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Open Source Solutions for Libraries

1.0 Introduction

Open source software is a reference to software applications that can be modified by the user as it is supplied with its original code. Open source software allows users to modify and redistribute their version of the open source software (Edwards 2005). In many cases, the providers of open source software charge for subsequent installation, programming and technical support. Open sourced software can be reused, and freely accessed by any party as it is mostly availed under a General Public License (GPL). Open source software has many advantages for information management within institutional libraries. The most obvious is that open source software is free. However, open source software is also more bug free as it goes through a rigorous process of peer review before it comes to the market. In addition, the software evolves rapidly as programmers can access and modify the code. Moreover, the users of open source software can seek help from an online support community that supports most open-source software.

This report discusses the status of open source software applications for libraries. In particular, the paper addresses the advantages of open source software over proprietary software. It also examines the limitations of open source software as solutions for information management in libraries. Secondly, the report analyzes the challenges that face the adoption of open source solutions in libraries. It points out the role of early adopters in raising the profile of open sources software by increasing the visibility of open source library software. The report also discusses several examples of opens source library management systems that are available for libraries that may choose these solutions.The report concludes by speculating on the bright future of open source software as information management platform for libraries.

2.0 Advantages of open source software

2.1 The software is free

The most obvious advantage of open source software is that it is available free of charge. Any person wishing to use open source software for library document management can download the source code from the internet (Hansen, Köhntopp and Pfitzmann 2002). Some of the freely available open source software used in libraries includes NewGen Lib, Ganesha Digital Library (GDL), and CERN Document Server Software (CDSWare). Many libraries in the world struggle to buy proprietary software for their information systems, and open source software can help to eliminate this problem (Hasan 2011). Open source solutions provide an advanced software system to libraries for free. As in the past, libraries do not have to budget for licensing fees or the cost of developing library management systems in-house.

2.2 Open source software is often higher quality

Open source software is generally more bug-free than proprietary equivalents. The source code of Open Source Software (OS Software) is freely available to programmers who access it, find and eliminate bugs that may affect the functionality of the software (Pan, Kim and Whitehead 2009). The redistributed software is more-bug free and can be improved by other programmers further hastening the evolution of the Open source software. According to Deb (2006), faster evolution of software is the main inspiration for programmers who develop OS software. In many cases, open source software evolves at astonishing speed as compared to software developed conventionally.

2.3 OS software can be adapted to the needs of users

With OS software, the library can modify the software to fit its needs. OS software is extensible, scalable, and interoperable with other software and is compliant to existing standards (Edwards, 2005). For example, a librarian may require a system that allows library users to find information about books as quickly as possible. Open source software allows the librarian to modify the system in whichever way they want. In many case, the users of software will think of functionalities the original developer would never have envisioned.

Open source software provides more opportunities for innovation and adaptation of software. Libraries that use open source solution can individuals or in collaboration with third-party developers develop new functionality (Hansen, Köhntopp and Pfitzmann 2002). In the past, libraries had to await new releases and update to improve their existing software. In many cases, the agility of open source software ensure the solution exceed in used expectations in many cases.

2.4 Minimizes maintainace costs

In many cases, an organization is forced to obtain new software when vendors cease supporting older versions of their proprietary software. In addition, it is only the vendors who can add new functionality to existing proprietary software as they are the only ones with access to the source code (Von Krogh and Spaeth 2007). In contrast, OS software allows the users to tweak the source code and add new functionalities to the old software. When OS software is installed and used in libraries it will allow the software to evolve with the needs of the organization.

2.5 Avoiding component Lock-in

Libraries that use open source software are no longer locked-in into software that is interoperable with proprietary software. With open source software, the library increases the choice of open source and proprietary components it can choose from (Von Krogh and Spaeth 2007). In addition, open source is longer lasting that software provided by vendors. In some case, vendors sell out or go out of business. In contrast, open source programs are always available and many are supported by community of developers.

2.6 Enriches the Library ecosystem

. Evergreen is a open source library system that allows for a consortial approach in library environments.McDonald et al, 2003). In addition, libraries are forced to work more closely with each other in finding solutions to bugs and sharing code that provide additional functionality (Krogh and Spaeth 2007)Open source software widens the selection of library solutions available to customers as both open and proprietary systems can be considered (Von

2.7 Enable Clients to choose support

. In many cases, the vendors fail to provide adequate support while denying the client the opportunity to improve or customize the software. In proprietary software environment, the client can only switch support after switching software. Open source solutions allow for an easy switch from one support organization to the next as support is not vendor-dependent. Many third party organizations offer support for open source solutions and thus support costs is an insignificant barrier to the adoption of open source library software. The third parties support services mean that any library has the opportunity to choose and implement an open source solution and pick the best vendor to support and adapt the system to their needs.)Pan, Kim and Whitehead 2009Open source solutions also enable libraries to choose support in sharp contrast to proprietary systems. In proprietary systems, the library is forced to pay the vendor high support fee in addition to the initial license fee (

3.0 Limitations of Open source solutions

3.1 Software Usability

One of the biggest problems of open source software is the usability of the software among novice and non-technical users. However, OS software vendors call for identification and documentation of usability issues, and their subsequent forwarding to developers. According to Edwards (2005), high software quality can be achieved through beta testing of OS software. Extensive functional testing allows the programmers to change error-prone software into reliable and robust applications. Unfortunately, it not all open-source softwares that will receive the enthusiasm of software peer reviewers (McDonald et al, 2003). For example, Koha; a open source system for libraries does not include a module for inter-library loans (Salve, Lihitkar, and Lihitkar 2012). However, Koha is already on fixing this limitation in their system by collecting the views of users.

