Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Monday Evening Dinner

Dinner was delicious. Thank you Boston Public Library!

The evening gathering was highlighted by the light and witty comments of Elizabeth Thomas who took the audience, at least the "old people down memory lane. Sharing her first technical library job of threading catalog cards together with 100% cotton string and using that "floppy sorty thing" under the direction of properly bunned Ms. Bartlett, Thomas created a visual of a woman "particular about her drawers" who instilled such fear in Thomas's coworker, that she dropped the cards with difficult filing rules down the elevator shaft. From that point on Thomas questioned the integrity of any catalog database, and abandoned library work for some years while she registered dead birds for the Allied American Bird Company. She still recalls: Code 425 Deadbirds; Code 424 Presumed Deadbirds..... The experience lead her to seek other employment and she returned to library work, where despite some success as a Children's Librarian, she faultered until her Uncle Max gave her the best advice of her career, these four words that changed her life: "Can you help me?". Thomas explained that people like to help. So if you give them a specific request to respond to, they are almost always likely to want to aid you. She never stopped at asking people just once. She tried a second and a third, but last time, only giving up after the third try, a rule she fondly calls the: "duck, duck, goose rule of giving".

The latter half of the meeting was filled with audience participation:

Scott Colford facilitated this part, beginning with a PowerPoint presentation on Open Source: What does it really mean? It was a brief discussion of the genesis of the free software movement,and brought home the point that Open Source is like "free speech, not like free beer".
He reminded the audience that many have used Open Source for a long time. Some popular programs are Firefox, Lynx, OpenOffice, WordPress, Apache, Moveabletype, various Wikis
This was followed by "burning thoughts" at the mike:

Greg shared his view that software should start saving libraries time in delivery and circulation functions. With 15,000,000 items circulated in Massachusetts each year, saving just 5 seconds per item would be a great time and money saving step. .

Michael wanted to stress two things about Open Source. It isn't so much about saving money as it is about shifting where resources go. And what was discussed at the meetings was not the only Open Source applications for libraries, but for other applications, such as textbooks.

And another participant said: "Proprietary software is bondage. Libraries should use only free software."

Still another said: "I don't want to have to think about what my software does."

From Barbara: "... there are more than academic and public libraries. Proprietary software serves the needs of many small special libraries."

Michael: "MassCat is starting their Open Source software implementation with small libraries."

Nora said: "I have no thoughts...its open bar. .. but then added, without having small libraries implement Open Source themselves, we are offering support and moving slowly (with implementation). We started with the RFP thing and only ended up with our current vendor bid and two Open Source vendors. We needed to be able to shut the Circulation piece off for those who didn't want to use it. She said that libraries will pay full freight (total cost) if they use the full system (Core ILS)(Nora Blake is the administrator for MassCat).

Some other thoughts: Because you can change the code, everyone doesn't have to and everyone doesn't want to. There is the cost of support. The high cost of participation in User Groups for proprietary software balances the cost of implementing Open Source. Advocating for change for Proprietary software is also time consuming.

John: Just because you have a one person library doesn't mean that you can't be innovative. They will come up with innovations too. Having worked for an ILS vendor for a short time, he felt he was often lying: "Everything we said we could do, we could not do." Open source is more honest.

Diane: "There is an underlying assumption in this discussion that the data will be the same tomorrow as it was today. Flexible data management and handling is the new data format. If you are providing services, and only using MARC data than you are not thinking toward the future and are absolutely not poised to handle new data. RDA is a new imperative. No one knows what OCLC will be doing.

Eric read from his tight tiny notes: Open Source is "free as in free kittens". Important for everyone to understand: its not necessary to write a computer program. The program comes with many configuration Writing documentation and suggesting changes requires extra responsibilites. Other things to explore: API - Application Program Interfaces. OAI, OpenURL,

Rob said he was "flying high" from this conference, but not from the wine. He wanted to make "four points":

Open Source provides us with a pallette. a way of releasing our (library profession's) creativity.
It is another way to serve the people we must.
State Aid review committee couldn't find a way to promote this innovative spirit, however, MLA endorsed the "innovation" award idea and the first will be given at this conference.

Joan: Later this year we hope to implement 'The Library Thing' through C/W MARS. People who are not necessarily directors may gather together and help develop ideas that could be used throughout the state. A common discovery platform will be explored by C/W MARS

And Michael Colford ended with: One thing I like about Open Source is that it allows the collaborative spirit in Massachusetts to work together.

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