Another post I made to horizon-l. I am trying to be a rational (rather than propaganda-spewing) voice of pro-FLOSS. Feel free to let me know if you think I’ve mis-stepped in any direction.
Another member posted:
and it may be that your library administration would never consider open sourcing your ILS....
To which I replied:
It is important to remember that Evergreen and Koha both have vendors who will provide commercial support. Realizing that an ILS with an open source license can also come with a support contract, I can’t think of any good reason for administrators to rule out open source ILSs as a class. That’s the real meaning of how open source and commercial can be “both/and”. Evergreen and Koha are both commercial software AND licensed under an open source license. .
Is there anything I’m missing about a rational reason to dismiss open source as a class, to specifically reject software that’s licensed under an open source license, preferring software that is not?
Now, just because there may not be any reason to reject open source as a class, that doesn’t mean that any particular existing open source licensed ILS is right for you. The way you evaluate it is the same way you’ve always evaluated software, some particularly pertinent criteria in this case include:
1) Total cost of ownership, naturally. Your support contract for the open source licensed ILS being evaluated, plus hardware, plus if the software doens’t yet have all the features you need/want, the cost to pay a vendor (or hire staff) to add them. Compared to total cost of ownership of your other (proprietary) options.
2) As with any product, strength and staying power of the vendor. While both Koha and Evergreen have vendors providing commercial support, you want to ask yourself the question, how financially and otherwise organizationally healthy are they? How likely are they to stay around for the long term? As you would with any vendor. (And the market has of course seen that there’s no guarantee of continued viability of vendors of proprietary software either).
There will be negatives and positives with any particular solution you evaluate, which have to be balanced against one another and against the other options. For open source or proprietary. Open source by it’s very nature comes with some more _potential_ positives—if the currently existing vendor _does_ go under or decide to stop supporting the product: a) You can still keep using the software as long as you want without permission from anyone (that’s the nature of open source) b) Another vendor(s) can spring into existence to support and/or further develop the same product, without any permission from anyone, with full access to the source code (if not neccesarily the institutional expertise). Another unique possibility, if the open source ILS market continues to develop, is that there could
Many of these unique benefits to open source are just _potential_ in the ILS market at the moment, there are no guarantees—if you don’t want to consider these potential benefits yet, you don’t have to: You can evaluate open source ILS options head-to-head with proprietary options, without giving any weight to the potential unique benefits of open source. I think Koha and/or Evergreen are quite possible to still come out looking good in such a comparison.
But when you undertake the difficult calculus of evaluating what software is best for you among a collection of non-perfect options, I don’t see any reason to exclude open source licensed options from consideration altogether.