We need to SHOW people what OSS can do. We have to SHOW them why it makes more sense to go OSS rather than buying into a package deal that very well may not be supported in 1, 2, or 3 years, which will require a costly upgrade.

Beyond SHOWING people what OSS can do, we need to find ways to make it easier for people to adopt these programs. Let's not forget we are talking among a group of people who are relatively comfortable with the OSS environment . However, to move OSS out to the mainstream, we need to remember that most of the people in the library views Unix, Perl, etc. with trepidation. They either don't have IT people in the library, don't know how to communicate their need to their IT people in their institution or need some ways to gain some hands-on experience and confidence before jumping in. We tend to think that writing programs is the difficult part. The reality is that for people who has no prior experience, adopting an OSS program is harder.

The hands-on NERCOMP workshop I organized in April to give people a chance to walk through the process of adopting Prospero and MyLibrary was a good example. In theory, this was supposed to be easy. However, plenty of things can go wrong when you actually sit down to do it. Until you are comfortable with the environment, you need all the help you can get. If our purpose is to widen the acceptance of OSS in the libraries, we need to find ways provide hands-on trainings.

Ideally, we need a one week hands-on workshop to give people a chance to get comfortable with OSS environment, covering Unix, Perl, etc. Give them the opportunity to install an OSS application. If we are lucky and can get the creator of the application to participate in the workshop, we might want to set the roomful of people into enhancing the application they just install. We probably should run this kind of week-long workshop at least once a year for a few years to create a critical mass.

This is very doable if we have a group of people who are willing to lead the training sessions. If the workshop is held during the summer, we shouldn't have problem finding a good facilities  I will be happy to work on this if there is enough interest.

Rachel Cheng
Associate University Librarian
Olin Library
Wesleyan University
Middletown, CT 06459
Email: jcheng@wesleyan.edu
Fax: 860-685-3910
Tel: 860-685-3887