Open Source Software for Libraries: Experiments

Since I first arrived at Prosentient Systems in January 2012, I’ve been working on and experimenting with open source software for libraries. Initially, I was somewhat hesitant, since my background is in English, French, and Library and Information Studies. However, the more I’ve learned and experimented, the more I’ve wanted to continue working with open source software!

To that end, I recently purchased a new desktop computer (my first since 2003). With a 2.6ghz and 4gb of RAM, it’s reasonably fast enough to do whatever I might want to do.

Step 1: Install Debian (i.e. Linux)

(This involved installing the base system, adding myself as a sudo user, getting the sound working [I like working to music] by manually editing the alsa-base.conf to detect my integrated Intel sound card, installing Chromium as a browser, setting up some firewall software, and installing vim and vim-runtime [as Debian only comes with vim-common and vim-tiny files which aren’t quite enough for my text editing needs].)

(I’ve also thought about setting up an SSH server so I can also remote into my Linux box from my Windows netbook using PuTTY, but…I’m willing to put that off for the time being.)

Step 2: Install Koha using the community-generated Debian packages


(Well, not quite. It’s 9:11pm, so it’s Doctor Who time. However, later in the week, I’m going to give it a go using the instructions available at

Since I’m already a fairly active Koha developer, I’m pretty familiar with the code, and I’ve already done quite a bit of troubleshooting, so I’m not really worried about this. I can handle MySql (the database). I can handle Zebra (the indexing engine). Admittedly, to date, I’ve only done an assisted standard install and an assisted dev install (since I didn’t have root access to the server). However, I’m pretty confident that I can get Koha up and running. Actually, after I do a standard install via the packages, I might set up a regular dev install and a standard install (from the Git clone)

I might also try installing from a downloaded Tarball, as well as setting up a dev install using “Koha Gitify”.

There are lots of different ways of obtaining Koha code and setting up an instance, and I want to try them all!)

So thinking again about the knowledge that I might need to set up Koha…I like to think again of the LAMP acronym.

L->Linux (I’ve installed Debian, and I’m reasonably proficient using the command line)
A->Apache (I see how Koha uses apache, I’ve gone through the files, and I’ve set up my own web server in the past using apache, so…it might take a few tries, but it’ll be all right)
M->Mysql (it’s a relational database. While I typically interact with it using a GUI, I’m sure I can handle it from the command-line as well. The GUI might be a bit faster and provide easier scrollback, but I can also install one if I really want to.)
P->Perl (While I still want to improve my design skills, I have yet to meet a Perl script/module in Koha that I haven’t been able to understand [thanks to my own persistence and the generous help of some very skilled and amicable Koha community developers]. Given time, all the code in Koha is understandable.)

I doubt that everyone setting up Koha is going to need to have an in-depth knowledge in all these areas, but I’m sure it helps. Hopefully, it will mean I don’t have to hassle people in #koha too much ;).

Step 3: Install DSpace


(While I have quite a bit of experience modifying the DSpace JSPUI and some of its Java classes, I don’t have extensive experience writing Java, compiling Java, working with Postgresql, or troubleshooting DSpace. So…this might be a project I leave for a little while. I’m keen, but I’m more active in the Koha community and I find that Koha is much more relevant to the majority of libraries than DSpace.)

Step 4: Who knows?

I’m thinking of trying out lots of different systems. Here is a list that I’m pondering:

1) Archivematica (originating from Vancouver, BC – it is used for digital preservation)
2) VuFind (a PHP-based discovery layer for library applications)
3) WordPress (as a Content Management System)
4) Evergreen (the open source library management system/integrated library system)
5) Drupal (the CMS)
6) Islandora (digital library/archive)
7) Fedora Repository (digital library/archive)
8) Greenstone (digital library/archive)
9) Kete (digital library/wiki?)

Does anyone have any ideas about other open source software for libraries that I haven’t mentioned and that might be worth trying out?

While I only have Linux on this machine, I could create another partition for Windows XP (I still have my old desktop install disk laying around) or I could set up a Windows XP VM in Virtual Box. So…send me a message, post a comment, or give me a shout and let me know anything else I should try.

For now…Doctor Who Series 7 Finale!