I seem to be spending lots of time on trains recently. This time I’m on my way back from the OpenLibraries Open Source Breaking the Barriers 2009 conference held at RIBA in London.
Jointly organised by Ken Chad Consulting and PTFS Europe, this was an interesting day, although I think it would have been better titled the Open Source in Libraries Conference, but that’s probably just me.
The UK library world hasn’t really stepped on the Open Source ILS/LMS band-wagon yet. At most, interest so far has been of the ‘watching developments across the Atlantic’ type. So for many, today was the first chance to think about it in a conference setting. The day was kicked off by a thought provoking Charles Leadbeater who set open source in context with other trends in the web and social spaces. Conference organiser Ken Chad was about to launch in to his presentation when he was rudely interrupted by a fire alarm. Six flights of stairs later, we all convened in the street for 15 minutes whilst the cause of the false alarm was tracked down by the fire brigade. Luckily this unscheduled networking opportunity took place in the sunshine – an hour later and we would have all been drenched.
What felt like far more than six stair flights were then scaled, with Ken’s thoughts on the value that an Open Source approach can provide to our sector, as a reward.
Bob Molyneux of Equinox and Mike Taylor of Index Data gave some different views from companies successfully delivering, and building a business out of, Open Source software. Bob detailed how much their Evergreen system had developed since its initial deployment for Georgia PINES. Mike reminded us that many proprietary systems, Talis’ included, use Index Data Open Source components.
They were followed by BibLibre’s Paul Poulain who took us through SOPAC (the subject of a Talking with Talis Podcast with it’s developer and Library 2.0 Gang member, John Blyberg) and how he was linking it with Koha.
Representative of the co-organisers, Nick Dimant then took us through how PTFS Europe, an established company in other associated areas, could support libraries whishing to contemplate either an Evergreen or Koha installation. He painted a stark picture of what it was like in a proprietary system vendor, short on funds to invest in their products, unable to innovate, cutting back on support where sleeping cats answered the phones. Although entertaining, and possibly based on experience in some organisations, it was not a picture I recognise from within Talis.
Mark Hughes and Paul Johnson of Swansea University later described the why’s when’s and how’s of the choice and implementation (still in progress) of a VuFind based OPAC for the three university consortium in South Wales – SWWHEP. They were followed by Strathclyde University lecturer, Alan Poulter who described how he used multiple copies of Koha to give students, on his MSc Digital Libraries module, experience of a using a real library system – from creating borrowers and library rules to cataloguing in Marc.
The last section of the day, described by Ken as the view from the proprietary systems vendors, consisted of Ex Libris’ Director of Marketing, Tamar Sadeh, and myself.
Tamar talked through the Ex Libris open-platform program, (the subject of another Talking with Talis podcast) explaining how openly sharing the documentation of their APIs with their customers, stimulates innovation that can then be shared in that community. The code being hosted by Ex Libris under the licence of choice from the developer. Of course most of us in the audience, not being Ex Libris customers with logins to the Ex Libris site, only have her presented screen shots to support her descriptions. We will have to wait for Ex Libris to open up this open site before we can browse the innovations she was extolling.
It was left to me to bring the presentations to a close with 20 minutes worth on Open Source projects, Jangle and Juice. My slides are on SlideShare, where you can see the overview I gave of why Jangle in providing a consistent Web Standards based way of connecting to Open Source and Proprietary Library Systems, will enable and stimulate innovation. I took advantage of one of the better conference wifi connections to demonstrate the power of Juice Project extensions adding to the user experience of Talis Prism, VuFind and discovery interfaces.
Overall a very good, well attended, with something for everyone, day.