eIFL-FOSS and “Library-in-a-box” want to make open source library systems accessible to all
Apparently part of my job for eIFL is to write press releases. Here’s my first shot at one. I should note that this one is targeted at eIFL participants, so I haven’t included any explanation of what eIFL is. I need to fix that before I send it out to non-eIFL communities.
eIFL’s Free and Open Source Software for libraries programme (eIFL-FOSS) held its inaugural meeting in October. Since then its members have been busy working to get the group’s first major project off the ground. EIFL libraries have said that their top technology concern is addressing the many problems they encounter with commercial integrated library systems (ILS). Therefore, eIFL-FOSS has decided that their first project will involve helping eIFL libraries transition to the use of open-source ILS products. This transition will enable libraries to stop paying the often crippling software licensing fees they currently pay to vendors, and instead keep this money in their local community, using it to build local expertise in software development and maintenance. By transitioning to open source ILS products, the hope is that eIFL libraries will receive better support, spend less money, and be better able to design their own localized interfaces and training.
One major step on the road to the adoption of open source ILS products is to make open source integrated library systems easy for libraries to install. Although there are currently at least two open source ILS products that meet most of the needs of eIFL libraries, these products are currently fairly difficult to install. EIFL-FOSS proposes to package these ILS products into an easily distributable CD-ROM to be called “Library-in-a-box.” Modeled on the successful “NGO-in-a-box” (http://www.ngoinabox.org) product built by the Tactical Technology Collective (http://www.ttc.org), Library-in-a-box will choose the most appropriate open source ILS solutions available and develop easily installable software packages for each, along with training and documentation to help eIFL libraries implement the software. EIFL-FOSS will soon be asking for proposals from eIFL member libraries to become pilot participants in the testing and implementation of Library-in-a-box.
Tigran Zargaryan, of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences, and Bess Sadler, of the University of Virginia, are the co-chairs of eIFL-FOSS and both are working hard to make this project succeed. Currently they are writing funding documents and project plans, as well as investigating the technical hurdles that must be overcome in the creation of the Library-in-a-box product. In February Bess will travel to Athens, Georgia, USA to present a paper about the Library-in-a-box project at the annual code4lib conference (http://www.code4lib.org/conference). There she will meet with representatives from both the open source ILS products that Library-in-a-box hopes to use to discuss how eIFL can cooperate with these open source communities for everyone’s mutual benefit.