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

MA Libraries Moving Towards Open Source

   August 4th, 2009

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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3 Responses to “MA Libraries Moving Towards Open Source”

  1. Jeff Scott Says:

    It’s funny, no matter where the library is or who is in charge, the process is always the same. You are probably lucky you even have input once the ILS is selected.

    I remember being in the selection process for the consortium. The administrators where in a separate room talking about how to accomplish the migration and everyone else was in another room looking at all the features of the catalog. Those in the features room approached me about the great things the system does and could we purchase some extras. When I spoke with the other administrators about getting these add-ons, they looked at me like I had a third head.

  2. Winnie Says:

    We migrated from Mandarin to Evergreen earlier this year. We are exceedingly happy. Mandarin gave us no end of trouble and a few years ago when we upgraded to M3 our entire staff almost ended up in the looney bin. Add to that the tech support issues including a 3 time zone difference and the fact that once when I called with a problem they told me that it was impossible, the system couldn’t do that and I think we might have been relieved to move to anything. However, Evergreen seems to be meeting our needs and the our tech team is great. The only issue we have run into with the catalogue is you have to dig to find out where a book is shelved. We’ll see what happens when winter hits and our Internet and power take turns going down.

  3. Following Along the Open Source Trail « SHARE Tech Says:

    […] SHARE system is not the only consortium that has started looking into open source ILS options. This post from Brian Herzog at the Swiss Army Librarian shows that libraries around the US are chomping at the […]