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The news, reported in an article by Marshall Breeding in American Libraries, that EBSCO has decided to support a new open source library services platform is a fascinating development.  To join with Kuali OLE but to develop what will essentially be a different open source product is a big development for the library technology sector.     It’s particularly interesting that EBSCO has gone the route of providing financial support to an open source system, rather than buying a library systems company.  The scope and timescales are ambitious, to have something ready for 2018.

Open source library management systems haven’t have the impact that systems like Moodle have had in the virtual learning environment sector and in some ways it is odd that academic libraries haven’t been willing to adopt such a system, given that universities do seem to have an appetite for open source software.   Maybe open source library systems products haven’t been developed sufficiently to compete with commercial providers.    Software as a Service (SaaS) is coming to be accepted now by corporate IT departments as a standard method of service provision, something that I think a couple of the commercial providers realised at quite an early stage, so it is good to see this initiative recognising that reality.  It will be interesting to see how this develops

Kuali OLE screenshot 0.6 beta

Screenshot of Kuali OLE beta 0.6

Last week SCONUL organised a very useful and informative seminar on the Kuali OLE library management system platform in London.  A very timely session, given that the Bloomsbury consortium of academic libraries in London have recently made an in principle decision to adopt it for their next LMS.

So it was a good opportunity to hear about Kuali OLE from Robert McDonald Director of Kuali OLE Community Development about the background and philosophy of Kuali, and also from various people involved in the Bloomsbury consortium about their thinking.

One of the things that I hadn’t really appreciated about Kuali OLE was that it came out of a feeling that existing vendor-developed and open source library management systems weren’t offering what libraries wanted and that the group wanted a more community-based approach.  Robert’s presentation (embedded below and on slideshare at http://www.slideshare.net/rhmcdonald/sconul-kuali-ole-briefing) gave a good run through of the history and roadmap for Kuali OLE and filled in a lot of the gaps about the work.

With developments funded initially with money from the Mellon foundation Kuali OLE is working towards 0.8 and 1.0 code releases during 2013, with early adopters getting ready to move to production readiness.   Work is also planned with the GoKB project which is working on a community source e-resource knowledge base (and has some common ground with the UK Knowledge Base+ project) and with looking at cloud hosting arrangements, something that’s of interest to me particularly at the moment.  It was interesting to hear about how Kuali OLE integrates more closely with other products from the Kuali family, although I’m not aware of the extent that Kuali products are in use in UK HE so far.

One of the things I hadn’t completely grasped about the Kuali model was that Kuali were using commercial developers to write the code on essentially a contract basis.  As open source it raises the possibility of groups of customers working together to fund developments in Kuali to meet their particular needs, rather than having to do the developments themselves.  There is a demo of version 0.6 of Kuali OLE available at http://demo.ole.kuali.org/ole-demo/portal.jsp

It was useful to hear some of the thinking behind the Bloomsbury consortium wanting to go this route.  That they saw Kuali OLE as being less risky, and not tying them to into a particular vendor, where they didn’t necessarily see themselves as running the system, but of procuring a hosting/management arrangement to run the system.  It was interesting to hear the idea that you could relocate your system to another host if the price became advantageous applied to library systems.  I know quite a few libraries are approaching the end of life for new systems and are thinking of the option of the new generation of ‘all-in-one’ library platforms, such as Alma or Intota so this is a different alternative and food for thought.

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