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Clifford Lynch clarifies views relative to open source ILS efforts

This morning I contacted Clifford Lynch, Executive Director for the Coalition for Networked Information regarding the quote that was attributed to him in the white paper authored by Stephen Abram that that has caused a firestorm on Twitter today.

Here is the response that I received and am posting with his permission:

I don't think that I ever wrote those words down in an article; I suppose I may have said something to that effect in an interview or q&a in some conference program like ALA Top Tech, though perhaps no quite as strongly as it's expressed here. I have without question spoken out about my concerns regarding investment in open source ILS development in the last few years. IF I did say this, it feels like it's used a little out of context -- or maybe the better characterization is over-simplistically -- in the report.

Perhaps the most useful thing to do would be to simply and briefly restate my current views on this. You are welcome to quote or share this; it would probably be best to use it in its entirety if you do.

I am very concerned that there are unrealistic expectations about what can be accomplished in terms of economic payoff or improvement in quality of service in the ILS world through investment in the re-implementation of traditional ILS systems; there is a mature, competitive market in such systems, and I question whether the choice to invest in developing an open source ILS makes sense given very constrained resources. The issue here is investment priorities. If we choose to do this, we need to be very clear about what we are trying to accomplish, and how the open source implementation gets us there. Also, there's a lot of confusion among the ideas of open source as a way of disseminating the results of research and allowing others to build upon the research, the idea of open source (or community source) as a means of engineering and developing a system that is conceptually fairly mature and can serve as a collective good, and the possibility and effectiveness of open or community source programs as a means of doing collective research and development.

I think there are still major problems -- many of which we really don't know how to solve effectively, and which call for sustained and extensive research and development -- in various areas where ILS get involved in information discovery and the support of research and teaching. While I'm not opposed to seeing an open source ILS -- who could be? -- and recognize that it could be very useful, particularly as a platform for research and future innovation, open source re-implementation of current ILS functionality will not be a panacea for these still-unsolved challenges.

Thanks for asking about this. I hope this is helpful both in clarifying my thinking on this, and, more importantly, advancing the community debate about the best courses of action here.

Oct 30, 2009 09:09:11
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Name: Marshall Breeding

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