Archive for the ‘Open Source’ Category.

Automation and Small Libraries, and CornerThing

The situation hasn’t really changed in the world of library automation since last year’s post.  Libraries find what works for them, given their  economic and human resources.  What is different, is a new tool, developed with some virtual interns.  I call it CornerThing, because I’m not very creative with names. 🙂

I’ve got these small libraries (American Corners), where, for some of them, their “automation” consists of massive spreadsheets.  And LibraryThing.  Checkouts are still done by hand on cards.  They compile reports by hand, going through the cards each month, to send to me, or one of my colleagues.  It seemed like there must be an app to use LibraryThing to do more than just display a collection.  I searched and checked as only a Reference Librarian would. 🙂  Nothing was out there.  So how hard could it be to make an app that could capture checkout statistics (the part I was interested in)?

I originally wanted an iPad app, but rather than spend precious little free time on it myself, I decided to get a couple interns who we willing to learn some new skills while creating a simple app.  It was an interesting experience.  I didn’t get an iPad app, because no one applied for that project.  Several applied for the Android app project I added almost as an afterthought (why not? More options!).  So I got an Android app, now in beta, which about 1/3 of those small libraries, which already have Android tablets, can use.

CornerThing:  it syncs with a LibraryThing collection, downloading the metadata to the device, into a lightweight searchable database.  Subsequent “syncs” only add changes.  It’s possible to add an item in the app, but the syncing is not two-way.  Then there’s a searchable database for borrowers, entered on the fly, or by uploading a spreadsheet file (via computer connection).  Items from the collection can be checked out to borrowers, with a due date, and checked back in.  When an item is checked out, the data is captured on the item record and preserved.  Once the item is checked back in, the connection between the borrower and item is erased, but the numerical data on checkouts is retained on the item record, so reports can be generated by selected metadata (e.g., author, title, keyword).

CornerThing: a simple circulation app for small libraries (like American Corners) to take advantage of their LibraryThing collections.  I’m pretty sure it would work for other small libraries with limited resources. 🙂  It’s also open source. If you’re interested, send me a message.

Comparing Digital Library Systems

I am currently evaluating options for implementing a digital library.  It’s an ongoing process. :o)  Since there are probably more proprietary systems out there, I’m hoping people will leave comments letting me know about them (same thing for open source).  I’ll post the charted results when I’m done (hopefully in the near future).

There are several digital asset management systems for digital libraries. On the proprietary side (closed source) there are (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • ContentDM (OCLC): software that handles the storage, management and delivery of library digital collections to the Web
  • DigiTool (ExLibris)
  • Archivalware (PTFS): a web-based, full-text search and retrieval content management system.
  • SKCA (CuadraStar):  Star Knowledge Center for Archives
  • Eloquent: A suite of applications, Librarian (ILS), Archives (software for physical archives management). Records (records management), Museum, which can be purchased individually or combined for a complete content management system (Museum+Librarian+Archives).
  • Mint: a “cultural asset management system” mix of their individual products M2A (archives), M2L (libraries), and M3 (museums).  Based in Canada (Link updated).
  • PastPerfect: primarily for museums, includes library integration.
  • Proficio: collections management system from Re:discovery.
  • Gallery Systems: a suite of software products for management and web publishing
  • Questor Argus: Collection management and portal software (Link updated).
  • Mimsy XG: collection management and web publishing software (Link updated).
  • IDEA: content management and web publishing software, with modules for libraries, archives, and museums
  • EMu: Museum and Archive management software from KEsoft, (includes web publishing)
  • Digital Commons: A repository system developed by Berkeley Electronic Press.  They set up and maintain a hosted site.
  • SimpleDL: options for hosted library or licensed software on a local server.  Unfortunately, there is not much information on who, what, or how within the site.
  • AdLib: Library, archival, and museum software systems from Adlib Information Systems.  There is a free “lite” version of the Library and Museum software (requires registration).

On the open source side, there are (also not an exhaustive list):

