A bit more on that project, then —
What I’m doing is basically a kind of low-intensity research on open source software in libraries. I’ve a particular interest in Koha, the open source ILS, since the South Central Library System is in the process of switching to Koha from Sirsi Horizon (and having used the Sirsi-Dynix staff interface, I can tell you, it is about time). I’ll be collecting resources in a del.icio.us account which is feeding to this blog over to your right there, and writing up evaluations on some of them as I go along.
Koha is a fully open-source, standards-compliant and platform-independent ILS, currently in version 3.0.3. As an open source product, it is released for free under the General Public License, and libraries are free to install and use it themselves, for no charge, if they have the expertise to do so. Koha’s parent company, LibLime, offers paid support, as do a number of other companies.
Developed originally in New Zealand, Koha is currently in use on six continents, in a wide variety of libraries and library systems, including the Delhi Public Library in India and the Hawaii State Archives. (Or, for a public library catalog, check out the Grand County, Utah Public Library.) Koha supports a number of Web 2.0 techniques, including tagging, and as an open source product is fully customizable.
There are a lot of other opportunities for open source software in libraries too, though, from OpenOffice to Gimp and more, and I don’t want to neglect those. As budgets get tighter, free software (even if it requires a support contract or extra IT hours) can be a huge benefit to libraries. Above and beyond that, though, is the idea of open source — that people should be able to understand what they use, to craft it to fit their needs, and to have ready access to the resources that are important to them. That’s very similar to the mission of public libraries, and one I think librarians ought to endorse.