Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

Breaking the barriers

Yesterday I attended the  ‘Breaking the barriers‘ conference, organised by PTFS Europe and Ken Chad. It was an excellent conference, so many thanks to the organisers. It covered all aspects of Open Source within libraries, from full-scale LMS to catalogue enhancements, from a wide range of perspectives including conventional suppliers, developers and customers. The mark of a good conference is when the attendees go away excited and inspired by what they’ve seen, and from the people I spoke to yesterday that was certainly the case. I understand the Powerpoint slides should be available soon on Slideshare for those who couldn’t make it.

It demonstrated how Open Source is emerging within libraries, with or without encouragement from conventional suppliers and institutional management. There was a paper from Bob Molyneaux of Equinox which showed how OS LMS have become an accepted part of the LMS market in the US, and are now customarily considered during the initial market survey during the procurement procedure. I think we’re lagging behind slightly in the UK on this, as demonstrated by the supplier presence at the conference. Ex Libris and Talis both gave presentations – very different ones reflecting their different approaches – but both demonstrating committment to this new way of doing things. The old supplier-customer relationship is already dying, with some suppliers cutting back their support desk facilities at a time when customers need more support than ever.  Other LMS suppliers were conspicuously absent – I won’t name anybody, you know who you are…..

The keynote was given by Charles Leadbeater, of ‘We-think’. He gave his usual inspirational talk, pointing out how Web 2.0 is going to change most businesses (read libraries) over the next 5 years, but we don’t really know how. He pointed out that his 9 year old son, ie an emerging user, wants 3 things: to enjoy, to communicate, and to do, and all of them at times of his own choosing. We need to meet these needs, and to my mind Open Source is a way of doing so while avoiding the stagnancy which has crept into some corners of the library market. Things are already changing, witness the sudden appearance of link resolvers, federated searching and catalogue interactivity in the last seven or eight years, and the pace of this change is only going to accelerate. Conventional proprietary software looks like it may not always be the best way to solve the challenges facing us.

May 19, 2009 - Posted by | Libraries | , , ,


  1. Thanks for the update Ian. There was a similar event in Scotland a few weeks ago, which I believe was well attended.

    There seems to a reluctance at the moment to recognize the potential benefits of OS; last year’s JISC/SCONUL report treating it with near disdain; whilst, judging from Marshal Breeding’s site anyway, most ‘new’ LMS installations in the US being OS.

    I don’t think PTFS realize how close they are to breaking down few doors here! If they’re prepared to ‘sponsor’ a high profile institution or organization, the floodgates could well open. More so with the current turmoil many SirsiDynix customers find themselves in!

    I await a PTFS stall at the next SirsiDynix UK Conference……

    Comment by electricaye | May 19, 2009

  2. I think the low profile in the SERO report just indicates how much things have moved on in a few months! I’m not sure that all the LMS companies are conscious of that however….

    Comment by Ian | May 20, 2009

  3. The SirsiDynax issues illustrates why open source LMS will continue to gain traction in the marketplace. No matter what you still have access to the underlying application’s source code.

    Comment by Brian Despain | May 22, 2009

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