Library Juice 4:21 - June 6, 2001


  1. Challenging the Information Establishment
  2. NewBreed Librarian ::: JUNE 2001 :::
  3. Library blogs now listed in Libdex
  4. Livejournal Library Lovers Community
  5. Directory of Digitized Collections
  6. Documents relating to the Marriot Boycott
  7. Open Source Library Systems: Getting Started

Quote for the week:

"As to the evil which results from a censorship, it is impossible to
measure it, for it is impossible to tell where it ends."

- Jeremy Bentham

Homepage of the week: Bridgid Fennell



Challenging the Information Establishment: Commercial Interests and
Ethical Alternatives for Libraries

Written by Stephen Carney and Geoffrey Harder
March 22, 2001


2. NewBreed Librarian ::: JUNE 2001 :::

Date: Fri, 01 Jun 2001 10:14:56 -0700
From: Juanita Benedicto <juanitab[at]OREGON.UOREGON.EDU>

Hey All,

There's a new issue of NewBreed Librarian up for June.

FEATURE: Somebody's lit a light under Sandy Berman's bushel!
INTERVIEW: Hector Escobar, Jr. talks about the Spectrum Initiative
TECHTALK: Open source software for libraries
PEOPLE: A librarian discusses his double life
ASK SUSU: Does it really matter where you get your MLS?

Colleen and I were just now talking the empowerment of having a vehicle
that allows you to express your feelings/attitudes towards the profession -
and one that allows others, like Sandy, for instance, to express theirs.
Viva freedom of information, access, and independent publishing!


   Juanita Benedicto         Knight Library
   Reference Librarian       1299 University of Oregon
   (541) 346-1932            Eugene, OR  97403-1299
   (541) 346-3485 fax        juanitab[at]
+*+*+*+*+   +*+*+*+*+*+

3. Library blogs now listed in Libdex

Sender: Peter Scott <scottp[at]>

I have created a link to library-related weblogs (blogs) on my Libdex
index at:

If I have missed any, please let me know and I'll add them ASAP.

4. Livejournal Library Lovers Community

"Join us for a lively discussion of any and all library issues. All
you need to participate is an abiding interest in libraries. Use this
as a weblog of library-related sites, a repository of references, and
a catalog of anecdotes. Just keep it in the general vicinity of the
topics and have fun!"

This page is kind of like a cooperative weblog. is an online diarist's community where people keep web
journals and communicate with each other.

5. Directory of Digitized Collections -

          A database of digitized collections and projects
          worldwide. Information for over 160 entries includes the
          country of origin, collection name, its URL, a brief
          description, type of material, and language. A joint
          project of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and
          Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Memory of the World
          Programme and the International Federation of Library
          Associations and Institutions (IFLA). - dl

From the Librarians' Index to the Internet -

6. Documents relating to the Marriot Boycott

Marriott: Local 2 Response to Ghikas Message
Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2001 10:13:43 -0400
From: "Maurice J. Freedman" <freedman[at]>
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>, ALA Member Forum
Cc: Dave Glaser <glaserhere[at]>
Reply to: freedman[at]

Dear Fellow ALA Members,

I am forwarding this message to you from Dave Glaser.  Mr. Glaser is the
organizer of the boycott of the San Francisco Marriott Hotel and the
demonstrations by Local 2 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant
Employees union in support of the Marriott's workers.

In the interest of all points of view being brought to your attention,
and also to ensure that the members of the Association are presented
with information about the boycott from the union, as well as other
sources, I am sending Mr. Glaser's message to the ALA Council and ALA
Member Forum lists.

As a point of further information, Mary Ghikas's message, May 31, 2001,
made no reference to the mass demonstration at the Marriott scheduled
Tuesday (6/19), by Local 2; it will be held at the time of the ALA
Awards Ceremony and the ALA Inaugural Banquet. This is in addition to
the all day demonstrations scheduled for Friday and Saturday (6/15-6/16)
that were noted in Mary's message.

To be clear, those attending the Awards Ceremony and Inaugural Banquet
will find that there will be a demonstration and pickets at the

I spoke with Mary Ghikas this morning and she told me that the
information she presented was based on information that ALA lawyers
prepared after having consulted the NLRB.  I assume that Mary meant to
exclude those instances in her statement in which she refers to
information provided by the Marriotts spokesperson.

