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U.S. Public Libraries Using Open Source CMS July 20, 2010

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U.S. Public Libraries Using Open Source CMS

As part of my dissertation, I have made a Google Map charting the U.S. public libraries using open source CMS which can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/aIInGv.

It is interesting to see the large accumulation in the Midwest.  I wonder if the presence of OCLC and ALA play a part into why there are so many libraries using CMS-powered websites in that part of the country.

If anyone knows of any libraries that I missed please let me know.  If you work for a library that is currently running a CMS-powered website, please take my survey which can be found here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5VX7F8Q.  Details on how the data will be handled is available here: http://notepad.cc/share/rkeH3HBhOz

For those of you that have already contributed to my project, let me say thank you.  I have received some really thoughtful responses to my survey which will really help me put together an informative and original final project.

Would your OPAC benefit from being more modular? January 19, 2010

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Nicole Engard, author of Library Mashups: Exploring New Ways to Deliver Library Data,  was recently on Sarah Long’s Long Shots Podcast talking about all the tools available to libraries through the use of mashups (or combining elements of different web services to create a unique product).  On the podcast she notes that the hardest part of incorporating these modular resources is that first one must ‘break into’ their OPAC.  I just want to say that this is the big problem with proprietary software, it is too slow to respond in a world where new technology emerges everyday that could benefit our users.

Recently, I wrote about how New York Public Library migrated their site to Drupal.  This will make their site much more dynamic and flexible and give all members of staff more power to contribute so their web identity can always stay current.  A few years ago, the National Library of Australia started using the VuFind OPAC which is an open-source project from Vanderbilt University.  I think the criticism of open-source projects is that they are experimental, unstable, and always in beta.  Here though we can see that NLA has continued to use VuFind and I think it is time that other libraries started looking into this as a solution.  Especially when one considers that aside from its collection, a library currently spends the majority of its budget on its OPAC. In a time when budgets are tight these could result in much needed savings.

VuFind is modular by design and that is a good thing as there have been some great products released recently which serve to augment library systems.  The ones getting the most buzz are tools developed from LibraryThing including Local Books, Library Anywhere, and Shelf Browse (pictured above).  These tools have been built to be compatible with most OPACs but that will not always be the case especially if you create a mashup that is specific to your community.  Do you really want to have to break into your OPAC just to deliver better service to your users?

Will open-source solutions move OPACs past the “lipstick on a pig” metaphor? January 14, 2010

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I remember first hearing about Drupal sometime in 2006.  At first, it was all the rage around the Brooklyn neighborhood where I lived.  Then, a forward-thinking programmer was hired on to revamp the website of my then-employer and he chose to build the site on Drupal.  It was clear from the examples that I was seeing that this open-source model was far superior to anything happening in the proprietary software universe.  Drupal developers were pushing out code at an amazing clip and if any functionality didn’t exist then one could just email a developer and ask them to write some code and very often someone would.

Yet, I was surprised that our organization had gone along with this idea.  I think a lot of organizations get set in their ways.  They do not want to make drastic changes and this leads to relationships with vendors where clients don’t really threaten to cut off revenue and vendors don’t really work very hard to make their software any better.  This culture of acceptance for mediocrity led to Roy Tennant’s famous comments about how many new OPAC interfaces are really just lipstick on a pig.  Vendors were delivering small changes to their product periodically but the modifications weren’t really meeting end user needs.

That is why it was so encouraging to see that the New York Public Library had decided to migrate their site over to Drupal.  This will hopefully set an example for other libraries.  At one time, I think organizations feared working with open-source technology but now I think it is clear that they are outperforming their peers in the proprietary world and with all budgets getting slashed in this economy all libraries could benefit from the savings involved in using open-source software.

While I realize that Drupal is not an OPAC the recent news that LibLime has been acquired by PTFS may mean more open-source solutions will be become available soon for libraries.  I think the library sector needs more big name institutions to move over to using open-source technology and show smaller organizations by example that it is safe terrain.  Working with developers will bring about a culture of seeking consistent improvement. Looking at the profile for 2010 Librarian of the Year, Craig Buthod, it is clear that listening to what your users want is important but empowering yourself to deliver results that meet those needs is equally important and will become more possible as librarians begin using dynamic, flexible open-source software.