There are a whole range of challenges facing users of library systems right now. These include shrinking budgets, coping with ageing technologies and ever increasing costs. There is also a response needed to the shared services agenda together with the overarching need for libraries to stay relevant in the changing economic, political and cultural landscape.
Are open source library systems an answer to these challenges?
There are two main open source library management systems on the market – Koha and Evergreen. Worldwide communities develop and maintain these systems. End users can install these themselves, but the main development thrust now comes predominantly from companies whose business model is to help libraries implement and support these systems. Worldwide there are over 40 companies providing support services for open source library systems.
The characteristics of open source software are that it tends to use next generation technologies, modern tools and environments. It is standards based, open and with multiple influences due to its use in a wide variety of libraries worldwide. The open nature ensures that users are free from vendor lock-in and able to collaborate and participate far more directly in decisions on software direction.
In the current economic circumstances there are undoubtedly financial savings to be made by going open source, but it is just as much the freedom and autonomy derived from this environment that makes it so attractive to many libraries.