According to Mr. Glaser some of the information ALAs lawyers prepared
could only have come from the Marriott Corporation.  And further much of
what is stated here are positions that the Marriotts public relations
team have voiced for several years, e.g. this is a matter of work rules
and no other issues, according to Glaser.

As you will see from Mr. Glasers statement, there are significant
differences in what Mary presented and what follows.

My communication here is out of genuine concern that all of the
information be made available to you so you can make your own judgment.

Best wishes for a wonderful conference.

/s/ Mitch
Maurice J. Freedman, MLS, PhD
President-Elect, 2001-2002, American Library Association

Mr. Glaser's letter follows:

I'm sending a quick response because Ms. Ghikas' piece appears to be a
clear and simple presentation of the facts, but it actually represents
what looks much more like the Marriott's point of view.

- Ms. Ghikas notes Local 2 represents certain San Francisco Marriott

FACT: Local 2 represents 925 employees. This is the large majority of
everyone who works in the Marriott, management and hourly combined.

- Ms. Ghikas states the major issue remaining to be negotiated appears
to be work rules.

FACTS: The remaining issues include:

A fair retirement package for the majority of workers, not just the 20%
with the highest disposable income (Marriott matches an employee's
contribution to Profit Sharing, but most housekeepers, dishwashers, and
others, cannot afford to contribute to Profit-Sharing);

Eligibility for medical and dental coverage;

Two regular days off each week (even workers who opened the hotel 11
years ago don't know until Thursday if they are working on Saturday,
which is the start of the new workweek);

Contributions to the jointly administered union/management Child
Care/Elder Care Fund, the Legal Fund, the HIV/AIDS Fund, the Education
Fund and the Vision Care Fund;

Double time for Servers and Bellpersons vacation pay (since they get no
tips on vacation, double-time pay is significantly less than their
actual compensation, as most people who have been waiters know);

Job security in case the operator of the hotel changes;

Protection from job loss in case of sub-contracting of food and beverage

8 hour shifts for dishwashers;

.... I could go on and on about the remaining issues. To characterize
these issues as work rules does not do justice to the workers concerns.

Note that every issue listed above is included in the Master Contract
that covers 6,000 other hotel workers at virtually all of the other
hotels at which ALA attendees will stay in San Francisco.

- Ms. Ghikas states, there were two isolated incidents in 2000...   It
is true we did strike the hotel last year and we did declare the
official boycott with the Mayor present last Labor Day.  However, much
more has also gone into our fight during this period.

For example:

Since Labor Day we have had 4 separate 2-day pickets, each going from
6:00 AM until 10:00 PM. Those conventions picketed were significantly
impacted. The intensity of these pickets will become clear to Ms. Ghikas
and others when they arrive for ALA's Annual Meeting.

In addition, hundreds of Marriott workers have worn union buttons on the
job during this period. One particular favorite says, Marriott Not Above
The Law. Marriott workers and supporters have gone to more than 100
local businesses urging them not to return to the Marriott until a fair
contract is signed.

Also, in this period we have intervened in a number of cities
considering developing hotels and told the story of Marriott's illegal
campaign to deny us a fair contract in San Francisco. The cities of
Boston, Denver, Houston, Sacramento, San Jose, and others have selected
other operators over Marriott after hearing our story. They were
particularly impressed by the National Labor Relations Board charge that
the Marriott attempted to decertify the union.

- Ms. Ghikas states, the Union has engaged in periodic picketing ...
with approximately 25 union members from other hotels...

The implication is clear. She is conveying as true the Marriott
contention that Marriott workers don't participate in the picketing.
(Marriott's attempts to survey the picket lines are one of the many
charges brought against them by the NLRB.)

FACT: The simple fact is that more than 400 Marriott workers have been
on the line.  And this is in the face of management's illegal
terminations and harassment.

*She stated,  "The Union has informed the Marriott... "

FACT: The union has not communicated with Marriott about our upcoming

- Extraordinarily, Ms. Ghikas admits she only talked with the Marriott's
spokesperson regarding the labor board charges (she has never attempted
to talk with the union about the NLRB or any other aspect of this
situation), and this is wrong as well.

FACT: The Union and the hotel have not settled the benefit issue.

FACT: The Union never, ever agreed to the partial settlement, which we
later appealed. (The regional office of the NLRB originally accepted
Marriott's partial settlement. It was this acceptance that necessitated
our successful appeal to the General Counsel of the NLRB in
Washington).  I have worked closely with Mr. Baudler, the Prosecuting
Attorney, representing the General Counsel of the National Labor
Relations Board, and I am confident that he would agree with this
characterization of the situation.