4.0 Early adoption

. The libraries that have adopted open source solution help to highlight that the systems are viable alternatives to expensive proprietary software. )Hasan 2011Some early adopters are already using open source solutions in libraries and the pace of adoption is picking up. University of Staffordshire adopted an open source system for its library following in the steps of Halton Borough Council which uses similar systems in its public libraries (

5.0 Barriers to Adoption of Open source systems

5.1 Institutional procurement processes

. In addition, open-source solutions are community owned and it is difficult to decide who to ask to supply the free software.Krogh and Spaeth, 2007). Institutions that have libraries have traditionally ignored innovative approaches in favour of systems that address core specifications and remain static for long. In tendering for new systems, the institutions management will favour those that fall within the traditional scope of effective software (Von )Hansen, Köhntopp and Pfitzmann 2002Institutional procurement processes are a huge challenge to the adoption of open source software for libraries. However, even new proprietary solutions face the same barrier as libraries are not keen on trying out new technology (

5.2 Fear of the Unknown

. Some of the concerns may disappear as pressure to keep up with technological trends mounts among libraries. Fortunately, the early adopters have helped the case for open source software by trying it out in their libraries, and showing visible results for those who doubt the viability of open source software for libraries. )Pan, Kim and Whitehead 2009In many cases, the adoption of open source software is made difficult by the fear of failure or software security vulnerability. However, many such concerns are unfounded as open source programs are viable option for libraries. Open-source programs have already proved their reliability and robustness as seen in Apache and open source operation system Linux (

5.3 Need for IT Skills

Open source software also needs a competent IT department for both support and to guide decision making. However, it is possible to outsource the support function to a third party. But, the users of the library system must have the right technical skills to make the open source alternative more efficient (Pan, Kim and Whitehead 2009). In many cases, the IT department should develop a training program for users of the system before the system goes live. Users of open source systems also need to work closely with the IT department as they can help enhance decisions regarding the use of the system. It is important to inform the IT department about the user expectations of the system as the IT people can help in achieving these expectations.

5.4 Total Cost of ownership

The cost of owning and operating open source software for library management is not low as many would expect. Open source systems are expected to operate on an online platform to reach full functionality ( von Krogh and Spaeth 2007). This means that the organization has to purchase considerable computing infrastructure and find an Internet Service provider to publish the site on the internet. In addition, web-based programs should be checked for security to ensure that they are not vulnerable to hacker attacks (Morgan 2002). It is no longer acceptable for Library management systems to be simple LAN or institutional systems if wider sharing of knowledge is to be achieved. The need for sharing across more than one library therefore requires network infrastructure and manpower for installing, altering and aligning the library processes, technical expert are also needed for training users and staff about the system (Reilly and Williams, 2006). In addition, the institution is required to retain the developers of the library management system so they can keep improving the system. Therefore, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of open source solution for library is quite high while the cost of software is negligible.

6.0 Examples of Operational opens source solutions

6.1 Ganesha Digital Library (GDL)

GDL is an open source program that allow for simultaneous access and utilization of knowledge at the institution or personal level (Salve, Lihitkar, and Lihitkar 2012). GDL allows for the management and distribution of digital collectionson the web. With GDL, libraries can be able to exchange information with systems based on the Dublin Metadata standard as GDl utilizes Indonesia DLN Metadata standard (Hasan 2001). In GDL, the XML format is utilized to enable Data transactions between server and clients. GDL like other open source software can be further improved to become an extensive web-based program for networking libraries.

7.2 CERN Document Server Software (CDSWare)

CERNWare is an integrated framework of tools that allows for autonomous creation of digital library servers (Hasan 2001). The integrated application covers many aspects of digital library management and is compliant with MARC 21 and the OAI_PMH (Open Intiative Metadata Harvesting Protocol). The proven performance and flexibility of CDSWare make it’s a one of the best solution for managing digital repositories for large and moderate size libraries.

7.4 CDS/ISIS for Windows

CDS/ISIS is popular library management software in Asia and is available from the UNESCO website free of charge (Hasan 2001). The software handles all the aspects of library management and integrates all functionalities within one software package. The availability of local support in Asia makes CDS/ISIS an attractive system for installation in libraries (Hasan 2001). Many users in Asian libraries are competent in the use of the system which is used widely in the cataloguing activities of local libraries.

