or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk




MA Open Source Info Session

   October 8th, 2009 Brian Herzog

For librarians in Massachusetts, and anyone interested in the Massachusetts Open Source Project, there will be two information sessions in October.

Dates, Times, Locations:

  • Oct 21st, 10:00 AM, Palmer (MA) Public Library [map]
  • Oct 29th, 10:00 AM, MVLC headquarters in North Andover [map]

The sessions are planned to last about three hours, and cover both the concept of open source in general, and how open source software can be applied to network collaboration amongst libraries in Massachusetts. Staff from MVLC, NOBLE and C/W MARS will give presentations on the progress, plans and goals of the Open Source task force, as well as discuss Evergreen, the OSS ILS they recommend.

Organizers are encouraging as many library staff as possible to attend. But, since they'd like to have an idea of how many people to expect, please RSVP to Laura Spurr (lspurr@mvlc.org).

Hopefully I'll be at the one at MVLC, and it should prove to be interesting.

UPDATE 10/13.09: Check out the MassLNC website for project information. h/t back to j's scratchpad for finding this link.



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MA Libraries Moving Towards Open Source

   August 4th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Veruca SaltI've mentioned this in passing, but here's some insider information on the prospect of Massachusetts libraries adopting an open source state-wide catalog.

The update comes courtesy of my consortium's monthly newsletter, the August 2009 MVLC Connections [pdf]*. It's a good article, reviewing current OSS ILS options, how they differ from traditional library catalogs, and what it will take to get one in place.

However, one paragraph set off some alarm bells:

Once the platform has been selected, the second phase of the project – assessing user requirements and system development needs - will begin. This is the point in the project where library staff will begin to be heavily involved.

Here's what bothers me: shouldn't "assessing user requirements and system development needs" be necessary to select a platform in the first place? I'm just worried that the plan is for a lot of major decisions to be made before there is any input from front-line librarians. It's kind of like your mechanic deciding with the dealer which make and model of car you have to buy, then asking for your input on the color and whether or not you want power windows.

But don't get me wrong: this is great news, especially for MVLC libraries (the ILS we're using is woefully dated and inadequate). However, with this project as big as it is, changes won't happen until 2011 at the earliest - which means the time patrons and staff have to continue to put up with not-good-enough software is being measured in years instead of months.

So if I'm sounding like Veruca Salt**, it's because I have to apologize to patrons on a daily basis for such a difficult catalog interface. I know there are much better systems out there, and I can hardly wait. I don't care how, I want it now.

Read more about the pros and cons of OSS (via iLibrarian)

 


*Dear Irony: You have to download the newsletter from my server, because the original, containing this article about the future of libraries, is locked up on a password-protected "wiki," which no one is allowed to edit.

**I just noticed that the wall in the background of the photo is the same as my website background - huh.



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Keeping Up and Moving Ahead

   July 10th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Change Agent badgeBecause of two consecutive weekends hosting visitors, I've gotten way behind with emailing and reading blogs and computery things in general. Of the 174 feeds in my Bloglines account, the ones I've been most grateful for are those I can just click on to make not-new, without actually having to read.

But saying that, one blog post did stand out and demand attention. This was Tim at LibraryThing's proposal for a new open source cataloging classification system to replace Dewey.

I like the idea right off in principle, and I'm very happy that Tim has created a forum to get the ball rolling and get people talking about it.

In practicality, though, I don't know how well it'll work. It seems like the really great ideas are born of one person and their unwaivering drive and passion to accomplish it. I like the idea, but I am not sure if genesis-by-committee can be successful. Something like this (or Craig's List or Wikipedia or Linux) seems to need to be centralized and dictatorial in the beginning, and then opened to the public once it's proven and off and running.

But I hope it works. I'm going to be watching it, and I encourage everyone else to do the same - and contribute. I agree with Jessamyn in that, to get tools that are innately useful to libraries, they will have to come from librarians - everything else is just someone's product.



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On Open Source

   February 18th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Site Made With Recycled Code logoI meant to post this last week, but better late than never, I guess.

I read on Slashdot that Saturday, Feb. 9th was the 10-year anniversary of open source. The hows and whys of are explained well by Bruce Perens in his State of Open Source Message: A New Decade For Open Source.

But when it comes to open source, I'm more interested in the end result, the applications other people built that I can use; I just take for granted that Open Source is alive and well and will continue to be (I know this is a dangerous assumption, which is why I try to contribute in any meager way I can).

Which brings us to another post I saw last week, this time on iLibrarian, highlighting 50 open source alternatives to propriety software. It's amazing when you look at them all together, but there seems to be an open source option for pretty much any computer-based task. The category list is:

  • Basics
  • Office Suites
  • Office Tools
  • Productivity
  • Graphic Programs
  • Web Editors
  • Publishing
  • Communications
  • Media
  • Utilities
  • Security
  • Financial

Using open source isn't just about using free software; it's about being able to build on and customize software according to how people work, and about sharing with people instead of profiting off them.

Without open source software, you wouldn't be reading my blog right now. As my little icon above says, this is a site made with recycled code. Thank you, open source developers.

update: And to bring this all back around to libraries, Tame The Web just linked to LibLime's Open Sesame blog, devoted to using open source software in libraries.

update 2: This has appeared in a few places, but I thought it fit in with this post, too - Open Minds, Open Books, Open Source describes library using (actually, embracing) open source tools.



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Neat-o Catalog Interface

   June 7th, 2007 Brian Herzog

At the open source workshop yesterday, Joshua Ferrara of LibLime showed a Koha catalog interface designed for kids - amazing.

catalog, catalogs, childrens, interface, interfaces, ipac, ipacs, koha, libraries, library, nela-its, opac, opacs, open source, public libraries, public library



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NELA-ITS Spring Program 2007 – Wes Hamilton

   June 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Wes Hamilton speakingWes Hamilton, WMRLS
As a compliment to the previous presentations, Wes focused just on Linux as an operating system, rather than the applications that run on top of it. He started with an interesting evolutionary history of Linux, which put into context all of the different flavors available today, and why there are so many.

He also pointed out that, even without knowing it, almost every internet user is already a Linux user, even if indirectly. Some of the post popular websites today (Google, flickr, Wikipedia and YouTube) are all being run on Linux platforms (and in Google's case, Wes said that over 450,000 Linux servers power the search engine - that is an unfathomable number of servers).

A few websites of note from Wes' presentation:

   [view Wes' presentation]

Speakers

drupal, firefox, libraries, library, linux, nela, nela-its, open office, open source, randy robertshaw, userful



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