Corporate Social Responsibility

The principles and practices of open source software are very similar to the principles and practices of modern librarianship. Both value free and equal access to data, information, and knowledge. Both value the peer review process. Both advocate open standards. Both strive to promote human understand and to make our lives better. Both make efforts to improve society as a whole assuming the sum is greater than the parts.                                                                   
Eric Lease Morgan, Librarian, University of Notre Dame

From our embracing of open source software to our commitment to providing social value, from our sustainability and environmental credentials to our focus on staff well-being, PTFS Europe’s ethical approach to doing business is clear.

Open source software and Koha

PTFS Europe is firmly committed to open source software – software developed by online communities for free use by all. The company actively supports eight open source products – Coral, WordPress, Request Tracker, Booked, Metabase, VuFind, DSpace and, most significantly, Koha.

From its foundation in 2007 PTFS Europe has been based on providing services in an ethical way to our customers.  With nearly 300 years of cumulative experience of our staff in this sector we recognise the value that libraries provide. We do much to promote the benefits of using open source software both for its technical excellence and for its focus on the user experience for staff and public alike and for the user driven direction of development.

Koha is the Maori word for “gift”. Koha’s founding tenets are based on providing social value in an ethical and sustainable way. It is the most widely used open source library management system in the world being used by over 15,000 libraries and with over 40 support companies like PTFS Europe dedicated to providing support and development services.

As Koha is entirely open it lends itself to user participation at all levels.  However, people can be unsure of how best to engage. We offer a mentoring service for library staff who wish to broaden their IT skills and also to embrace the broader Koha community.  This offer is extended to students at the many academic libraries that use Koha in the UK. In addition the Koha community runs a ‘Koha Academy’ for school age children. Bugs in Koha are tagged with an “Academy” tag and Koha community members assist children, one by one or in groups, in fixing these problems. Although the problems are basic in nature it gives young people an introduction into basic coding, a sense of achievement in fixing the bug, and their name in the Koha list of developers! 

Our staff are actively involved in the Koha community, whether contributing to the user documentation or fixing bugs reported by community users. Significantly, our Development Manager is currently the Community Release Manager which is one of the most important voluntary roles in an open source community.

Social value

We are also involved in social value initiatives overseas.  At the behest of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and in conjunction with the British Council we participated in a project advising the government of Bangladesh on their implementation of Koha for the automation of all of the public libraries in the country. The aim of the project was to boost literacy, social justice and economic development.  As part of a study tour Government ministers and other senior staff from the Bangladeshi library community visited Koha libraries in Cheshire to gain insights into implementation issues and get feedback on experiences from using Koha in a public library setting.

We are currently undertaking an implementation project for NewSPAL – the New Surrey Performing Arts Library. This is a charitable trust recently given responsibility for one of the three largest collections of Performing Arts loan material in the UK. PTFS Europe is providing the implementation of a Koha library management system at less than half the normal price and then is giving ongoing support and hosting services free of charge. This is part of our commitment to supporting the Arts and Voluntary sectors.

As well as large scale projects in the UK such as for numerous local authorities, government departments, universities and colleges we also provide high quality library systems at a much lower price point for third sector libraries such as Dyslexia Action and the National Foundation for Educational Research.

Libraries are an undoubted force for good in a changing world whilst at the same they are facing massive financial pressures. By offering significant value for money combined with high quality technical and customer support services from a modern platform we feel we are helping libraries best cope with the pressures they face. By their nature, libraries share many of the same values as open source software and we encourage and support librarians to actively contribute to the Koha community.

In 2016 after the PTFS Europe implementation of Koha, the library service at Sefton Council was named Sefton Council Team of the Year at an awards ceremony. They won it for the successful implementation of Koha, the way the system helped them take a technical leap forward and the way staff engaged with the changes.

Sustainable procurement

PTFS Europe’s commitment to sustainable procurement is demonstrated in our engagement with sustainable procurement tender and framework processes. The vast majority of our Public Sector contracts have been won through these processes.

With respect to our own procurement, we have carefully and deliberately chosen a UK-based server hosting company, Bytemark, as our largest supplier. They have a very clear and active commitment to environmental sustainability with demonstrable actions to reduce energy consumption in their data centres as well as active support of local recycling schemes.

PTFS Europe uses sustainable hosting practices that are ISO 14001:2015 and ISO 50001:2011 accredited.

  • ISO 14001:2015 is an internationally-recognised accreditation for organisations that demonstrate superior environmental management. The certificate highlights the company’s ongoing commitment to both maximise the energy efficiency of its existing data centre estate and develop innovative new facilities.
  • ISO 50001 specifies requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining and improving an energy management system, allowing iomart to follow a systematic approach in achieving continual improvement of energy performance, efficiency, use and consumption.

Our hosting provider has won awards for their environmental infrastructure, such as the DatacenterDynamics EMEA Awards, Innovation in Medium-sized Data Centre – finalist, and York Press Business Awards, Think Green award – finalist.  To see their Environmental Statement go to:  https://www.bytemark.co.uk/company/environmental-statement/

Our data centre selects premium, lower-powered options that reduce costs over the long-term instead of choosing the short-term savings of cheaper, less efficient components.

Not every customer needs the power of a dedicated server. After understanding your needs, we’ll happily offer a cheaper, more energy-efficient virtual server if appropriate. We don’t bulk out specifications with expensive, overpowered servers.

Our hosting partner’s custom-built data centre “YO26” was designed to be as energy-efficient as possible. They utilise fresh Yorkshire air rather than power-hungry air conditioning. When the external temperature is less than 21.5 C — 90% hours in the year! — the data centre can be cooled without the use of air conditioning compressors.

Environmental commitment

PTFS Europe is a virtual company. With all 16 out of 17 staff working from home offices, there is no daily commute, a company-wide ease and familiarity with virtual meetings reducing overall staff and customer travel commitments and a policy to support the use of predominantly electronic admin systems and documentation to reduce printer ink and use of paper. With one member of staff in a small rented Head Office suite, the company has minimal physical office environmental impacts.

Staff well-being

PTFS Europe’s decision to operate virtually from the outset was on the one hand a commitment to good environmental practice but on the other was a way of supporting the well-being of our staff. By actively embracing and enabling a home-working ethos, employees are encouraged to be in control of their work/life balance.

This is further demonstrated in our support of part time working, continuing professional development and in enabling staff to develop their own professional interests outside of their core work commitments.

Jonathan Field

Managing Director