Friday, October 27, 2006

LITA Forum 2006 - Open Source Installfest II

Friday's second session of the Open Source Installfest found Amy De Groff and Luis Salazar of the Howard County Library in Maryland presenting the story of the migration of their 270 public pcs to the Linux distro Groovix.

Although the name suggests visions of love beads and lava lamps, this is a modern, mainstream Linux based on Ubuntu and supported by the company Open Sense Solutions.
Similar to the perhaps better known Canadian company Userful, Open Sense allows customers to leverage the power of Linux by creating multiuser clusters with multiple keyboards, video displays and mice sharing a single PC.

Howard County Library had initially migrated to Linux two years ago with a custom distro they called LuMix, after the first initials of the two members of their IT staff who created it. Offering patrons (or as they preferred to call them, customers) a Gnome desktop and a collection of open source applications, the library elected to continue along this path this year, but chose to go with a vendor-based solution to save staff time and resources.

The key to public acceptance of a non-Microsoft environment seems to be aggressive promotion of the cost advantages of open source, plus a consistent emphasis on working the problems as they occurred until a solution could be found. For example, when open source pdf programs did not support the forms features required by IRS tax forms, the library added the proprietary Adobe Acrobat to its systems. When a subscription database did not support the Firefox browser, it was found that Opera could handle the site, and it was added to patron systems.

Attendees were given LiveCDs of the distro to use during the session, booting the otherwise Windows pcs in the Nashville Public Library's computer lab into Groovix (and given the discs to take home and play with).

The session concluded with a discussion other open source programs of interest to libraries, including the Georgia PINES Evergreen open source library automation system, and several attendees expressed the desire to learn more about it, perhaps by visiting Georgia.

Although not exactly an "installfest" in the classic sense, this two-day preconference was both enjoyable and informative.

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