Trademark battles – Koha, LibLime, US, New Zealand

I’ve been reading articles for the past few days talking about the ongoing debate between LibLime/PTFS and the Koha community working on a different version of the same software. Here is an article from Linux Weekly from last year describing the forking issue, the point at which LibLime/PTFS started independently developing their own version of the open source ILS Koha. Recently LibLime was granted the use of the trademark Koha in and around New Zealand according to their press release though it’s not entirely clear if a Maori word can even be trademarked. The Koha community centered around the original code at the Horowhenua Library Trust is concerned that PTFS will not make a good faith effort to do what it says it’s interested in doing: transferring the rights to the trademark back to the community. They are concerned that there will be a legal fight and are requesting donations and other support. Meanwhile LibLime appears to have lost significant ground to other versions of Koha according to the Library Technology Guide’s ILS turnover chart for last year. Seems like a good point in time for the libraries who are using LibLime/PTFS’s version of Koha to step up and make sure that their own vision of the open source community and their products is being respected and upheld by the companies who they are paying. Further reading on this topic is available at this Zotero group.

library blogs & news quicklist

I don’t get time to sit down and read blogs as much as I used to, but I still see them scooting through my feed reader, or in the profiles of people following me on Twitter, or sometimes just linked in random places. A few I’ve been enjoying lately.

on heroism

People who follow my other online adventures may already know that I quit my library job, the automation project that I was so proud of. I didn’t really quit, I’ll still be helping, but I took myself off the project as “the person in charge of the project.”

It’s a not-entirely-long story but the upshot was that once we finished the obvious To Do list [getting books scanned and item and patron records into the catalog] the remainder of the work was muddy. The librarian and I had different opinions on what needed to happen next [in my mind: flip the switch and work out the bugs; in her mind: get the data clean and do staff training and write documentation and then flip the switch]. I realized that the quick and dirty automation project which I’d been doing for low pay, about 2-4 hours per week, that I was hoping to be finished with by early this year, was likely to go on sort of forever. I didn’t want a forever-job and couldn’t see a way to wrap it up with only my own toolkit.

I’m not entirely comfortable with the way everything worked out, unclearly and with an uncertain “what next” point. I’ve suggested someone who I think can pick up where I left off, but he’s not me and the library really seemed to like me. That said, after a lot of thinking on this, I realized that I was trying too hard to be the hero, the librarian that sweeps in and takes the tiny rural library and automates it in something akin to the rural electrification project. Cracking the whip, keeping the momentum up all the way to the end.

I really wanted to do this job, without thinking hard enough about whether the non-me aspects of this project were amenable to the task. As Alex Payne says in his “Don’t be a Hero” essay (about programming but it applies everywhere)

Heroes are damaging to a team because they become a crutch. As soon as you have someone who’s always willing to work at all hours, the motivation from the rest of the team to produce reliable, trouble-free software drops. The hero is a human patch. Sure, you might sit around talking about how reliability is a priority, but in the back of your mind you know that the hero will be there to fix what doesn’t work.

For whatever reason, I didn’t get the feeling that the library was learning to use the tools themselves, I got the feeling that they were getting used to me being available to solve problems and answer questions. I’m certain this problem is as much my responsibility, if not more, than theirs, but I’d gotten to a point where I literally could not see a way out of it. And I dreaded going to work. And I couldn’t see a solution.

The Koha consortium project in the state is doing well and I have no doubt the library will automate. The librarian wants it to happen, though her timeline is unclear. I vacillate back and forth between thinking that the work I did was uniquely valuable and integral to the library being able to automate at all, ever, and feeling like a bit of a quitter, leaving the project when it started to bog down and get tough. I’m lucky in that I have a lot of real-life and online friends who have been supportive of my decision, but it’s still one of the tougher ones I’ve made in the last few months. [rc3]

what happens when you don’t get what you pay for

Nicole wonders aloud why people who paid for an Open Source OPAC from LibLime aren’t raising hell when they are instead pressured to accept the closer-source version instead?

So why are these librarians taking it? Why are they being quiet? I don’t have an answer for you – and so I’m hoping someone out there can answer this for me. If you signed a contract for one product and then are told you have to use another – do you just say okay? or do you move on or demand the product you originally wanted. I think that the result of the Queens Library law suit will be very interesting – but I’m shocked that this is the first!! Librarians have been just taking these hits and coming back for more.

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.