I could go on in this vein for quite some time.

It's probably best for the moment to make this information available
quickly to America's librarians so they can make their own judgments
based on the union's side as well as the information presented to them
by Ms. Ghikas.

We invite Ms. Ghikas to speak with us.  We will be glad to provide more
information about any and all of the boycott issues.

Lastly, ALA members, please bear the following in mind:

The Mayor of San Francisco and most of the members of the Board of
Supervisors endorse the boycott and vigorously are campaigning on the
side of Local 2, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees.  The
Supervisors requested ALA to support the boycott and remove all ALA
events from the Marriott.

The San Francisco Public Library Commission passed a resolution
requesting that ALA move all of its meetings and events out of the

The Director of the San Francisco Public Library as well as numerous
California librarians familiar with the boycott will not set foot in the
Marriott "picket line or no picket line" until the Marriott agrees to
the same labor contract that the Hyatts, the Westin, the Sheraton
Palace, and numerous others all agreed to.  The Marriott workers seek no
more than the workers of those other hotels, and they will accept no

In your experience, when have you ever seen or heard of a labor boycott
of a hotel regarding its labor practices that was supported by the
mayor, most of the board of supervisors, the public library board, the
director of the public library, and numerous librarians in the region?
Won't you join these good people and boycott the Marriott, too?

For more information, please see Local 2's website:

Yours Truly,

Dave Glaser, Organizer
SF Marriott Boycott
Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

ALA News Release
For Immediate Release
June 5, 2001  Coretta Scott King Awards Breakfast cancelled
Contact: Satia Orange 312-280-4295

The 2001 Coretta Scott King Awards Breakfast, previously scheduled for June
19, is cancelled. This annual event honors Coretta Scott King Award winners,
who are authors and illustrators of African descent whose distinguished
books promote an understanding and appreciation of the "American Dream."

Sponsored by the Coretta Scott King Awards Task Force of the American
Library Association (ALA) Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT), the
announcement was made by task force chair Carole McCollough on Monday,
June 4, 2001. Dr. McCollough's statement follows:

This decision was made by the task force's leadership due to attempts to
politicize the event. This decision is based on the leadership's concern
that the event was becoming a pawn in a larger, more complex political

The issue of labor unrest at the Marriott was brought to SRRT's attention
soon after the 2001 Midwinter Meeting. At that time, the round table
requested that all SRRT-sponsored programs and meetings not be located at
the San Francisco Marriott. It was learned that the Coretta Scott King
Awards Breakfast was negotiated in 1997 with the Marriott. Any changes
would mean a hefty   cancellation fee for breach of contract. Because of
contractual agreements,  SRRT leadership agreed to an exception for the
awards breakfast.  Subsequently, some members of SRRT attempted to
negotiate an agreement with San Francisco union organizers that there would
not be pickets on the morning of the breakfast.

On Friday, June 1, 2001, the task force received a correspondence from Mrs.
Coretta Scott King asking that the breakfast be moved from the Marriott.
In her letter, she confirmed her support and advocacy for the efforts of
working people to obtain fair representation in their quest for decent
wages and adequate working conditions. She acknowledged her disturbance
with the possibility that awardees and breakfast attendees might have to
cross picket lines on June 19. She appealed to the task force to move the
breakfast to another site.

Although the task force had taken the earlier position of resistance to
pressures to politicize the award event, the fact that the award is named
after a living person, and that the person is Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr.,
they feel     honor-bound to seriously consider her wishes. The resulting
excessive expense to the round table (due to binding financial commitments
to the Marriott) and the obvious inconvenience to those who have purchased
tickets or provided support in other ways is truly regrettable.

The credibility and integrity of this award and its related initiatives
are the highest concern for the Coretta Scott King Task Force, in terms of
service delivery and impact on young readers. The recognition of the
Coretta Scott King Award winners is the sole focal point of the awards
breakfast. Any attempt to lessen that emphasis on their creative
accomplishments is unacceptable.

Tickets may be exchanged for copies of the breakfast program and 2001 award
winners' discussion guide at the OLOS booth #342 in the ALA exhibits on
Sunday and Monday, June 17 and 18, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. All ticket
holders will be reimbursed by mail following the ALA's Annual Conference
(June 14-20) in San Francisco.

