open source software in libraries, a query

I’m putting together a little piece about open source software, sort of showcasing how it is or can be used in libraries. Some of the tools, like Firefox or Open Office, are somewhat well known while others like VLC or are much less familiar. If your library is using an open source tool and liking it, would you mind putting a note in the comments or dropping me an email over the next week or so letting me know what you use and why you like it? Thank you.

Here are a few little things I’ve been reading on the subject this week.

– Dan Chudnov’s Talk slides: “FLOSS for Libraries: For Administrators”
– LifeHackers Geek to Live: Top 10 open source Windows apps
– Eric Goldhagen’s Open Source for Librarians powerpoint presentation.

18 thoughts on “open source software in libraries, a query

  1. Our small public library, the Portneuf District Library, Chubbuck, Idaho, currently uses Ubuntu as its operating system for most of its public terminals. Windows is only installed on one machine. We also use OpenOffice and Firefox.

    So far, they’re working fine. We’ve only had a few conversion problems on documents that were originally written in WordPerfect in the two years we’ve been using OpenSource products.

    The biggest problem we’ve run into so far is our unfamiliarity and our patrons’ unfamiliarity with Linux-based operating systems. A lot of the online help available–especially for Linux–is extremely technical.

    Sorry for going on so long. E-mail me if you want to know more about how we’re implementing OS at our library.

  2. Wow, I had a similar idea for a presentation I’d like to do. And I’ve been thinking lately (as a big Ubuntu fan) of how to set up library computers (especially the public ones) running on Ubuntu instead of Windows.

  3. Curtin University Library in Western Australia chose to implement an instant messaging service. Open-source software was used: ejabberd for the backend, jwchat as the web client and Miranda Instant Messenger as the gui interface.

    Another new addition to the library’s resources was a customisable subject guide database based on Pirate Source software created by the Joyner Library at East Carolina University.
    Podcasts and blogs have also been offered by Curtin. Audacity – open-source, sound-editing software, and copyright-free music from ccMixter, to produce podcasts on a range of topics aimed at new students, open-source blog engine b2evolution for blogs for external and internal use.

    Also been tinkering with MediaWiki as another useful open-source tool for library staff and clients.

    All have worked out pretty well. There is a paper on our experiences available at

    Always happy to chat about using open source!

  4. I’m so glad to hear that libraries are using Ubuntu!

    I can’t attest to anything open source my library is using, unfortunately. Maybe someday when I have some say in what is used.

  5. Don’t forget LAMP, which my library is using on its website & catalog (P in this case is PHP, not Perl).

  6. We’re a school and not a library, but we try to have software we think might be useful for libraries and librarians. Some of our graduates are using the open source tools. In addition to the things already mentioned, off the top of my head I can think of a few open source programs we have on the desktop-
    Gimp (image)
    Dia (for diagrams)
    R (for statistics)
    Cygwin (for GNU programs on Windows)
    GAIM (instant messaging)
    Thunderbird (email)

  7. Rural public library in Wisconsin–we use Firefox browsers on all public and staff computers except one (a staff hold-out that I can’t convince to switch). And OpenOffice on everything. I am budgeting for linux-based internet computers, to replace our ailing windows pcs at the public access stations. I’d love to learn more about using open source products–including any kind of online tools or anything that can interface with our catalog.

  8. Highline Community College Library ( has added the LibX Firefox extension to our Reference Desk computers, thanks to our wonderful media serices staff. We’re still testing it out, so we haven’t added it to our public computers in our Info Commons, but for now it’s a nice way of quickly searching our catalog without having to open a new window and go to the library homepage. It also embeds our college logo as a cue into Amazon, Google, NY Times Book Review, and some more sites so that you can just click on our logo and instantly search the catalog. pretty cool.


    we are running this on Ubuntu LAMP — and using Joomla for the CMT. We are testing all of this for a redesign of our main library site. We are also going to start installing Open Office on our public machines. We also use GIMP on select staff member machines who want to do graphics editing. :-)

  10. Hello,

    I think it is very important to provide as many tools as possible to the libraries.

    My team and I built such a tool:

    to make search in local library easier.
    It helps cross refernce Amazon best/top sellers and library catalog.

    let us know what we can add/improve.

    Thanks a lot.


  11. Hi Jess! At Sarah Lawrence we use and recommend free software all the time. Here is a list of our recommendations. About half of those are installed in labs around campus (we have a big lab in the library). We’re still looking for a secure way to include apps that run under X windows on OS X — aside from that, no problems.

  12. At our library we use Mambo server, but are also investigating Drupal as an Intranet. We don’t use it here, but I think KOHA is an excellent open source ILS. It’s at

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