[OPEN-ILS-GENERAL] 226 subscribers

Uhlman, Brandon EDUC:EX Brandon.Uhlman at gov.bc.ca
Sat Mar 24 01:21:36 EDT 2007

Hey, all!

I'm Brandon Uhlman, and for the moment I'm the Systems Consultant at the Public Library Services Branch of the British Columbia Ministry of Education. Prior to that, I held systems positions in academic and public libraries. Did I mention that all this is in the two and a half years since I graduated from University? In all of my varying jobs, I've been the sole IT professional, so I've necessarily been a jack-of-all-trades (support, sysadmin, developer) and master of none. Several of BC's library federations (geographic consortia, essentially) are looking at migrating off of individually run legacy ILSes (ranging from Mandarin to Sagebrush Athena to a system custom written onsite for an AS/400 back in the 80s) to a constortium-administered central system. Many of the consortia were considering Horizon 8, and with that choice no longer available, one of my new tasks is to determine whether Evergreen might be up to the task. Like countless other people, the lack of an acq/serials management solution is a major impediment to adoption.

It's worth mentioning that Art Rhyno (Mr. Acqusitions Project guy) and I go back quite a few years to when I was still in University. He wrote an open-source PC booking system, and I was looking for some support for it. I helped track down a few little bugs, but in the end I never followed through and got the system running, and just ended up with an amazing connection with this brilliant librarian whose foresight on things like Evergreen just keeps rescuing me at inopportune times. Like when your vendor of choices stops selling your product of choice. So, from experience, I know that if Art Rhyno is drinking the Kool-Aid, I want some too. :)

My other concern with Evergreen is that librarians, especially library management types, might be scared away from this project because of the label "open source". Lots of people like to equate 'open source' with words like 'unstable' and 'unsupported'. Academic and public libraries are incredibly risk-averse. They have to be, really - they're public institutions with public oversight. Risk-taking behaviours, like adopting a non-commercial technology solution with the possibility of being left freezing in a snowbank if something doesn't go well, tend not to be rewarded by elected officials and bureaucrats who control the purse-strings. I think Equinox (the consulting company made up of the Evergreen principals) coming on scene and providing commercial support and SLA contracts is a huge step toward allaying some of these fears.

My other observation is that at some point in development, even in large commercial system, all source is open. At least to the people who wrote it. And we ended up with unstable and unsupported systems from companies whose names rhyme with Flinnovative Chrystems and NurseyRynix. And we still signed contracts. And paid them huge amounts of money. For year after year after year. :)

I'm hoping that once my calendar clears a little bit in the near future, I'll be able to cajole some of my company time from my superiors to lend to Art's work with OFBiz on an acq/serials solution. At the very least, I'll be lurking around the list, trying to soothe any frayed nerves that arrive here with a "ZOMG OPEN SOURCE" vibe, and make them feel a little more comfortable with what's going on. And in the meantime, I really do need to find a spare machine somewhere so I can set up Evergreen and start tinkering...

Have a good weekend, all.

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