Copyright © 2001, American Library Association.
Last Modified: Tuesday, 05-Jun-2001 15:24:10 CDT

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

[SRRTAC-L:6338] Re: Awards Breakfast Cancelled
Date: Wed, 6 Jun 2001 01:26:57 +0200
From: Al Kagan <akagan[at]>
To: SRRT Action Council <srrtac-l[at]>
Cc: bcalvin[at], freedman[at]
Reply to: srrtac-l[at]

I just have a general comment.  As the letter from Coretta Scott King
shows, the Breakfast is already a political event.  There is no
question in "politicizing" it or not.  No event can be isolated from
its context.

I don't think that the characterization in the press release is
correct that the SRRT leadership agreed to an exception in holding
the event in the Marriott.  Rather, it was a fait accompli, and no
matter what was tried and who tried to do it, there seemed to be no
way out.

>If anyone would like to comment on this decision, please contact me
>directly at fstoss[at] or to the SRRT list.
>Fred Stoss
>SRRT Coordinator

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

[ALACOUN:6020] Documents Under Discussion - SFPL Commission Resolution
Date: Wed, 06 Jun 2001 00:29:23 -0400
From: "Maurice J. Freedman" <freedman[at]>
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
Reply to: freedman[at]

In view of the many references to the documents pertaining to the
Marriott discussion, I am providing copies of them that I had
transcribed from the FAXED copies I received.  Barring any typos, these
are word-for-word identical to the originals.  The first one in a series
of three messages is from the SFPL Commission.

Following is a copy of the Resolution passed by the San Francisco Public
Library Commission and sent to Nancy Kranich, ALA President:

Resolution requesting the American Library Association (ALA) to make
alternative arrangements for its meetings, events and lodging that are
currently scheduled for the San Francisco Marriot Hotel for its annual
conference to be held in June 2001; and supporting the boycott of the
San Francisco Marriot Hotel that is being requested for all ALA
conference attendees by Local 2, Hotel Employees and Restaurant
International Employees Union (HEREIU), which represents 925 workers at
the Marriot, and Local 790, Service Employee International Union (SEIU),
which represents public library staff in San Francisco and Oakland.

 WHEREAS, the American Library Association has selected the San
Francisco Marriot Hotel as its convention headquarters hotel for its
annual conference to be held in June 2001; and

 WHEREAS, the San Francisco Marriot Hotel has agreed it would not
with workers rights to unionize when it was given permission by the
City to build on its land in 1980; and

 WHEREAS, since 1996, when the Local 2 was selected by a majority of
Marriot employees to represent them, over 120 negotiating sessions have
been held and still there is no labor agreement in place; and

 WHEREAS, in September 2000, Local 2 called for a boycott of the San
Francisco Marriot Hotel, which is supported by the Mayor, most of the
Board of Supervisors and other elected officials as well as many
community and religious leaders; now therefore be it

 RESOLVED, That the San Francisco Marriot Public Library Commission
requests the American Library Association to make alternative
arrangements for its meetings, events and lodging that are currently
scheduled for the San Francisco Marriot Hotel for its annual conference
to be held in June 2001; and therefore be it

 RESOLVED, That the San Francisco Public Library Commission supports the
boycott of the San Francisco Marriot Hotel, that is being requested by
HERE International Union, Local 2 and SEIU, Local 790, of all ALA
conference attendees.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

[ALACOUN:6021] Documents Under Discussion - SFPL Board of Supervisors
Date: Wed, 06 Jun 2001 00:30:33 -0400
From: "Maurice J. Freedman" <freedman[at]>
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
Reply to: freedman[at]

The following letter was mailed by the President of the San Francisco
Board of Supervisors to Nancy Kranich.  Note that 9 of the 11
supervisors (including the President of the Board) signed the letter.
(The signatures of the other 8 signators were on an attached page.)

Nancy Kranich, President
American Library Association
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611

Dear Ms. Kranich,

On behalf of the people of San Francisco, we are delighted that the
American Library Association (ALA) has chosen to hold its 2001
convention in our city.  We are confident you will find everything you
need here to have a successful meeting and that your members will have a
memorable time.

We understand that you are planning to hold some of your activities at
the San Francisco Marriott Hotel.  We feel obliged to inform you that
this hotel is in the midst of a labor dispute that has resulted in a
boycott against it.