8.0 Conclusion

There are many reasons why libraries should consider adopting open source solution as library management systems. Open source solutions have been shown to have faster software evolution cycles, are more reliable and secure. Most importantly they are available free of charge. The only costs associated with open source solution are those of installation and support. In addition, the open source solutions require that libraries pay for functionalities only once. With open source software the library can have access to range of open source and proprietary technology that are interoperable with the open source software adopted. Open source solutions provide libraries with advanced software systems that libraries would not be able to develop on their own, but it also allows the library to further develop the software to suit their needs. Libraries are at liberty to alter open source solutions downloaded from the internet in whichever they want.

The adoption of open source systems faces a number of challenges including entrenched institutional procurement processes. Some old-fashioned procurement process discourages placing tenders for open source solutions and this has led to the slow adoption of the systems. In addition, institutional fears about the viability and performance of open source solutions have also contributed to slow adoption. On the other hand, the lack of in-house technical knowledge on the management of open source software is a major hindrance to their adoption. Libraries need developers and other IT experts to train their staff and software users on how to use the open source solutions.

The early adopters of open source solution for library systems are raising the profile by making their performance and viability visible. Open source solutions already in used include Ganesha Digital Library, CERN Document Server Software (CDSWare), Koha and CDS/ISIS for Windows. This software allows for the improvement of functionality and allows for the users of the systems to spot bugs and report them. Some softwares like Koha have websites where users can suggest enhancement for the software.

It seems like the future of library management system will be more open-source than ever before. Information management in future libraries will be based more on open-source platforms that are supported by a community of developers. Like many other community supported initiatives, open-source solution will work wonders for libraries as is evident from the impact of other community supported systems used in other areas of information management. Many open source solutions have proved that community solutions are the way to go. These include the internet itself, Wikipedia, open source operating system, Linux and popular sites such as facebook and twitter.

The first step in preparing this assignment was reading, and reviewing the assignment sheet. I did this to gain a good understanding of what was needed in order to fulfil the requirements of the assignment. Secondly, I engaged in a preliminary reading to help in choosing the best topic for the essay. I settled on open source software, and further narrowed the scope of the topic to the application of open source software in institutional libraries.

In the next phase of the assignment I was involved is searching for resources that focus on the subject of open source software. Although I had numerous sources at the start, I eliminated all the sources that did not focus on libraries as information management environments. I found my sources by searching in the university library’s catalog, most of the sources used in this assignment were peer reviewed journals. I then proceeded to read the sections on my topic from the sources selected while taking careful notes.

The selection of sources was followed by a general outline of the research which organized the ideas for the research into a logical structure. Once I had created the structure, I embarked on preparing the first draft of the assignment. During the preparation of the first draft, I found that some critical pieces of information were lacking. To plug this hole, I carried out additional research from some of the sources that had the relevant knowledge I needed for the paper. At this point I produced the final draft for the assignment by reviewing and rewriting the papers content. The next step involved incorporating sources into the text through citation.

The final phase is putting the paper in its final version ready for submission. The activities in this phase included proofreading the paper, rewriting unclear sentences, and formatting the paper into its final submission format. The very final step is submitting the paper and checking for plagiarism through Turn It in.

Works Cited

Deb, S 2006, ‘TERI integrated digital library initiative’, Electronic Library, vol. 24, no. 3, p. 366-379.

Edwards, K 2005, ‘An economic perspective on software licenses: Open source, maintainers and user-developers,user-developer’, Telematics and Information, vol. 22, no. 12, p. 111-133

Hansen, M, Köhntopp, K & Pfitzmann, A 2002, The Open Source approach—opportunities and limitations with respect to security and privacy. Computers & security, vol. 21, no. 5, p.461-471

Hasan, N 2011,‘Issues and challenges in open source software environment with special reference to ‘, In Proceedings of International Conference on Academic Libraries (ICAL-2009), University of Delhi, Delhi.

McDonald, CJ, Schadow, G, Barnes, M, Dexter, P, Overhage, N, Mamlin, B &, JM 2003, ‘Open Source software in medical informatics—why, how and what’, International journal of medical informatics, vol. 69, no. 2, pp.175-184.

Morgan, EL 2002, ‘Possibilities for open source software in libraries’, Information Technology and Libraries21(1), p.12.

Pan, K, Kim, S & Whitehead, EJ 2009, ‘Toward an understanding of bug fix patterns’, Empirical Software Engineering, Vol. 14, no. 3, p.286-315.

Reilly, C.A. & Williams, J.J., 2006. The price of free software: Labor, ethics, and context in distance education. Computers and Composition23(1), pp.68-90.

Salve, A, Lihitkar, SR & Lihitkar, R, 2012, ‘Open source software as tools for libraries: an overview’, DESIDOC Journal of Library & Information Technology32(5).

Von KROGh, G & Spaeth, S 2007, ‘The open source software phenomenon: Characteristics that promote research’, The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, vol. 16, no. 3, pp.236-253.