Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Introduction

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Introduction

Article excerpt

This issue of Library Technology Reports takes a look at the open source alternatives available to libraries for their strategic systems. Libraries depend on their core technology systems for managing and providing access to their collection resources and other aspects of their operations. These core systems include integrated library systems (ILSs), the longstanding model of library automation originally designed for managing print collections, and the newer genre of library services platforms that has gained favor with academic and research libraries.

These strategic systems have been sold to libraries primarily as proprietary products controlled by a single vendor. Under this proprietary model, libraries that use these products remain dependent on that vendor for the ongoing development of the software, for addressing any problems with the system, and for support or other types of services. Proprietary software will likely have many different configuration options but may have limitations in the ways that it can be customized to address library-specific issues. The costs with proprietary software may also strain library budgets.

Despite these limitations, proprietary software continues as the dominant approach for strategic library systems, and most libraries express relatively high degrees of satisfaction with their systems and their associated vendors. (1)

Open source products have been created that present alternatives to the proprietary systems. These open source products include some that are well established and widely deployed and some that have more recently emerged, as well as ones still in development. These products add an important dynamic to technology products generally dominated by proprietary software. Both open source and proprietary software comes with advantages and disadvantages, which we will explore in the report.

This report aims to provide a current look at the major ILSs and library services platforms and the impact they have made on the broader library technology industry. The intended audience includes those responsible for shaping the technology strategies or involved in evaluating and selecting systems. The discussion is not intended as highly technical and should be accessible to administrators as well as those more directly involved in systems. Persons involved in the development of open source systems will hopefully benefit from the background and perspective provided, but will likely not learn new technical details.

Only a small number of products fall within of the scope of this report. Products discussed include Koha, the original open source ILS, which has come to be one of the most widely deployed library automation products in the world; Evergreen, an open source ILS created primarily for consortia of public libraries; Invenio, an open source platform created by CERN that has recently been made available through its spin-off company TIND; and FOLIO, a new open source initiative to create an open source library services platform.

Other types of open source software have not been addressed in this report. Product categories such as discovery interfaces, content repositories, and a bevy of specialized tools and utilities also have open source options, which deserve their own detailed treatment and are not described here in detail.

This report takes open source software as an objective alternative to proprietary products. In other words, the technology products discussed are not considered more or less desirable based on whether they are open source or proprietary, but on the merits of their functionality, how well they have served the needs of libraries that use them, and other tangible factors.

The report also does not aim to provide side-by-side comparisons of features and technical characteristics among the various products discussed or with the proprietary options. Some discussion of the general approach of each product is provided to give a general impression of its capabilities and suitability to libraries of different types. …

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