When the Marriott Corporation was originally chosen to develop this
hotel on city land, it made an agreement stating it would not interfere
with its workers rights to form a union.  Unfortunately, Marriott has
violated that agreement repeatedly.  Although a large majority of
workers have chosen the union, Marriott has refused to bargain in good
faith for five years and there is still no contract.  Marriott is being
prosecuted by the National Labor Relations Board for nearly 100
violations of federal labor law.  They may be convicted on many of these
charges before ALAs arrival in June.

For these reasons, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union,
Local 2, called for a boycott of the downtown Marriott this past Labor
Day.  The hotel is frequently the site of pickets and demonstrations.

The Mayor and most of the Board of Supervisors have endorsed the
boycott, as have many community and religious leaders.

We are aware that a convention of this size requires advance
preparation.  However, we would like to urge you to consider making
alternative arrangements for your meeting and lodging in San Francisco.
Fortunately, we have a large array of high quality, convenient hotels,
most of which enjoy excellent employee relations.  The San Francisco
Convention and Visitors Bureau web site ( can provide
you with a list of available facilities.

Thank you for your consideration and we hope you enjoy your visit to San


Tom Ammiano
President, Board of Supervisors

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

[MEMBER-FORUM:2371] Documents Under Discussion - Letter from Coretta Scott
King to Nancy Kranich, ALA President
Date: Wed, 06 Jun 2001 00:30:45 -0400
From: "Maurice J. Freedman" <freedman[at]>
To: ALA Council <alacoun[at]>, ALA Member Forum <member-forum[at]>

The following is a transcription of the FAXED copy I received of the
letter from Coretta Scott King to Nancy Kranich, ALA President.

June 1, 2001

Ms. Nancy Kranich, President
American Library Association
50 East Huron
Chicago, IL 60611

Fax: (212) 995-4942

Dear Ms. Kranich,

   I write to you to express my deep concern about The American Library
Associations decision to hold the Coretta Scott King Awards Breakfast
at the San Francisco Marriot Hotel.

   As you know, The San Francisco Marriot Hotel is being boycotted by a
broad range of labor unions, human rights and respected community
leaders, as a result of the hotel managements refusal to bargain in
good faith with the union.  After reviewing materials about the boycott
and workers grievances, I can only conclude that the boycott is

   I have always been proud of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, which
affirm the values of compassion, social justice and humanitarian
concerns.  However, I also have long supported the struggles of working
people for union representation, decent wages and working conditions,
and the thought of recipients of the Awards having to cross a picket
line of working people to receive their honors is very disturbing to
me.  The Award also commemorates the life and work of my husband,
Martin Luther King, Jr. who gave his life in support of a labor struggle
for dignity and justice.  In keeping with this spirit, I therefore
appeal to you to move the Coretta Scott King Awards Breakfast to a more
acceptable venue.

   I value my relationship with the American Library Association and I
applaud the great work you have been doing to promote quality childrens
literature.  My sincerest hope is that you will comply with my request,
protect the integrity of the Awards and support the legitimate
aspirations of Marriot workers for justice and dignity on the job.  I
thank you for considering my appeal and I look forward to your response.


Coretta Scott King

cc: Carole McCollough, Task Force Chair
cc: Dave Glaser, Lead Organizer, [SF] Marriot Campaign

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Sanford Berman's letter announcing his resignation from SRRT and PLG will
be in next week's Juice, along with some discussion. It relates to a
planned picket at the Coretta Scott King Breakfast - singled out from
among more deserving events for dramatic effect - by the union. I will say
in advance that I don't like Sandy's decision, but I understand it. In my
opinion, once the CSK Breakfast was stuck with the Marriot for a location,
it was a bad situation from which there was no way out. There were
different possible strategies for dealing with it, but all of them were
very costly in one way or another. (ALA apparently would not pay the
$20-40,000 to have the event moved to another location.) Commentary and
details next week.

7. Open Source Library Systems: Getting Started

(c) 1999 by Dan Chudnov

note: a significantly edited version of this article appeared in the August
1, 1999 issue of Library Journal. You might prefer their edited version to
this version. You are free to reproduce the text of this version for any
purpose and in any format, provided that you reproduce it in its entirety
(including this notice) and refer to the url from which it is available:


The biggest news in the software industry in recent months is open source.
Every week in the technology news we can read about IBM or Oracle or
Netscape or Corel announcing plans to release flagship products as open
source or a version of these products that runs on an open source operating
system such as Linux. In its defense against the Department of Justice,
Microsoft has pointed to Linux and its growing market share as evidence
that Microsoft cannot exert unfair monopoly power over the software
industry. Dozens of new open source products along with regular news of
upgrades, bug fixes, and innovative new features for these products are
announced every day at web sites followed by thousands.

