I attended the Evolution of open source library systems seminar run and sponsored by PTFS Europe at Loughborough University yesterday. It proved to be a very informative and encouraging day.
There were no fewer than 57 attendees, from a mix of public, university and special libraries, which gives a clue to the burgeoning interest in open source LMS in the UK. The open source LMS has been increasingly adopted in the US for a while now, to the extent where it is not regarded as unusual, and companies have sprung up to support it. However, it has been slower to take off in the UK, perhaps because of the percieved need for your own roomful of techies to install it and pander to its every whim, but the advent of support companies like PTFS (and they are only one of several) in the UK and Europe are changing:
Several speakers set out clearly the thinking behind open source solutions, from setting out a business case (Ken Chad) through the history, development and current state of open source systems, specifically Koha and Evergreen (Nick Dimant), via technical background (Jonathan Field). There was also a presentation from Dave Parkes and Paul Johnson at Staffordshire University on their (very rapid – 6 months from decision to live!) implemetation of Koha – the first at a UK university. PTFS also outlined other products they are involved in supporting or developing as well as their ArchivalWare digital archiving software:
VuFind open source library resource portal vufind.org/
PTFS Reading list software – very new
…which goes to show they’re not just about open source LMS.
The overall feeling of the day was that open source is now very much a viable option, and one which gives the opportunity for a stable support network with contractual obligation through companies like PTFS coupled with the possibility of great flexibility and customisability in a potentially very agile environment. Apparently it doesn’t take very long to get things fixed, either! Is this the future, then? Many proprietory LMS vendors hope not…..