opensource alternatives to common commercial products

September 13, 2007

Although the introduction of this article is overly simplified in terms of the changes in library technology (I couldn’t help but laugh a little in a couple of places) , once you’re past that, the rest is a good little overview of some of the more popular opensource products. I’ve hotlinked and listed the products below, the article gives a more indepth overview.

The products are:
ubuntu (ms windows alternative based on linux)
firefox (web browser; ms internet explorer alternative)
openoffice (productivity suite with wordprocessing, presentation, and spreadsheets; ms office alternative)
thunderbird (e-mail + rss reader; ms outlook express alternative)
songbird ( media player; windows media player alternative?)
gimpshop (image editing; adobe photoshop alternative)
pdfcreator (pdf creator; adobe acrobat alternative)
Audacity (audio burning software)
avidemux (video creation)

Other stuff (web publishing, etc.):
mediawiki and also twiki.

As far as libraries go, there is

I’ve talked a little about evergreen and vufind here. At home, I still run MS for the operating system and commercial stuff for my server; but then everything else is opensource or web based services (Firefox, gimp, ghostwriter+pdf, openoffice, etc.) Setting up these products on a small personal computer is fairly easy (really!). I’m not sure how that would translate to a large network, which could possibly be a hidden cost factor: installing these, configuring them as needed, and upgrading. Of course, admins already have to do that for any programs that they support. Training issues (oh the fun of trying to teach a group of web editors to use Drupal…) as well as potential security risks given the opensource nature would be other potential costs.

Opensource ILS projects and how I learned to love the library catalog

September 11, 2007

okay, pardon the bad pun on dr. strangelove…

I’ve been following some of the opensource ils projects with interest. evergreen (launched by the Georgia Public Lib System), is still in heavy development. From my understanding it originally launched without acquisitions or serials checkin (eeks!) ; however from an upcoming presentation flyer it appears that acquisitions will launch or has launched very soon.
Anyhow, it’s an interesting project and I finally got around to checking out their wiki.

At one conference I attended, the evergreen presenters (truly it is trotted out at every possible opportunity) was demonstrating its ability to save searches as RSS feeds, which would then be updated.

Another project is scriblio, which is a wordpress installation that works in conjunction with a library catalog. Plymouth State Library is now using scriblio. You can read an article about here and see it in action here.

I couldn’t find an example of a Voyager library using scriblio, but I’m sure someone out there somewhere is using it.

Another interesting project is VUFind, which I’ve read will work with a Voyager library catalog. VUFind is touting itself as having the ability to search (and display) seamless results between the library catalog, digital collections, and institutional repositories. I like a lot about VUFind — very easy to read. I love the ability to pull out citation info (wonder if this works with EndNote?). Other features include faceted search results, citations in MLA or APA (not sure if other choices), tagging, commenting, reviewing, and oia syndication.

I couldn’t find RSS feed/search, but it would seem like that would be a feature (?)

Give the demo a whirl yourself. OR better yet… go see it used with a Voyager catalog.

George Mason University (a Voyager library) has a test installation up at

Update: 9/12: test installation is not working. ;-(

For those who are interested, the MARC view/technical view is under the tab “Staff View”

To read more about the features of VuFind, check out VuFind’s website:

knowledge worker 2.0 – what is it?

September 9, 2007

Hmm, well it does sound like fun. Oh, wait, I already do some of these things… 😉

Brief synopsis (for those who don’t like to click that much):

Old way => information/knowledge held in a “fiefdom” by a small group of players ; knowledge workers are limited in power and by territory, knowledge as a process, rigid ways of organizing

Brief discussion of the long tail (see: Wikipedia for a complete overview of the long tail term)

New way => Web 2.0 and beyond in information centers
Knowledge workers are

  • Everywhere — boundaries of authority and territory are blurred
  • Understand the institutional culture
  • Share information freely (the slideshow adds distributes, but isn’t that part of sharing?)
  • Use peoplecentric/usercentric, SOCIAL systems
  • Use tagging and social networking tools (eh… I consider those to be one current functionality of information systems focused on people…)

Note to self: Never put a slideshow on slideshare that doesn’t autoplay…. or better yet, make a youtube movie!

secrets of…

August 23, 2007

So, the session (seminar)? that I co-taught about MARC, record structure and secrets of the catalog went well. Overall turnout about 60 people. I think that’ s pretty good. My colleague & I will probably (hopefully) followup with more sessions later. I had a kind of big snafu — pressed what I thought was the magic secret extraordinarily hard to remember shortcut key combo to launch the movie from ppt and bzzzzpt! the screen went blank (actually blue) about the time I was ready to start running around in circles going “ahhhhhhhh!” I managed to press some magic secret combo on the laptop which fixed everything. sigh. I felt a little off after that.

We had some good questions including what I consider the cataloging questions of the moment. Why do we need cataloging, when we can just tag everything in ________ (your favorite tagging product)? Isn’t MARC dead? I’m not willing to nail the coffin shut on MARC because I think so many of the problems are caused by faulty ILS. I think it’s ridiculous that libraries and consortiums spend so much money on junky dbs. Really, would this happen in the corporate world? I understand the frustration with vendors and the desire to get a good opensource alternative out there. I surely hope it works one day and I’d love to be part of it.

As for tagging the catalog… Why not? If the catalog itself is not affected (controlled access points stay, well, controlled) then well… I think allowing users to tag the catalog is a neat idea. However, I just think that there are enough people who won’t want to see a user generated tag cloud on a record, but if it could sit outside the catalog with RSS feeds for tags, users (love to see my favorite searches saved and rss’ed… kind of what ebay does but actually live without re-executing…) I do wonder how many users would use it (or do use if available) .

I know that some systems do this, but not nearly enough, in my book… and yes, I’ve seen PennTags. I think it’s interesting.