Open source software could save libraries! Maybe!*
There are opportunities for open source to help save the day for libraries, ending many of librarians' and library users' woes.
Library technology is, not to put too fine a point on it, kind of a mess right now. Hundreds of vendors are selling proprietary software “solutions” which may or may not offer APIs. These products are almost universally difficult to use and to manage and much less interoperable than they should be. As a library web designer and developer, I end up cobbling things together as best I can, trying to offer a decent user experience (UX) to my patrons, but it’s still unnecessarily complex and messy.
Open source software (OSS) is helping, a little, but it’s still seen as kind of a niche market, something only worth doing if you have a developer on staff. It’s also, by necessity, taking the same fragmented approach as the vendor products; so, a library utilizing OSS, right now, might still not offer better UX than one that goes with vendors.
The way I see it, there are two opportunities for open source to help save the day: 1) gradually replace more of the fragmented, expensive vendor products with well-built, scalable OSS; and 2) use the scalability and openness of OSS to get rid of the fragmentation and make everything more cleanly interoperable.
• Getting Buy-in on User Centricity - LITA National Forum Presentation, 11/10/2013. Slides: http://www.slideshare.net/csheldonhess/lita-forum
• Anchorage Programming Workshop - Anchorage Mini-Maker Faire Presentation, 7/27/2013. Slides: http://www.slideshare.net/csheldonhess/anchorage-programming-workshop-short-presentation-for-minimaker-faire
• Librarians Build Communities: Advocacy Through Volunteerism - Pacific Northwest Library Association Annual Conference Presentation, 8/3/2012. Slides: http://www.slideshare.net/csheldonhess/librarians-build-communities-advocacy-through-volunteerism
• Tune In, Turn On, and Get Social - Alaska Library Association Annual Conference Panel, 3/2/2014.
• Back in the Stacks, Bringing Professional Organization into Professional Life - ACRL New Members Discussion Group Panel Discussion at American Library Association Midwinter Meeting, 1/27/2013.
University of Alaska Anchorage
Coral Sheldon-Hess is the Web Services Librarian for the University of Alaska Anchorage. She was a 2012 American Library Association Emerging Leader and a 2010 participant in the Pacific Northwest Library Association’s Leadership Institute. She holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh and an MS in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon. In her spare time she co-founded and now co-manages a programming workshop for women-and-friends, makes things, bicycles (poorly), and evangelizes on behalf of the Oxford comma. She likes birds and coffee.