One of the largest shared library-automation systems in the U.S. has migrated from a vendor-developed ILS to an open-source model. Georgia PINES (Public Information Network for Electronic Services) recently completed its migration from SirsiDynix Unicorn to Evergreen, a library-automation system developed in house and based on open-source software. PINES, a program of the Georgia Public Library Service, provides library-automation services for 252 libraries in Georgia. Combined, these libraries hold a collection of more than 7.7 million items, with a majority of the public libraries in Georgia participating in PINES.
Established in 1999 by Georgia's Office of Public Library Services (OPLS), the PINES program is based on large-scale resource sharing and the ability for library users to use a single library card to borrow or request materials from participating libraries throughout the state. Georgia's OPLS selected the Sirsi Unicorn library-management system as the basis for PINES, and the initial project automated 98 libraries, with another 111 libraries added in a second phase. The two phases of the project totaled about $1 million in software and services from Sirsi Corporation.
Development of the Evergreen ILS began in June 2004, following an announcement by state librarian Lamar Veatch stating that PINES would not renew its contract with Sirsi, and the consortium would instead develop its own library-automation system. After more than two years of intensive development, the libraries using PINES switched from SirsiDynix Unicorn to Evergreen on September 5, 2006.
The participating PINES libraries' transition from Unicorn to an open-source ILS stands as a major milestone in the ILS industry, and the defection of one of SirsiDynix's largest clients cannot be deemed good news for that company.
More importantly, however, is the reality that, to date, the adoption of open-source library-automation systems has been an almost negligible component of the ILS scene. Prior to this event, only two public libraries had implemented an open-source ILS; the Athens County Public Library (six branches) in Ohio and the West Liberty Public Library in Iowa had each implemented Koha. The 252 public libraries in the PINES consortium now operating the Evergreen open-source ILS provide an important precedent for the viability of this type of library-automation software.
The PINES catalog is now available at http://gapines.org. Information on the development of Evergreen is provided at http://open-ils.org. The Evergreen ILS application can be downloaded and installed by other libraries without paying licensing fees for the software.