The vibe these related events and activities send out is one of fundamental
change in the software industry, change that alters the rules of how to
make software--and how to make money selling software. What is all the
noise about, and what does it mean for libraries? Open Source: What it is
and Why it Works

If you've ever used the internet, you've used open source software. Many of
the servers and applications running on machines throughout the wired world
rely on software created using the open source process. Examples of such
software are Apache, the most widely used web server in the world, and
sendmail, "the backbone of the Internet's email server hardware." [TOR]
Open source means several things:

Open source software is typically created and maintained by developers
crossing institutional and national boundaries, collaborating by using
internet-based communications and development tools;

Products are typically a certain kind of "free", often through a license
that specifies that applications and source code (the programming
instructions written to create the applications) are free to use, modify,
and redistribute as long as all uses, modifications, and redistributions
are similarly licensed; [GPL]

Successful applications tend to be developed more quickly and with better
responsiveness to the needs of users who can readily use and evaluate open
source applications because they are free;

Quality, not profit, drives open source developers who take personal pride
in seeing their working solutions adopted;

Intellectual property rights to open source software belong to everyone who
helps build it or simply uses it, not just the vendor or institution who
created or sold the software.

More succinctly, from the definition at "Open source
promotes software reliability and quality by supporting independent peer
review and rapid evolution of source code. To be certified as open source,
the license of a program must guarantee the right to read, redistribute,
modify, and use it freely." [OSS]

Software peer review is much like the peer review process in research. Peer
review bestows a degree of validity upon the quality of research.
Publications with a high "trust factor" contribute ideas in published works
to the knowledge base of the entire communities they serve.

It is the same for software. As described in the seminal open source work,
"The Cathedral and the Bazaar" by Eric Raymond, author of the popular email
program fetchmail, the debugging process can move faster when more
individuals have both access to code and an environment in which
constructive criticism is roundly welcomed. [ER] This leads to extremely
rapid improvements in software and a growing sense of community ownership
of an open source application. The feeling of community ownership
strengthens over time because each new participant in the evolution of a
particular application-- as a programmer, tester, or user--adds their own
sense of ownership to the growing community pool because they are truly
owners of the software. This community effect seems similar to the network
effect seen across the internet, whereby each additional internet user adds
value to all the other users (simply because each new user means there are
more people with whom everyone else might communicate). For open source
products which grow to be viable alternatives to closed-source vendor
offerings, this growing community ownership begins to exert pressure on the
vendors to join in. [NYT]

This tendency shares a striking similarity to the economic value of
libraries. A library gives any individual member of the community it serves
access to a far richer range of materials than what that individual might
gather alone. At an extremely low marginal cost to each citizen expensive
reference works, new hardcover texts, old journals, historical documents
and even meeting rooms might be available through a local library. The
library building, its collections, and its staff are infrastructure. This
infrastructure serves as a kind of community monopoly in a local market for
the provision of information. Instead of reaping monopoly profits for
financial gain, however, a library returns the benefits of its monopoly to
individual users. The costs of maintaining this monopoly are borne by the
very community which holds the monopoly. To the extent which this model
works in a given community, a library is a natural yet amenable
monopolistic force. If this sounds mistaken, consider whether your
community has libraries which compete or cooperate. Library Software Today

No software is perfect. Office suites and image editors are pretty good;
missile defense systems are, for all we know, appropriately effective;
search engines could use improvement but usually get the job done. While
there is constant innovation in library software, for many of us online
catalog systems mean a clunky old text interface that often is less
effective than browsing stacks. Often, this is due to the obstacles we face
in managing legacy systems; new systems might be vastly improved, but we
are slow to upgrade when we consider the costs of migrating data, staff
retraining, systems support, and on and on. Sometimes, new versions of
systems we currently use are just not good enough to warrant making a

This is not surprising. The library community is largely made up of
not-for-profit, publicly funded agencies which hardly command a major voice
in today's high tech information industry. As such, there is not an
enormous market niche for software vendors to fill our small demand for
systems. Indeed the 1997 estimated library systems revenue was only $470
million, with the largest vendor earning $60 million. [BBP] Because even
the most successful vendors are very small relative to the Microsofts of
this world (and because libraries cannot compete against industry salary
levels), there are relatively few software developers available to build
library applications, and therefore a relatively small community pool of
software talent.

