At 10:50 3/09/2004, you wrote:
 A few days ago I would have say that in my opinion the biggest problem about free software in libraries is maintenance and support. Now, Iím guessing that it could rather be fear. Fear, for the librarians, of not knowing how to assume support of those softwares. This is what appears to me when I talk about that with librarians.

Library software usually represents a business-critical application for libraries and consumes a significant percentage of library budgets. Selecting a system is an important decision. Many library automation projects, even at large and well known institutions, have failed or have wasted money that could have been spent on library collections or services. (For some reason, descriptions of these failures don't make it into the journal literature.) The risks of failure, including the possibility of prematurely terminated or non-existent support, have to be accounted for in any system development, selection or implementation process.

Whether the risks of open source or free software are greater than those of commercial software isn't the issue that concerns me about your message-- I have developed, recommended or used free as well as commercial software for more than twenty years, and open source for more than ten. However describing concerns about software maintenance and sustainability of an open source or free software as "fear", shows a poor appreciation of the importance of risk assessment and a lack of respect for the management and financial responsibility that the librarians you have talked to feel towards their institutions and the resources put in their charge.

I hope you get some good responses to your request. But please, no more talk about "fear".


Ron Davies
Information and documentation systems consultant
Av. Baden-Powell 1  Bte 2, 1200 Brussels, Belgium       
Email:  ron@rondavies.be
Tel:    +32 (0)2 770 33 51
GSM:    +32 (0)484 502 393