  • CollectiveAccess: a highly configurable cataloguing tool and web-based application for museums, archives and digital collections. There is a demo to try it out. (Link updated).
  • Greenstone: a suite of software for building and distributing digital library collections.Greenstone is produced by the New Zealand Digital Library Project
  • Omeka: a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions.  There is a sandbox to try it out.
  • DSpace: software to host and manage subject based repositories, dataset repositories or media based repositories
  • ResourceSpace: a web-based, open source digital asset management system which has been designed to give your content creators easy and fast access to print and web ready assets.)
  • CDS Invenio:  a suite of applications which provides the framework and tools for building and managing an autonomous digital library server. (Link updated).
  • Islandora: A project combining Fedora and Drupal (web content management system).  It has a VirtualBox demo download available. (Link updated).
  • Razuna: an open source digital asset management with hosting options and consulting services to set up and deploy the system.
  • Digital Collection Builder (DCB):  from, a software distribution built from the Qubit Toolkit for Libraries & Museums. (Updated URL goes to tools)
  • ICA-AtoM Project: (“International Council on Archives – Access to Memory”): a software distribution built from the Qubit Toolkit, for Archives.  An online demo is available, as well as a downloadable version (update: see this site for currently supported version).
  • CollectionSpace: a collections management system and collection information system platform, primarily for museums. Current version is 0.6
  • NotreDAM: Open source system developed in Italy by Sardegna Richerche.  A demo (updated URL; software on GitHub) is available, as well as documentation (update: see GitHub project page).  It is not a trivial install, requiring two instances of Ubuntu 9.10, but there is a VirtualBox (update: see GitHub location) instance for evaluation purposes. (Link updated).

There is also repository software, like Fedora, which can be used with a discovery interface such as Blacklight, or Islandora.

The main difference between proprietary systems and the open source systems listed above is economics.  While the argument in the past has been that open source systems are not as developed and require more in-house expertise to implement, that is not the case any more.  For one thing, even proprietary systems require in-house expertise in varying levels in order to realize full functionality of their features (see, e.g., Creating an Institutional Repository for State Government Digital Publications).  For another, as the number of libraries implementing Digital Libraries with resource discovery have increased, development of Digital Asset Management Systems has matured beyond the Alpha, and sometimes even Beta, stage.  Open source Systems which did not reach critical mass have quietly died or been absorbed into better supported products.  In the proprietary field, systems typically are developed within a parent organization that includes other software, such as an Integrated Library System, whose profits support R&D for the DAM.

So, while economics should broadly encompass all aspects of  implementation, including time and asset costs, in this case the economics is primarily the money involved, since the difference in the other factors has pretty much been leveled.  With any system, you will be involved in user forums, in bug fix requests, in creating (or updating) documentation, in training, in local tweaking, with or without outside help.  Proprietary systems are currently asking between $10,000 and $20,000 per year for a (relatively) small archive, from what I have seen and heard.

Another issue which may come up is “Cloud Computing.”  Proprietary vendors (and even some open source systems) offer the option of hosting your digital library repository (where all the digital objects live) on their servers.  The issue with remote hosting, of course, is control.  Who has ultimate control and responsibility for the items in the repository?  If the archive is intended to be open and public, the issue is more one of accountability and curation:  how securely is the data being backed up, and what is/will be done to ensure long term viable access?

If the archive is intended to be for local use only (for example, on an intranet), the issues change dramatically regarding remote hosting by an outside vendor.  It is no longer just a matter of secure backups, but the security of the system itself.  Who can access the respository?  How secure is the repository from outside crackers?  With even Google admitting to a breach of their network security, how much security can be expected from a vendor?

In some cases, we may want both public and private (local) access to archive materials.  While originally my thinking was to simply control access using the metadata for each object, others more experienced than I am recommend creating separate repositories for public and private archives, which adds another layer of complexity.

UPDATE:  Added Digital Collection Builder (DCB) and ICAToAtoM (2010/5/5)

UPDATE: Added CollectionSpace, Eloquent, Mint, PastPerfect, Proficio, Gallery Systems, Questor Argus, Mimsy XG, IDEA, EMu, and Digital Commons (2010/5/21)

UPDATE: Added SimpleDL, AdLib, and NotreDAM (2010/6/10)

UPDATE:  Fixed broken links:  Mint, DSpace, Islandora demo, removed reference to online demo for Digital Collection Builder (2011/4/11)

UPDATE: Multiple broken links updated (2016/08/07)

Software Freedom Day again!

September 19 this year!  Unfortunately, the date, selected by an international committee, is also on Rosh Hoshanna.  I think groups in some areas have changed the date for their events 🙂

In another unfortunate turn of events (or not, depending on your point of view), I had to pass my role as organizer for our local event to others in the Palm Beach Linux User Group.  The good news is they’re doing a better job of it!  The local Software Freedom Day event in Palm Beach County this year will be at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.  If you’re reading this and you’re from the south Florida area  contact Bill Hall (pbclug at comcast + dot + net) or me (leave a comment below).  They’re looking for presenters, people who want to help set up, share, or just spread the word!

See the page at Software Freedom Day for more details!

See you there!

Drupal, Google Calendars, and cool people

A friend was looking for a way to communicate with employees without having to send e-mails, since not everyone checks their e-mail regularly, or even thinks to check their e-mail these days.  All of the employees, however, work at a computer for at least part of the day.  Several months ago I had found a way to have the current day’s events listed on each computer’s desktop by using Windows Active Desktop, which will display a web page.  Unfortunately, IT people intervened after a couple months and disabled the Active Desktop feature on most of the computers. That left using live web sites, accessed with a browser, as the only option.

