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Open source thought experiment

There was a great post to NGC4Lib list (ngc4lib = "Next Generation Catalogs for libraries") yesterday by Joe Lucia, the University Librarian
at Villanova
, entitled a "thought experiment." In it, Lucia describes how to create next generation library systems via an open source collaborative commons. WOW!, a university librarian suggesting that a bunch of libraries get together to build an open source development system?! Thanks Joe Lucia for starting this conversation. I really hope it becomes more than simply a "thought experiment." Here’s one of the juicier bits:

If we look beyond money to personnel, the option looks even better. Let me suggest some numbers. What if, in the U.S., 50 ARL libraries, 20 large public libraries, 20 medium-sized academic libraries, and 20 Oberlin group libraries anted up one full-time technology position for collaborative open source development. That’s 110 developers working on library applications with robust, quickly-implemented current Web technology — not legacy stuff. There is not a company in the industry that I know of which has put that much technical effort into product development. With such a cohort of developers working in libraries on library technology needs — and in light of the creativity and thoughtfulness evident on forums like this one — I think we would quickly see radical change in the library technology arena. Instead of being technology followers, I venture to say that libraries might once again become leaders. Let’s add to the pool some talent from beyond the U.S. — say 20 libraries in Canada, 10 in Australia, and 10 in the U.K. put staff into the pool. We’ve now got 150 developers in this little start-up. Then we begin pouring our current software support funds into regional collaboratives. Within a year or two, we could be re-directing 10s of millions of dollars into regional technology development partnerships sponsored by and housed within the regional consortia, supporting and extending the work of libraries. The potential for innovation and rapid deployment of new tools boggles the mind. The resources at our disposal in this scenario dwarf what any software vendor in our small application space is ever going to support. And, as is implicit in all I’ve said, the NGC is just the tip of the iceberg.


[Thanks OSS4lib list!]

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