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IMLS Grant - Empowering Libraries with Open Source
The “Empowered by Open Source” project has had a significant and irrevocable effect on the American public library community. The structure of this grant project was very simple: eight American public libraries signed on as grant partners with the strong, but non-binding commitment to pursue the Evergreen Open Source ILS as their system of choice. The King County Library System committed to matching the grant investment with software development aimed at strengthening the Evergreen system over the course of the three grant years. Our assertion, as stated in our original grant abstract, was that “in order to survive and remain relevant, public libraries must have greater control over their library system software so they can optimize the work environment for staff and provide state-of-the-art services for customers.”We established two project goals:
- Produce a free public library ILS that would be rich, functional, and a credible option for any library considering a new ILS.
- Develop and strengthen a core group of early adopters who could support each other and support the Evergreen community to the extent that prospective libraries might have confidence in the community, the processes, and the resources in play for an open source implementation.
The results of our experiment are as interesting and diverse as the library grant partners themselves. Over the course of these three years, we have seen some of our grant partners’ move from users of the software to developers of the software while other grant partners have stepped away from the Open Source choice and are using a vended product of a type that didn’t exist when we began this grant. Perhaps more importantly, the ILS marketplace has changed dramatically and it is in large part due to the pressures applied to proprietary vendors by the success of Open Source. While we have learned that an Open Source ILS is not for everyone, we have also learned that it is a viable option that has successfully challenged the status quo and provided libraries with many more options for managing their library systems.