Library 2.0 Gang 10/09: Can the Open Source ILS Business Scale?

By Richard Wallis |

The current landscape for open source library systems could be characterised as a hand full of companies, often populated by open source enthusiasts and evangelists, with a handful of staff supporting a couple of handfuls of contracts with libraries to install/enhance/support either a Koha or Evergreen system. The largest and most well known player in the sector being LibLime who say that they have “helped hundreds of libraries around the globe upgrade to open source.”

The ethos of the open source community is all about sharing innovation, code, resources, and ideas for the benefit of all. The usual business model for these companies is for them to be contracted to create and locally enhance an instance of the software at a library. It is usual for any enhancements to the system that are paid for by the contracting library, to be contributed back to the source code for the benefit of the whole community.

In comparison with the rest of the library world, supported by the traditional, closed source, vendors, the open source sector is still fairly small. The question I put to the Gang this month was “Can the open source sector scale?”. Will it be able to grow in it’s current form to become a significant alternative to the commercial vendors?

To help Carl Grant, Frances Haugen, and Marshall Breeding kick the topic around, we were joined by Brendan A. Gallagher, CEO of ByWater Solutions.

Brendan’s introduction describing how a small company operated in this market formed the basis for a wide ranging discussion. We touched on the motivations of those involved with open source systems, and whether there is a fundamental conflict between being a significant member of a community, and the operational realities of running a successful commercial organisation. When comparing the successes of the wider open source world such as Mozilla and Linux, with comparative niche of library software there were key differences around size and leadership.

Latterly we moved on to external influences such as the current economic climate, and the evolution of the ILS market place away from what are the ILS systems today. Another enlightening conversation around the virtual Gang table.

Library 2.0 Gang 10/09 [00:48m]:Download
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