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17-Mar-2008

Why open source software for libraries?

Simple answer, libraries have to survive much longer than the software and its providers.

Information Technology gets obsolete every year. Just see the history of computers - take just one particular operating system - DOS to VISTA. Have you realized how fast the things have changed over a short period of time - in just two decades! Do libraries change that fast? No! and there is absolutely no logic that they should also change.

What does that mean? - if a library is using a particular automated procedure - it won't change that easily because the whole library system would have to undergo changes. Not only the procedural changes are difficult to decide and manage, these are expensive too. Library procedures are not only tightly coupled with each other but also to standards and best practices. How many times AACR II has changed in last two decades? While you might have seen how different versions of softwares have come and gone? The sad part of all these versions is that their developers declare that they won't provide support for the earlier versions. If these are proprietary softwares, libraries will have to migrate to new versions or just get struck with a system for which no support is available. Well the migration strategy never provides optimum results because the technology gets obsolete before it is fully implemented. Thus libraries are put on perpetual migration route. Had a library used an open source software, chances are that library staff would had learned to use and maintain the software system. It means that it can still be managed and enhanced by the library staff - because the source code is available. Thus its long time survival is ensured to large extent.

Libraries should use open source softwares not because these are free or cost less - but as a Leader in Open Source for Libraries i.e LibLime has put it:
Use of open source not only lowers the per-library cost of running software, it also empowers libraries with a higher level of control over customization and the overall direction of software development.
And to add over here - Open source softwares are for long term. This suits the long term nature of libraries.

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