I've been tuned-in to the world of Free/ Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) for about 10 years, now. Nine years ago this month I started the oss4lib (Open Source Systems for Libraries; www.oss4lib.org) site and mailing list to bring FLOSS to the attention of librarians, highlighting new releases of free systems of use in libraries. No other news outlet was doing that. Over these past 10 years I've traveled often to speak at conferences about the potential value of FLOSS in libraries to a wide range of audiences. I'm proud of having stood up for FLOSS in libraries back when it seemed a controversial thing to do, but I don't say all this to brag or to assert any kind of ownership. Today, there are hundreds of librarians around the world who understand the benefits of FLOSS, advocate for it, use it where they are, and speak publicly and eloquently about its advantages. They do all those things far better than I ever did. That's a beautiful thing!
Because I've been at it a bit longer than most, though, I've noticed some patterns in how perceptions and misperceptions about FLOSS form and guide decision making in libraries. This month I hope to rectify some of these misperceptions because they can get in the way of making good decisions. They might sound basic or obvious, but since you're already reading this, I hope you'll give me the benefit of the doubt and keep these considerations in mind whenever you hear about FLOSS.
FLOSS Is About Freedom
When you hear "open source," "free software," or "FLOSS," don't think about cost--think instead about freedom. According to the free software definition (www.fsf.org/ …