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Smarter Libraries through Technology: Library Technology via Nonprofits

Smart Libraries Newsletter [March 2016]

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The roster of companies providing technology products and services to libraries and related organizations includes an interesting mix of business models. The for-profit companies, SirsiDynix, Ex Libris, Innovative, The Library Corporation, Auto-Graphics, and many others, dominate the traditional resource management and discovery sectors oriented to libraries, offering products based on proprietary software. Another set of for-profits provide support services for open source products, including Equinox Software, ByWater Solutions, and a few others in the United States and many others internationally.

Nonprofits also contribute to the mix of organizations involved in library technologies. OCLC, for example, in addition to its many services related to metadata and resource sharing, also offers World- Share Management Services as one of the main competitors in the library services platform arena. One of the sector's larger and more complex organizations, OCLC itself is organized as a nonprofit, but also operates its European operations as a for-profit, at least partially because its activities do not fall within what can be considered a “charity.”

No particular association exists between business models and types of licenses or development models for the software products. Both for-profit and nonprofit organizations are involved with proprietary software. OCLC's WorldShare Management Services has not been released via an open source software license and is considered proprietary software. For-profit companies such as ByWater Solutions and Equinox Software offer paid support services surrounding open source software. HTC Global Services is a for-profit company that has been contracted for much of the development of the open source Kuali OLE resource management system for academic libraries. Commercial activity falls well within what is allowed with open source software. The software itself must be made freely available to be downloaded and implemented without any licensing fee. That requirement does not preclude organizations charging for related services, such as hosting, help-desk support, implementation, migration, and custom development. The challenge naturally lies in offering services that will be perceived as valuable and worth the cost.

Nonprofits have often been associated with the governance of open source software projects. These organizations can provide a neutral setting for the assignment of copyright, coordination of development priorities, and other activities needed for larger-scale open source projects. The Kuali Foundation is a nonprofit related to the Kuali suite of open source projects for higher education. The Open Library Environment, now known as Kuali OLE, attached itself to the Kuali Foundation rather than establish a separate nonprofit for its governance. The Evergreen ILS manages its governance through the Software Freedom Conservancy, a nonprofit that provides administrative and financial services for a variety of open source software projects ( Koha places its governance within the Horowhenua Library Trust, a nonprofit organization related to the library that sponsored the original development of the software in 1999. The Apache Software Foundation is a nonprofit that provides governance for some of the most widely implemented core technologies implemented globally.

This issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter features two other nonprofits that play important roles in open source software widely used in the library, archives, and museum communities. LYRASIS has become increasingly involved in open source software since its founding. It has become the favored institution of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the governance and institutional support of funded library-related open source, such as ArchivesSpace and CollectionSpace. The key repository platforms used in libraries and related organizations have also created nonprofit organizations for their governance: the DSpace Foundation and Fedora Commons. The two projects eventually converged under a single nonprofit, DuraSpace. In recent weeks the consolidation of the projects governed within both LYRASIS and DuraSpace has been all but finalized. This consolidation parallels what has happened in the for-profit side of library technology, where many rounds of mergers have resulted in a small number of much larger organizations. Not unlike dynamics seen among the for-profits, the consolidation of nonprofits involved in open source software increases the dependence on a smaller number of organizations, while offering possibilities for increased efficiency needed for sustainability and long-term viability and for attracting the resources needed for more aggressive development and improved services.

View Citation
Publication Year:2016
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 36 Number 03
Issue:March 2016
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Series: Smarter Libraries through Technology
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Record Number:21779
Last Update:2022-11-29 00:35:22
Date Created:2016-08-03 07:14:41