and resources with MyLibrary. By logging in and editing the default selection of resources, library users can have the search boxes of their favorite databases easily available, as well as links to key web pages in various categories. Tools jake. Managing information about journals and the databases and aggregators that provide indexing for them is possible through jake. Designed primarily as a method for other software applications to query journal and index information, it can also be searched via a standard web form, with results formatted for humans. Prospero. An Internet document delivery system that helps libraries send and receive electronic documents. With Prospero, you can automatically convert TIFF format images into Adobe Acrobat files and place them on a web server for patron access. One module allows staff to scan, send, and receive documents, while another module provides the services for putting documents on the web and allowing patrons to access them. Keeping up Two good places to learn more about library-related OSS are OSS4Lib (open software systems for libraries) and /usr/lib/info. OSS4Lib maintains a list of open source software and a bulletin board with project updates and news. If you catch the OSS bug and want to hang out with others like yourself, /usr/lib/info is the place. Anyone can sign up for an account and then post questions or comments. Here is what library software developers are working on, often long before their efforts are widely known. __________________________________________________________________ LINK LIST Dspace www.dspace.org Greenstone www.greenstone.org jake jake-db.org Koha www.koha.org Microsoft Facing a Technology Gap? www.msnbc.com/ news/922215.asp MyLibrary dewey.library.nd.edu /mylibrary/ New Zealand Digital Library nzdl.org Open Source Initiative www.opensource.org The Open Source Option www.libraryjournal.com /openSourceOption OSI Open Source Definition www.opensource.org/ docs/definition.php OSS4Lib oss4lib.org Prospero bones.med.ohio-state.edu/prospero /usr/lib/info usrlib.info