[OPEN-ILS-GENERAL] 226 subscribers

arhyno at uwindsor.ca arhyno at uwindsor.ca
Fri Mar 23 10:39:24 EDT 2007

I also greatly fear Brad's karaoke threats so I will speak up. My name is 
Art Rhyno ("Rhyno" is from "Renaud", the gift of some swine census taker 
over 250 years ago in Nova Scotia). I am a coal miner's son that has 
children that are close to the same age as some of the people that have 
already introduced themselves. I have a computer science degree from 1985, 
a library science degree from 1988, wrote my C.S. thesis on monte carlo 
methods in modula-2, and started programming with punchcards using fortran 
iv. I try very hard to avoid religious wars over programming languages, I 
remember too well when modula-2 was going to save the world and any option 
that means not having to stand in line to run a program already seems like 
a huge step ahead to me.

My first full time library gig was as a SPIRES programmer at Memorial 
University of Newfoundland. I joined Memorial in 1989 when it was in the 
process of moving from a commercial system to SPIRES, which was a general 
purpose, consortium built, database system that originated at Stanford 
University. I worked on my first MARC editor at Memorial among other 
things, and saw a bit of an open source process before the concept of open 
source was well-defined. SPIRES was ahead of its time, and I believe is 
still used for some systems at Stanford, but Stanford made the decision to 
move away from in-house systems in the early 90s and the library 
development in SPIRES was one of the casualties.

I came to the University of Windsor in 1993. My wife, a wickedly smart 
librarian, lawyer, and newspaper editor, is from Essex County, where 
Windsor is located, and it was a great opportunity to be close to her 
family. The University had recently made the decision to be a Beta partner 
with Notis for a new client/server system called Horizon, a successor to 
the venerable mainframe system which Windsor and many other libraries 
used. Notis was acquired by Ameritech along with Dynix, and after repeated 
assurances to the contrary, the original Horizon project was terminated a 
year later. We had a signed contracted and I had given over a year of my 
working life to the project, none of which mattered in terms of recouping 
any loses when the deal went sour. I think I still have  a sweatshirt with 
"Notis Horizon" on it and the original manuals.

We went back to the marketplace and became a very early customer of 
Endeavor Voyager, which was largely developed by former Notis employees, 
and have seen it evolve from a promising multi-tier system to exhibit a 
hefty appetite for computing resources by middleware standards. Still, we 
have over a decade's worth of production with Voyager, which is a 
formidable track record as these systems go, and have had access to the 
underlying database from the start, I feel physically ill at the thought 
that there are ILS applications that do not allow this level of access to 
the library's own data, surely this betrays every principle that libraries 
hold dearest.

In 1999, I worked with Jeremy Frumkin on the Open Digital Library System 
(ODLS), and contributed some middleware which I called PYTHEAS (Powerful 
Yet Tactfully Helpful Electronic Arranger of Sources). I made the decision 
to work in Java, which horrified a lot of my library brethren, and the 
system didn't get very far, though there was a developer from B.C. who 
borrowed some ideas for his work on a system from New Zealand called Koha. 
There were several open source efforts in the air in this timeframe, but 
Koha was clearly the first success story, and now Evergreen has rocketed 
into the library world along with Koha to make for some real choices in 
ILS applications that don't require a vendor in the mix.

I am involved in a few sourceforge projects, and have written, presented, 
and other activities in connection to open source, including a book and a 
few keynotes. I am the most proud of the "Library-in-a-Box" project, which 
I helped initiate with Tigran Zargaryan, who, along with the amazing Bess 
Sadler at the University of Virginia, is coordinating this effort to make 
OSS library systems more accessible to resource poor areas of the planet. 
This work is being done in association with a non-profit group called 
eIFL.net (Electronic Information for Libraries), a dedicated team who are 
committed to increasing access to information in the developing world, and 
a set of folks that I have had the pleasure of working with since 2005 
when I wrote a report for them on open source software. Through eIFL, I 
have had the opportunity to give workshops on open source in Eastern 
Europe and the Middle East, and have established a circle of contacts and 
friends that goes around the globe. I now serve on the advisory group for 
Library-in-a-Box and there is a press release available which describes 
the gathering in Cupramontana, Italy (see <
http://www.eifl.net/news/news_press_08.html/>) that led to the current 
direction of this project.

Libraries literally changed my life, my first trip to a library was like 
being shown the entry point to the wonders of the universe, and I tend to 
way overcommit myself to activities that extend the reach of the magic 
that libraries can achieve. I am very involved in fostering digital 
collections, via a major national (Alouette Canada) and provincial 
(Knowledge Ontario) project, and co-own a community newspaper (The Essex 
Free Press), that has over 110 years of content that I am working towards 
making freely available online (and dealing a *lot* with microfilm 
digitization issues right now). I am, of course, highly biased about the 
value of community newspapers and their potential to work with libraries, 
but the dynamics of vendor relationships, public information, and 
community content as a basis for decision-making and action, all come 
together for me by participating in a business that is part of the public 
awareness stream at the same time as working in a library. 

In November, I was fortunate to be able to host a symposium on the state 
of the ILS (see <http://infoservices.uwindsor.ca/ils/>). Brad and his team 
made the trip to Windsor to present at the symposium, and one of the 
results was a partnership between the University of Windsor and PINES to 
build an acquisitions/serials system. To that end, I have been working on 
using a general purpose ERP system called OFBiz to supply these functions. 
OFBiz already has strong support for purchasing and invoicing, and uses an 
iCal based scheduler that I believe will provide the building blocks for a 
solid serials system. Since the SirsiDynix announcement concerning the 
demise of Horizon 8.0, I am averaging about two queries a day about where 
I am on this effort, and I am trying to expedite the process. It is a 
testimony to Evergreen's open architecture that OFBiz, a very deep 
Java-based application, can work effectively with it. The only weak link 
in the chain has been me and my schedule, and I am working hard to bring 
closure to many processes so that I can concentrate more fully on this 

My favourite part of doing what I do is the people that I get to work 
with. If there was one thing I could change about libraries, it would be 
to look outside of their operations to see what synergies and experiences 
might be useful from other communities. We are not the only ones who 
create and deal with metadata (the pharmaceutical industry, in particular, 
has vast experiences and investments in this area), our acquisitions 
processes are reflected in many other organizations (and our systems are 
pale reflections of best, ask any ILS vendor about trends that are now 
mainstream in ERP systems, like work effort engines), and there has been 
data collected outside of the library community which would be useful for 
planning future directions and services (look at the work of the ACM SIG 
on Information Retrieval for example). Evergreen very firmly leverages the 
best of what is possible from all available sources, and one of my hopes 
is that if we can get out of the ILS swamp, it will allow libraries to 
both further re-affirm their central role in the communities they serve as 
well as to identify new possibilities.

Art Rhyno
Systems Librarian
University of Windsor Libraries
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