What are we left with? Some good systems, some bad. Few systems truly serve
the access needs of all of our users, failing to meet a goal--access for
everyone--that most public libraries strive to achieve at more fundamental
levels of service. Because libraries are community resources, we tend to be
quite liberal about intellectual and physical access issues, including
support of freedom of speech and ADA-related physical plant modifications.
At the same time, librarians are very conservative about collections and
data (remember the difficult issues when you last weeded?). Is it not odd,
then, that market forces lead us to be extremely conservative about online
systems software? After all, online systems are no less about access to
information than having an auto-open front door or an elevator in a library

We read of exciting technological innovations in library-related systems.
Innovations in advanced user interfaces and metadata-enabled retrieval
environments and other areas have the potential to make online access more
and more seamless and easy to use. Our systems, though, are too old--or not
standardized enough, or too familiar to change--to take advantage of these
advances. And creative ideas from exciting research seems not to make
headway in real systems.

Libraries, if they indeed hold the kind of community monopoly described
above, might do well to enhance their services by leveraging
community-owned information systems--which open source seems to promise.
Open Source and Libraries

How could open source improve library services? First, open source systems,
when licensed in the typical "general license" manner, cost nothing (or
next to nothing) to use--whether they have one or one thousand users.
Although the costs of implementing and supporting the systems on which
software runs might not change, imagine removing the purchase price of a
new search interface (or ILL tool, or circulation module, etc.) from your
budget for next year. Rather than spending thousands on systems, such funds
might be reallocated for training, hiring, or support needs, areas where
libraries tend toward chronic shortfalls.

Second, open source product support is not locked in to a single vendor.
The community of developers for a particular open source product tends to
be a powerful support structure for Linux and other products because of the
pride in ownership described above. Also, anyone can go into business to
provide support for software for which the very source code is freely
available. Thus even if a library buys an open source system from one
vendor, it might choose down the road to buy technical support from another
company--or to arrange for technical support from a third-party at the time
of purchase. On top of this flexibility, any library with technical staff
capable of understanding source code might find that its own staff might
provide better internal support because the staff could have a better
understanding of how the systems work.

Third, the entire library community might share the responsibility of
solving information systems accessibility issues. Few systems vendors make
a profit by focusing their products on serving the needs of users who
cannot operate in the windows/icons/menus/pointer world. If developers
building systems for the vision impaired and other user groups requiring
alternative access environments were to cooperate on creating a shared base
of user interfaces, these shared solutions might be freely built into
systems around the world far more rapidly and successfully than ever
before.A Three-Step Process

If you are still reading, you probably suspect something here might be a
good idea. You might even want to help make ideas discussed above happen.
Where to begin? Understand the Phenomenon

Axiomatic business notions have shown weaknesses throughout the information
age; the utility of the internet for knowledge sharing demanded rethinking
of what constitutes an information product. If nothing else, it is
important for the international community of librarians to understand the
open source phenomenon as part of the technology-driven shift in our
understanding of the nature of information. Because the ethos and style of
the open source initiative is so akin to the traditions of librarianship we
hold at the core of our professionalism, we should find within open source
the appropriate points of entry for the similar service and
resource-sharing objectives we choose to achieve every day.

The seminal works on open source are mostly technical, but they provide an
envigorating view of the current state of software engineering. All are
available on the internet, and they form a core of knowledge that might one
day be fundamental to our discipline. "The Cathedral and the Bazaar," by
Eric Raymond [ER], is widely cited as the pivotal tome describing the
technical and social processes open source entails. "The Open-Source
Revolution," by Tim O'Reilly [TOR], founder of O'Reilly and Associates,
Inc., a highly respected publisher of pragmatic computer-related titles,
gives a broader view of the social phenomenon, in particular relating open
source software development to the scientific method. Finally, is a central point of focus for the Open Source
Initiative. It is led in part by Mr. Raymond and appeals to both the
technical and non-technical sides of the community.

To foster communication regarding open source systems in libraries, we have
created a web site,, and a listserv,
oss4lib[at] They are intended as forums for announcement,
discussion, and sharing of broad information; look for instructions on how
to join the list along with a list of current open source projects for
libraries the oss4lib site.Use Open Source Systems Where You Are

Armed with understanding, we can find opportunities to leverage existing
open source systems in our own institutions. The Linux operating system
[LINUX], Apache web server [APACHE], and MySQL database [MYSQL] form a
powerful, free platform for building online systems. Consider the value of
these and other open source systems when making design and purchase
decisions at your institution; you might find tremendous savings and
increased product performance at the same time.

