[OPEN-ILS-GENERAL] 226 subscribers

Deanna Frazee dfrazee at ci.killeen.tx.us
Sat Mar 24 09:19:48 EDT 2007

To some extent, Brandon is right:  library management can be risk-adverse.  But that has changed significantly over the past few years, and the announcement of the demise of Horizon is likely change how many in management view the risk associated with integrated library systems.
I am a director and sys admin, which may be why I view open source as being the least risky option, but overall I think library management will come to see proprietary systems as the riskier option.  We make large intial investments in the ILS we choose, and then spend a signficant amount each year on the support of the system.  If we find ourselves looking at replacing the ILS because the vendor decides to discontinue development, we end up looking bad when we tell the funding authority that we have to replace a product in which we had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars.  In the public library world, the funders often do not handle this news well and think the library director is an incompetent lout.  Open source may be our best option to get around that problem.
But our biggest concern is that we need to keep the status quo for our patrons.  Users often do not take well to major changes in the interface.  You can change the look and arrangement a little, but if you take away something or require them to learn new processes to search, reserve items or check their account, you may face a very public, brutal backlash.  You become the evil librarian intent on keeping them from accessing their account to avoid overdues, forcing their children to fail homework assignments and wasting tax dollars on useless computer systems.  Creating this sort of ire can be as simple as changing from ILS A to ILS B, or in my case, it was automating two libraries and dumping the card catalogs.  Nobody could use the darn card catalogs without the librarian's help, but the minute you throw them out, you get accused of making the library completely inaccessible.  
If you change the underlying architecture or even the staff side of the ILS without making the patrons crazy, you have a winner.  Well, you do if the new architecture does not adversely affect the staff.  There will always be some griping, we just want to avoid a sharp backlash.
Open source has a great deal of potential to allow us to have systems that can be improved without the changes being terribly obvious to the users.  Most library directors are just now learning about open source options.  Give it a little more time to sink in, and then attitudes will start changing.  At least one vendor certainly helped to catapult open source options into the spotlight last week.  I think that one event will do more to turn management toward open source than anything else.
But I have been wrong before.  That's just my 2 cents worth,
Deanna Frazee

From: open-ils-general-bounces at list.georgialibraries.org on behalf of Uhlman, Brandon EDUC:EX
Sent: Sat 3/24/2007 12:21 AM
To: open-ils-general at list.georgialibraries.org
Subject: RE: [OPEN-ILS-GENERAL] 226 subscribers

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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