now that’s how you do a FOSS press release

The Howe Library in Hanover NH has just moved their ILS to Evergreen. They sent out a very cool press release. Here is the first paragraph.

In a technology move designed to cut taxpayer costs, Howe Library is pleased to announce it has moved its entire bibliographic catalog and circulation system to Evergreen, an open-source integrated library system used by hundreds of libraries nationwide and in Canada. Moving to Evergreen will save considerable taxpayer dollars, primarily in annual service fees and upgrades.

Talk about upbeat! Instead of saying “Hey we’re going to have some downtime.” or “Here is all the new stuff you need to know.” they focus on the things that will affect everyone, lower fees and stable trusted software. Nice work team. Here’s the press release, now linked on their site.

Friday afternoon posts about important things

In the habit I seem to be in of writing posts about topics I deeply care about, here is a late Friday post about Open Source library catalogs. I was at an in-service day at the Howe Library in Hanover on Monday talking about Open Source. I gave a version of a talk I gave in Athens GA at the Evergreen conference, back when my OS project was still looking all shiny and before the LibLime implosion (and Nicole’s departure) and before Karen took a cool job on the West Coast. The talk was fun, well-received and then we had lunch together and talked some.

In the course of talking to various librarians, it became clear that there are a lot of separate OS projects going on in New England. There’s the VOKAL project which I’m loosely involved with — and I get to work with Nicole because Bywater has the support contract! — and the VT state librarian has been talking about a statewide catalog. New Hampshire is looking at a similar thing, though I’m not sure how far along they are. And I’ve been talking back and forth with Brian Herzog about the MA Open Source Project. Looks like they’re hiring a coordinator! I only wish I could go to either one of these presentations but I’m off following my own different drummer to the Iowa Library Conference and then to BitNorth in Montreal the following weekend. If anyone goes, please do let me know how it goes. Exciting times.

an open letter to the Evergreen Community

I’ve been trying to blog less right before a weekend — convenient time for me, less convenient for readers, but I read The Equinox Promise: An Open Letter to the Evergreen Community and felt that I should pass it along. The whole LibLime thing has been sort of upsetting both because they seemed to both totally adhere to the letter of the law [and the license] and so totally run roughshod over the spirit of the open source community. I think it’s safe to say that Koha wouldn’t be where it is now without the efforts of LibLime, but I’m a little more concerned thatn usual for where it’s going. Ever since the Evergreen Conference that I went to, where I got to hang around with a lot of really excited and capable people, I’ve been pretty jazzed about Evergreen as well. Here’s hoping…

Evergreen Conference report and notes

I’ve been really lucky lately that the talks I’ve been giving have been at conferences that I’ve really enjoyed attending as well as speaking at. This past week I was in Athens, Georgia giving the closing keynote talk at the Evergreen International Conference. I was able to show up a day early and went to a full day of programs where I got to learn how the Michigan Evergreen project is doing and heard about a multi-lingual Evergreen instance in Armenia which will have documentation and catalog entries in not just three languages, but three alphabets! As you probably know, the library that I am helping automate is using Koha, not Evergreen, so I talked a little about our project and the things that make FOSS projects more similar than different.

There was a real excitement to being part of the first annual conference. People were really jazzed about Evergreen generally, and Equinox Software did a great job as one of the co-sponsors both talking about what they were doing, but keeping the conference from being a single vendor-focussed event. Karen Schneider was my main point of contact for the whole big shindig and did a wonderful job with preparation, communication and high energy on-the-ground cat herding during the conference. You can see some of the slide decks over on slideshare and I know they recorded video at many of the talks. It was so darned relaxing to be among a group of people committed both to libraries and open source projects, I almost forgot my day-to-day library job fighting with Overdrive, OCLC and Microsoft. It also fortified me for my long trip home. Here are my slides, available in the usual formats.

Thanks to all the sponsors and all the people who showed up to make this conference terrific.

little pieces of things that might interest you

A few links that have been keeping me from inbox zero for the past few weeks.