Beyond merely using open source products, however, we must create them. Are
you already working on any new applications at your institution? Perhaps
you've put a year or two into a homegrown search interface, or an online
reference services tool, or a data model and retrieval code for an image
archive. Is there a good reason why you wouldn't want to share that work?
For those of you who realize that someone else might benefit from what
you've done--and that you might benefit from the ability to share in the
work of others--consider thoroughly the implications of releasing your code
under an open source license. [FH] If the benefits outweigh the negatives,
get started sanitizing and documenting your code as well as you can, and
set it free.

Another ideal opportunity at this stage is for library and information
science researchers to open their projects up for the entire community to
review and develop as appropriate. Grant-funded systems builders might find
an afterlife for their work by releasing their source. Faculty might design
courses around building a retrieval system or improving an existing open
source tool. Indeed this model is already widely used by computer science
professors--at Yale, for instance, undergraduate students might work on
aspects of the Linux kernel in their Operating Systems course. Grow the

As the library community moves in this direction, there will be many roles
for individuals in our profession to fill. Most visible is application
development; there is a major need for software engineering resources to be
devoted to creating community-owned library systems. This does not in any
way marginalize those of us who are not programmers or database
administrators. In the open source community there exists a tremendous need
for exactly the skills librarians have always used in making information
resources truly useful. In particular, systems testing, evaluation, and
feedback to open source designers is welcome and even sought after;
documentation for open source systems is always needing improvement;
instructional materials for open source products are often lacking. These
are all areas in which librarians excel. For the more technically minded
among us, provides constant updates and announcements of
general open source projects replete with contact information for those
wishing to participate. For all of us, the oss4lib listserv and website
will highlight additional library-specific opportunities as they come

Playing a role in the larger open source community will strengthen our
ability as professionals and service providers to understand how best to
shape our own systems. Additionally, it might make significant inroads in
demonstrating how the ethics and practice of librarianship is more vital to
the movement of information than ever before. As the software industry
shifts to appropriately incorporate open source models, systems in other
industries might even grow to utilize products the library community
creates. Conclusion

An argument I have already heard against these ideas is based on
experience: "We tried building our own OPAC in the eighties--it was an
impossible project and we gave it up after a few years because it just cost
too much." In 1999, however, we know that the internet has changed the
landscape. Because it is so very easy to share ideas and software and code
using the internet, software developers have already found that the old way
of doing things--particularly building monolithic homegrown systems in our
own institutions--makes no sense anymore. As the open source vision and
culture continue to mature, librarians would be remiss not to find our
profession playing a major role in that culture. For all we have done so
far, our online systems are not good enough yet. We can do better.


[APACHE]Apache Server Project
[BBP] Barry, J, Bilal D, and Penniman WD. "The Competitive Struggle,"
Library Journal, April 1, 1998, p. 43.
[ER] Raymond, ES. "The Cathedral and the Bazaar"
[FH] Hecker, F. "Setting up Shop: The Business of Open-Source Software,"
Aug 3, 1998. [MS] Microsoft analysis of open source
[GPL]GNU General Public License
[LINUX]Linux Online
[MYSQL]MySQL Home Page
[NYT] Harmon, A and Markoff J. "Internal Memo Shows Microsoft Executives'
Concern Over Free Software", New York Times, November 3, 1998, Sect. C, pg.
8, col. 1.
[OSS]Open Source Initiative Home


In solidarity with the unions boycotting the Marriott, the Electronic
Poetry Salon has been moved to Auditorium C of Golden Gate University.
The Salon will feature a wide diversity of projects by several poets and
organizations ranging from fairly traditional electronic zines to Haiku
via cellphone to the latest technology in "sending skins" of interactive
poetry performances on the Internet. Come join us from 2-4 on Sunday, June
17th. It may be Father's Day, but it will be a Mother of a show!
For more information on the poets and a map to the conveniently located
Golden Gate University please visit our website  at

Please feel free to forward this message as appropriate.

Jim Dwyer
aka, The Rev. Junkyard Moondog
"I must say I like variety myself; some folks washes Monday an' irons
Tuesday the whole year round, even when the circus is goin' by!"
Mrs. Almira Todd, from Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

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