:: 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 They have not been altered in content, so please keep in mind some of this content will be out of date.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

Dawn of a New Era


   On September 5, 2006, over 250 libraries in the Georgia consortium,
   PINES, began using a next-generation integrated library system (ILS)
   they wrote from scratch. Within two months they racked up two million
   checkouts and half-a-million renewals for a collection of eight million
   items and 1.5 million borrowers.

   While they aren't the first to use an open source solution for their
   most essential operations, they are the largest and most complex system
   in the United States to attempt such a transition. The potential impact
   of this event on the library marketplace, which has recently been
   dominated by mergers and acquisitions, cannot be overstated.

   Open source software solutions are not new, with applications like
   Apache now de rigueur among libraries (see the [145]OSS4Lib site). Even
   open source integrated library systems are not new. But none has
   approached the scope and complexity of PINES.

   There are two options for libraries looking for an open source solution
   for their ILS. The Georgia system, called Evergreen, can scale to serve
   very large libraries. Koha has also been available for several years,
   and it continues to be updated and improved with additional
   functionality. It can also handle millions of records, although it is
   not designed for consortial environments, as is Evergreen.

   Evergreen and Koha

   When the Georgia PINES consortium decided to write its own ILS in 2004,
   it staked its future on open source. That gamble allowed its members to
   use the latest technologies and standards to build a flexible and
   scalable yet complex system. Rather than being held back by a legacy
   infrastructure, they were free to dream about the best possible system
   and build it.

   And building it was much less expensive than going with a commercial
   system, even when factoring in the increased staff required. Besides
   saving on software licensing and support fees, the use of commodity
   hardware and an architecture that allows for scaling up as needed with
   relatively inexpensive Linux machines enabled them to save well over $1
   million over the Solaris hardware the vendor required.

   Beyond saving money, the system is more effective. Mike Rylander, one
   of the Evergreen developers, said, "Our libraries are sharing, at
   patrons request, more than twice the number of books now than they were
   before Evergreen." Libraries that wish to migrate to Evergreen can
   either support themselves or contract with Equinox Software, launched
   by the Evergreen team, for a fee.

   Strength in numbers

   Evergreen presently handles circulation, cataloging, and the library
   catalog functions, with serials and acquisitions to follow in summer
   2007. (For more information see "[146]Evergreen: Your Homegrown ILS,"
   LJ 12/06, p. 38-41).

   Since the summer of 2003, the Nelsonville Public Library (serving
   Athens County, OH) has used the Koha open source ILS. It is now running
   the latest version of Koha, which exhibits some flashy search options
   that may not be available from commercial vendors yet, such as faceted
   browsing of search results and relevance ranking.

   LibLime, an open source support company, bolsters libraries
   implementing Koha, providing development, customization, and training.
   It has experience with developing and implementing Koha and offers
   support for both Koha and Evergreen.

   Your ILS election

   ILS transitions are painful even in the best situations, and your
   natural tendency may be to avoid changing systems. But the next time
   you are considering a system upgrade, or a different system entirely,
   know that there are two very worthy candidates you may not have
   considered. Meanwhile, if I were a commercial vendor of integrated
   library systems, September 5, 2006, is a day I would not forget.

                         LINK LIST
   Equinox Software
   [147] Evergreen Development Site
   [148] Evergreen Public System
   [150] LibLime
   [151] Nelsonville Public Library Catalog