Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

A Study of Nigerian Librarians' Attitude to Open Source Software

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

A Study of Nigerian Librarians' Attitude to Open Source Software

Article excerpt


Computers and other digital devices are deeply embedded in every aspect of human existence. These digital devises run on software. This therefore implies that software is an integral part of modern day life. This software is either open access or proprietary software. Open access software is all about freedom and ease of access and to this end the source code of the software is made freely available to any interested party. Software that does not provide the source code is called proprietary software. Proprietary software is distributed under a license that protects the proprietary rights of the publisher by preventing (or at least limiting) any form of modification and/or copying. Source code refers to as a set of instructions written using humanreadable computer language (usually text) such as Basic, C++, Java, etc. Source code is often transformed by a compiler program into low level machine code understood by computers. Computers understand the language of 1's and 0's (Binary Code) which might be a bit challenging for human beings to understand. Thus source code is the language that humans can understand and which is used by humans (programmers) to write instructions to be carried out by computers.

Open source software - software delivered with its source code - is an outcome of the convergence of Information and Communication Technology (Williams von Rooij, 2009). With free access to the source code, there are virtually no limits to what can be done to the software. Every user can edit the software to their own particular needs or requirements. This makes it possible to have so many different flavours of a particular software with different users or organizations adding or removing features as they see fit. While proprietary software can (and indeed must) be used "as is", open source software can be enhanced through the users' efforts which could lead to higher quality code (Lerner and Tirole, 2002)

Open source software and computing has been one of the hot topics in the field of computing. Open source software refers to software created by a community of programmers rather than a single vendor (Blumenthal, 2005). A popular example would be the Firefox web browser whose source code was created by programmers from different organizations and is made freely available to anyone who wants to copy and modify as they see fit. Open source software and operating systems have proven so popular that many organizations are adapting them into their business models. Gallaway and Kinnear (2004) state that the tradition of sharing software, programming advice, and bits of code, coevolved with the spread of computers. In those early days of computers, computers were exotic, few could afford it and they were found only in universities, large corporations and government agencies. Thus, user groups sprang up to facilitate cooperation and prevent duplication of effort when programmers separated by geography and discipline encounter challenges that have already been overcome successfully by others. This sharing custom stems from the academic tradition of sharing and publishing research as well as the pragmatic drive to improve quality and reduce effort by seeking and offering help.

According to Lerner and Tirole (2002), the surge of interest in open source software development was spurred by:

1) The rapid diffusion of open source software

2) Significant capital investments in open source projects such as major corporations like HP and IBM that launched projects to develop and use open source software

3) The new organization structure - the collaborative nature of open source software development being hailed as an important organizational innovation

4) Widespread diffusion of the internet. Though there has always being the tradition of sharing and cooperation in software development, widespread diffusion of the internet has dramatically expanded the scale of this sharing and cooperation. …

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