  • “…the increased popularity of the Internet in America has not been correlated with an overall increase in reported sexual offenses; overall sexual offenses against children have gone steadily down in the last 18 years” Note: this does not say “oh the internet is safe!” It just says that the internet getting more popular doesn’t correlate with sexual offenses against children. More from the Research Advisory Board of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force
  • Speaking of Berkman people, I’ll be hanging out in the Boston area over the turkey weekend and likely going to this event that Saturday. Anyone in the area should consider going, it looks like fun.
  • Evergreen is gaining traction as an ILS that works even for big/complicated systems. The Traverse Area just went live with their Evergreen implementation. Doesn’t that look nice? More about Michigan’s open source ILS project.
  • I’ve been reading more lately. I read Cory Doctorow’s book Content (my review) and think it should be required reading for librarians or anyone else in the various digital content industries. If you’d like a copy, you can read it for free online, or if you’re a librarian or a teacher, you can request a donated copy from the website. I already gave mine away.
  • FCC broadband bill passed. This might help Farmer Bob [my generic term for the people over on this side of the digital divide] get broadband.
  • Pew Report “When Technology Fails” (and even really great technology sometimes does). The results will likely not surprise the librarians. “15% of tech users were unable to fix their devices” and “48% felt discouraged with the amount of effort needed to fix the problem.”

W00T! Nothing exploded! Another Evergreen migration.

Congrats to Evette Atkin and the other superstars from the Michigan Library Consortium for getting the Branch District Library up and running on Evergreen without mishap. They give their own shoutout to Equinox for being great to work with. Yays all around.

The Michigan Library Consortium (MLC) is thrilled to announce that Branch District Library is our first Michigan Evergreen library to migrate to the open-source Evergreen software. Their new catalog is part of Michigan Evergreen, Michigan’s open-source ILS project. Migrations for the remaining Michigan Evergreen pilot libraries are scheduled for this fall.


Evergreen/Sitka in practice, practically

Before I went and gave my endnote talk at the Prairie Partnerships conference in Regina Saskatchewan, I got to pop in and see a talk about British Columbia’s Evergreen/Sitka project. The talk was split into explanation of how the project came about and then some actual demo-ing of the back end of their customized install of Evergreen. It was a great presentation. Not only was it packed with the sort of numbers and data you could take back to your director, but it made an open source ILS seem like a totally sensible and practical approach to system-wide ILSes which, of course, it is.

The BC libraries were doing a combination of some of their own modifications and working with Equinox to provide additional support and services. BC Libraries have a few computer science types on staff doing a lot of local coding. Their system runs on a single server [no big servers in every library basement!] and remote libraries connect to it via the internet without any significant lag at top load of almost 550 circs a minute!

Sharon Herbert and Sabina Iseli-Otto gave the presentation and here are just a few things I have from my notes.

  • Link to the Sitka project page. They rebranded the project SITKA from BC Pines to give it a more local BC flavor. This is just a small point but one that bears repeating, you can call your ILS anything you want. You don’t have to tell your patrons “Hey look it up in the web opac bistro portal…”
  • In addition, each separate library that is using the system will have their OPAC have its own “skin” so that it looks the library it’s a part of. You can see the skins here: Fort Nelson, Prince Rupert, Powell River. This is not big stuff but it can definitely make an online catalog
  • Searchable version of the catalogue.
  • The women on the panel recommended people read Marshall Breeding’s Library Technology report about Next Generation Library catalogs where he says that the numbers are indicating that libraries currently have “more uncertainly than trust in their library vendors”
  • The OPAC project is just part of the general strategic plan that BC Libraries are doing which includes a One Card program a build-a-website using Plone, chat reference and other features.
  • One of the fear-allaying things that they talked about was the age old “what if the internet is down?” problem. While I feel that, in 2008, making plans about what do do when your library has no internet is a little like making plans for having no electricity, it does happen and it’s useful if an OPAC can function somewhat and also gracefully recover. According to Sharon Hebert, Sitka’s ability to do this is actually fairly impressive.
  • The women stressed “gap analysis” as part of the project rollout, evaluating what is missing from what they have, and making plans to build or buy it. Apparently a known downside to Evergreen is its inability to do something (can’t recall) with serials? Not only is the BC team going to identify and try to rectify this problem, but the joy of open source means they’ll be fixing it for everyone.
  • They estimated that BC libraries spend upwards of 750K in “operating and licensing” costs for existing OPACs. With licensing down to, well, zero, this frees up a lot of cash to pay programmers and support servers and other infrastructure. The goal is to have no libraries be paying more for Sitka than they pay for their existing ILSes.

The big elegant point where was one of competence and capability. As they said “As we demonstrate successes, others come around.” This was clearly a presentation designed to show the possibilities and the capabilities of something that to many seems like far off fantasy-land ideas but they’ve made it very real and very practical. I’m glad I got the time to see this before my talk.