Testing out Xerxes with a vanity search, I happened to find there were a couple letters to the editor about my last Library Journal article. Nice, proves someone read it, thanks letter writers! (And proves this meta-search stuff really does work! I just entered it in the default ‘general’ search local librarians have chosen of a few databases with good scope. No need to figure out what database to search!)
Oddly, while the article itself is online for free, the subsequent letters to the editor are not. Oh well.
And sadly, wordpress.com doesn’t give me any way to give you a COinS, but I can give you a DIY context object, some of you will know what to do with it to get pain free full text from your institutional link resolver:
Others will have to look it up manually if they want to see the letters:
Library Journal 2/15/2009, Vol. 134 Issue 3, p10-10
The first letter, by Keith Smith, makes the point that open source does not always equal unsupported, or more poorly supported than proprietary. But also that open source software isn’t necessarily ‘free’. I agree entirely, and one of the goals of my article was to make that very point. I hope that most readers didn’t miss one of the main arguments of the essay!
The second letter, by Philip Hendrickson argues that open source software is “greater risk for greater reward.” I actually don’t agree with him there, in that I think that open source software can emcompass a range of risks, some of which are no greater than with the best proprietary software. That too was one of the main arguments of my article, in fact. Depending on the particular piece of software and context, the risk and reward can be all over the map. In some situations, you can choose to take greater risk for greater reward, certainly. Of course, we’re always trying to get the best risk-to-reward ratio, and sometimes you can have low risk and high reward (yes even with open source, occasionally). But certainly sometimes taking a greater risk for a greater reward is called for, basically the last main argument of the article.
Philip also makes the point that, with open source:
One’s needs analysis must be more thorough, because a vendor will not be determining your needs on your behalf. This is a challenge for librarians who are used to a vendor leading them by the hand to a new system.
Now, that’s true in a sense (if we’re not talking about vendor-supported open source). But I think relying on vendor’s leading us by the hand to identifying our needs is a large part of what got us in the pickle we’re in. Whether using open source or proprietary software or both, libraries have got to start taking responsibility for charting their own futures.
Thanks to Philip and Keith for their responses.
(My vanity search also showed a letter to the editor I wrote a couple years ago to Tikkun. Ain’t the internet grand.)