The first issue was to set up something that the friend, who has moderate computer skills, could handle.  We also needed a site that could restrict access to the information being posted.  A bonus would be finding a way to easily display the current day’s scheduled events on the site as well.  An even bigger bonus would be a “solution” that integrated room scheduling with displaying the schedules on the site, especially if that solution would prevent overbooking.  And, of course, the kicker is that it all has to be free.

My friend thought the limitations of using a browser and Internet to access posts and information were acceptable.  We could place shortcuts on the desktop, or make the site the browser homepage, and let the staff know about it.  The staff were grateful to have something after the current events schedule disappeared from their desktops.

Except for the site itself, everything did turn out to be free.  But since I happen to have a hosted account with an obscene amount of space and bandwidth that will never get used, it seemed like a good place to experiment for the benefit of my friend.  Since I already have several sites running Drupal, that was my CMS of choice.  It is free, and has a large, active community supporting it.

So I set up a new site, required a login to view the content, gave my friend just enough access to publish stories, and logged into the site from all the location’s computers, instructing Internet Explorer to remember the username and password.  So far so good.  Pretty simple and straightforward.

Then Internet Explorer stopped remembering the username and password (there was probably some kind of staff intervention involved, but I decided to see if I could find a fix that would outsmart them).  A quick search of the modules section of Drupal turned up Persistent Login.  This works great until they start clearing the cookies.

The next request was from my friend for an RTF type editor, to be able to use different fonts and colors in the posts. That was solved with the TinyMCE Wysiwyg module. Then I turned my attention to finding a way to get a daily events listing posted dynamically.

Enter Google Calendar, which has XML feeds.  After trying out several ways to get the feeds onto the site using the FeedAPI module, the Views module, and the CCK module, I began searching through the discussion groups on Drupal.  I came across a discussion that referred to a new module being developed to do just what I was looking for: GCal Events.  Jeff Simpson, the hero here, without any previous experience creating modules for Drupal, put it together, tweaked it and fixed bugs based on our feedback, and has now put it in the projects section of Drupal:

Since the site for my friend was already up and running, I set up a test site that mirrored the other site’s setup:  With the development snapshot of the GCal Events module installed, which has some tweaks and bug fixes applied after the official release was put up, everything ran great.  So I enabled the module on my friend’s site.  Scheduled events for the day are pulled from a Google calendar and displayed on the right column.

The last issue was to set up the Google calendar account to work as a room scheduling “solution.”  There are 3 rooms at this location that are reserved for various uses.  Several people in different departments were using 3 different calendar books to block out reserved times.  On a few occasions, events have been overbooked.  The books can also be hard to locate if someone has taken them for awhile.  Google calendars seemed like an easy, free, and obvious answer:

  1. More than one calendar can be created within an account
  2. Calendars can be shared with other google accounts
  3. Event times in a calendar cannot overlap (which prevents overbooking)

On the main Google calendar account, I set up calendars for each of the rooms that can be booked.  I then shared the calendars with others who would be booking the rooms, allowing them to make changes (so they can add events).  Since the calendars represent the rooms being booked, it is not necessary to fill in the location field, making a “quick add” possible through the popup that appears when clicking on a time space within the calendar (day or week view).

On the site using the calendar feeds, I set up a separate GCal Event feed for each of the calendars, so events are displayed by room.  The only glitch, which was fairly easy to fix, was a piece of php code that refreshes the cache once a week instead of every day (thanks to jdwfly’s post in the discussion:

I love open source software.  And I love the people that are part of it.  Thanks, Jeff!

Software Freedom Day 2008!

Software Freedom Day in Palm Beach County

The Palm Beach County Linux User Group is proud to announce its third Software Freedom Day/Installfest as part of Software Freedom Day 2008, the biggest international celebration and outreach event for Software Freedom, with hundreds of teams from all around the world participating. The yearly event is a celebration of Software Freedom and why it is important. This year the Palm Beach County Linux User Group will be hosting the event at the West Boynton Branch Library, 9451 Jog Road, Boynton Beach, Florida, from 10:00 AM to 12:00 P.M. on Saturday, September 20, 2008.  Google map available here.


West Boynton Beach Library

West Boynton Beach Library


As part of the Software Freedom Day celebration this year, the Palm Beach County Linux User Group will be offering assistance with installing free portable software on USB flash drives, giving away CD’s with free and open source software for Windows and Macintosh computers, and demonstrating how to use the free software.

We invite you to come by for giveaways, demonstrations, and to learn about Linux, a free and open source operating system available for any type of computer.