Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

PTFS to acquire Liblime

Just heard the news that PTFS is to acquire Liblime. This is quite big news, not just for libraries already using Open Source, but also for the whole LMS sector. Liblime have over 500 libraries in the US, and PTFS’ European office is gradually building up an Open Source LMS customer base in Europe. The established LMS companies have been accused of complacency in the past, but this ought to stir them!

On whether it is good news for the OS LMS sector I’m staying on the fence for the time being. On one hand if it increases the use of OS LMS that can only be a good thing from the point of view of bringing fresh insight and ways of doing things into an LMS market which has become a little stale in some areas. However on the other hand it means that the merged company has a lot of influence over Koha, perhaps more than some people are comfortable with. There was a disagreement last year in the Koha camp about the ownership of the extra work Liblime has put in to create Enterprise Koha, and there was also a little friction with PTFS at one time as well. Hopefully these issues will be managed and Koha will continue to be developed according to user priorities. There are a few more companies emerging to support Koha at the moment such as Bywater Solutions so perhaps the risk is diminishing already.

The other thing that could be interesting is that PTFS are also licensed to support Evergreen. Supporting either Koha and Evergreen need not be exclusive, indeed a bit of cross-fertilisation could be productive. However marketing one over the other might not be such a good thing – the user should be aided to select the system which best meets her/his needs. Hopefully the new company will take this attitude, and in this case I look forward to developments!

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January 14, 2010 Posted by | Libraries | , , , | 7 Comments

Uncertainty in the Koha community

There seems to be some unfortunate discord in the Koha community.  As an outside observer I’m not familiar with all the detail, but it seems that Liblime, who support it in the US, have announced that they want to centralise on one development platform, to be called Liblime Enterprise Koha. Some parts of the Koha user community, already concerned about Liblime’s trademarking of the name ‘Koha’,  have expressed concern about this, seeing  it as a development fork. Liblime have said that all their code will remain open-source, but there seems to be some uncertainty about the nature of this.  Very sensibly, Marshall Breeding has proposed a review of the governance of the Koha project to focus more on the libraries than the developers.

As an outside observer it is interesting to watch this from outside. As Breeding points out, the scale of usage had outgrown the development community and needs review. A similar thing happened with Linux and Red Hat some years ago. Hopefully some solution will be found as similar problems are likely to occur with other other Open Source systems.

September 16, 2009 Posted by | Libraries | , , | 1 Comment

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 | , , , | 3 Comments

PTFS and Evergreen

Interesting announcement from PTFS overnight that they are now partners for Evergreen software in Europe. PTFS were already offering to set up and maintain Evergreen in Europe, as they could for any OS software, but this formalises it and gives it the ‘official seal of approval’ -a sort of Approved Reseller status in a way, which should boost confidence in potential customers. I’ve not heard anything for a while about the spat with Koha either, so hopefully that has been smoothed out.

May 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Open Source Conference

I don’t normally plug events unless I have some personal involvement in organising them, but this one deserves mention.  PTFS and Ken Chad Consulting are hosting the Breaking the Barriers conference at RIBA on 18th May. As far as I’m aware its the first national UK conference on the applications of Open Source in libraries, and will be looking at Evergreen and Koha, as well as a keynote address from Charles Leadbeater of ‘We think‘. To my mind this is quite significant in that it shows that things are changing even in the rather cautious UK library environment. I’ll be there and am looking forward to it!

March 10, 2009 Posted by | Libraries | , , , | Leave a comment

Open Source Library Management Systems

Over Christmas I had a chance to start analysing the results of my survey on OS LMS.  Many thanks to all of you who took the time to reply. The results show a general interest in OS LMS, but that most institutions are displaying the caution recommended by the recent SERO investigation.

Overall I had 39 responses, amounting to about a 24% return using the list of HE OPACs on the HERO website.  As this was of course voluntary and I deliberately didn’t log where the information came from unless the responder opted to include it,  I’m quite pleased by that. I had replies from users of most of the major LMS, and the replies indicated the same gradual take-up of OpenURL, metasearching and vertical-search products as in the SERO survey. Most institutions are looking to integrate their LMS with other systems such as the VLE and student database, and most are already using OS to some extent. Time and stafffing to set up and maintain OS LMS are the main restricting factors on their adoption. Where replies did vary significantly was on the institutional attitude to OS. Some institutions and libraries are somewhat restrictive towards it and a few replies indicated frustration that they would like to do more development of this kind. Others took a more pragmatic view with the focus on service stability.

Perhaps this caution and mixed management views simply reflects that OS LMS are still at an early stage in the adoption curve. Paid-for LMS took over 20 years to become the predominant norm and it isn’t yet clear that Open Source is necessarily the best course of action in the long term. I think we might be watching this one play out for some years yet!

January 11, 2009 Posted by | Libraries | , | Leave a comment

Survey on OS LMS

In the real world, as well as trying to manage library systems I’m also studying at the Open University. As a wierd conjunction of work and study I’m doing some research on the use of Open Source software by UK Higher  Education libraries. I’m particularly interested in OS Library Management Systems and their adoption, or lack of it. There has been some material published on OS in the US, but much less about the UK and I want to find out whether UK HE libraries are doing as little as we seem, and if so why, or whether a touch of British modesty has crept in and we’re all really trail-blazing into the new world of open systems….. Hence I’ve set up a Surveymonkey survey and would be grateful if people from UK HE  libraries would fill it in. As an extra bonus those who give me their email address will also get an anonymised summary of the results. Thanks in advance!

November 16, 2008 Posted by | Libraries | , | 2 Comments

Open Source and Digital Libraries

PTFS have put out a rather interesting press release. The way I read it is that you can get them to install an Open Source LMS (Koha or Evergreen) along with their ArchivalWare digital archiving software and they will support both. Three interesting things emerge from this:

  • PTFS have made explicit the role of the library in managing all those digital information resources that institutions are accumulating
  • They have combined this with the LMS – which has traditionally aided in the control of the paper-based resources and making use of the existing skills in this area already possessed by the staff.
  • They are prepared to support both their own system and the OS LMS – the first firm to do so in the UK that I’m aware of.

I have to applaud their ability to see a market opportunity and their business acuity in seizing it. It could be a massive step forward for what is a comparatively small company in the UK, but it is also a potentially dangerous one for the big LMS suppliers who have been accused by many of becoming a little too complacent in a stable market. Signs of market instability are already there (along with others I’ve been trying to point them out!),  but I suspect the availability of such support will make libraries more likely to ‘make the jump’ to LMS and try out these systems. The explicit linking with the digital resources could also be a valuable pointer to those libraries which have also shared in that complacency…..

July 7, 2008 Posted by | Libraries | , | 1 Comment