:: Digital Libraries Columns


Library Journal "Digital Libraries" Columns 1997-2007, Roy Tennant

Please note: these columns are an archive of my Library Journal column from 1997-2007. They have not been altered in content, so please keep in mind some of this content will be out of date. :: Digital Libraries Columns

Open Source Goes Mainstream


   A few years ago, I wrote about the role of open source software (OSS)
   in libraries ([123] LJ 1/00, p. 36). At the time, there were
   indications that OSS would be important, but there were few
   library-specific applications to point to as proof. Now there are
   several, from a complete integrated library system to a system that
   allows library users to tailor their own portal.

   For evidence that OSS is now an important part of the software market,
   MSNBC recently reported in "Microsoft Facing a Technology Gap?" that
   Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, exhorted the company's employees about
   the competitive threat OSS represents. When Microsoft flips from
   ignoring an issue to running scared, you know something is up. Open
   source software is clearly here to stay, and it is not just for geeks

   The Open Source Initiative web site offers a rather lengthy definition
   of what constitutes "open source" software. A simple definition is
   software for which the source code can be viewed and changed by
   anyone--unlike, for example, shrink-wrapped software such as Microsoft
   Word, where the source code is a closely guarded secret. For more on
   open source, see Frank Cervone's "[124]The Open Source Option "
   (netConnect, Summer 2003, LJ 7/03).

   Open source software for libraries can be classified into two
   categories: complete systems that handle all of the tasks related to a
   service (e.g., a portal system) and tools that perform specific tasks
   and can be integrated with other components to create new services.

   Koha. The web site states that "Koha is the world's first free
   Open Source Library System." Made in New Zealand, the Koha system is
   meant to be a full catalog, OPAC circulation, member management, and
   acquisitions package. Unlikely to be robust enough for large libraries
   (it uses Perl and MySQL), it could be just the thing for small to
   medium-size libraries. Try the demos at the Koha web site.

   Greenstone. Originating from the New Zealand Digital Library project at
   the University of Waikato, Greenstone offers searching and browsing of
   digitized text and images. Browse the collections of the New Zealand
   Digital Library to understand what Greenstone can do.

   DSpace. Designed to accept digital file uploads from a large group of
   individuals (for example, the faculty and staff of a university),
   DSpace allows management of and access to those files ([125] LJ 9/15/02
   , p. 28).

   MyLibrary. Users can create their own window on library collections and
   resources with MyLibrary. By logging in and editing the default
   selection of resources, library users can have the search boxes of
   their favorite databases easily available, as well as links to key web
   pages in various categories.

   jake. Managing information about journals and the databases and
   aggregators that provide indexing for them is possible through jake.
   Designed primarily as a method for other software applications to query
   journal and index information, it can also be searched via a standard
   web form, with results formatted for humans.

   Prospero. An Internet document delivery system that helps libraries
   send and receive electronic documents. With Prospero, you can
   automatically convert TIFF format images into Adobe Acrobat files and
   place them on a web server for patron access. One module allows staff
   to scan, send, and receive documents, while another module provides the
   services for putting documents on the web and allowing patrons to
   access them.
   Keeping up

   Two good places to learn more about library-related OSS are OSS4Lib
   (open software systems for libraries) and /usr/lib/info. OSS4Lib
   maintains a list of open source software and a bulletin board with
   project updates and news. If you catch the OSS bug and want to hang out
   with others like yourself, /usr/lib/info is the place. Anyone can sign
   up for an account and then post questions or comments. Here is what
   library software developers are working on, often long before their
   efforts are widely known.

                           LINK LIST
   [126] Greenstone
   [127] jake
   [129] Microsoft Facing a Technology Gap?
   news/922215.asp MyLibrary
   New Zealand Digital Library
   [132] Open Source Initiative
   [133] The Open Source Option
   OSI Open Source Definition
   docs/definition.php OSS4Lib
   [136] Prospero