Thursday, March 03, 2022

How the libraries can get more benefits from Open Source Software than their proprietary counterparts

              In the era of web 2.0, when the internet is transitioning into web 3.0. Software systems and tools are critical for functioning and services in today’s libraries. There are many cost-effective options of Open Source software and tools available to librarians for managing library resources and providing seamless services. Open source products aim at providing an effective and continuously evolving service that is free for use. Source code is open in Open Source Software (OSS) and can be changed and reused by others. Whereas in the proprietary software, the source code is not available.

Success stories of Open-source Software are arising day by day. Internationally OSS is being adopted officially by governments of different countries also. Companies like IBM, HP, Novell, and many others have taken to open source as a way, to increase collaboration, reduce development costs, provide a friendly platform for their products, and sell services. OSS has encroached on all top-to-bottom infrastructure for computing like development environments, databases, operating systems, web servers, application servers, etc.

Libraries across the world are using the variety of OSS to handle the majority of tasks in the most effective ways. For example, DSpace, Eprints, Fedora, and Greenstone Digital Library (GSDL) are prominent digital repository software in libraries across the world. Many libraries are using Integrated Library Systems (ILSs) like Koha and Evergreen that offer more flexibility and interoperability options. Now as the whole arena is shifting towards the increased collection of electronic resources than the print collection in libraries. The above ILSs lacks tools such as knowledge bases, link resolvers, and electronic resource management. The open-source ERM options like CORAL and FOLIO have these tools to manage e-resources efficiently. Many libraries have developed their websites using HTML, ASP, and PHP. Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress are examples of widely used open-source Content Management Systems (CMS). LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql, and Perl), a bundle of free and open-source software has now become the most popular which provides hosting for a variety of Web frameworks such as Joomla, Word Press and Drupal. 

Benefits of OSS over proprietary software

OSS allows libraries to take an active role in improving and customizing the software. Every type of library has different types of user needs, so the customization in concern with the particular library's functions increases the value of the library in terms of providing services. OSS projects involve library professionals and the users to give their feedback. So, they are continuously evolving after customizing according to user needs. In Proprietary software,  customization of the library's features may be limited to some extent because of commercial reasons. In OSS the library community is at the center stage rather than major players selling proprietary software.

 For libraries with dwindling budgets, OSS is a cost-saving measure. The libraries can spend the same amount of money and effort in improving and customizing the open-source product that it uses in buying an unsatisfactory proprietary product and running after vendors for every little issue. The library users can be satisfied in more effective ways with Open source software than the proprietary software where requests for any new feature, customization, bug fixes, etc. may take a long time to be processed and the price is high. In an OSS, public collaboration can fix bugs, add features, and improve performance within a relatively short amount of time.

Dan Woods and Gautam Guliani [1] have described some significant benefits of OSS, which are as follows: 

  • Saving money on license fees
  • Reducing support costs
  • Reducing integration costs
  • Avoiding vendor lock-in and gaining power in negotiations
  • Gaining access to the functionality of thousands of programs
  • Improving the value of IT to your business


Some examples of OSS tools         

S. No. 

Application Name

Open Source Software 


Integrated Library Systems

(i) Koha

(ii) Evergreen

(iii) Greenstone



Digital Repository Systems

(i) Dspace

(ii) Fedora

(iii) Samvera

(iv) Eprints



Archival and Museum Collection Management Systems

(i) ArchiveSpace

(ii) CollectionSpace



Electronic Resource Management Systems


(ii) FOLIO


Content Management Systems

(i) Joomla

(ii) Drupal

(iii) WordPress


Subject Guide Tool

(i) SubjectPlus

(ii) LibData



Discovery Interface

(i) VuFind

(ii) Blacklight


Scholarly Literature Search

(i) Open Access Button 

(ii) Unpaywall

(iii) EndNote Click


Kiosk Management System

(i) LibKi


Journal Publishing Platform

(i) Open Journal System


Office Application Suite

(i) LibreOffice

(ii) OnlyOffice


Automatic Text Summarization Tools

(i) TextSummarization

(ii) Resoomer

(iii) Scholarcy

(iv) Summarizebot


Creating  Digital Exhibitions

(i) Omeka


Points to be noted while opting for an Open Source Software:

Sometimes, Open source products may not be user friendly and if you run into trouble it may be difficult to find technical support, especially for less popular programs. So, While choosing an open source product, one needs to think first about the public collaboration for technical support  to fix bugs, add features, along with assurance about their longevity and sustainability. Be ready to pay as it may cost extra. For small and mid-sized libraries it may not be practical due to  the lack of sufficient in-house IT and computer programming skills, which are often required to install, customize, maintain, and contribute to library open source software.

According to Dan Woods and Gautam Guliani [2], The key to a successful outcome in applying open source is a thorough understanding of answers to the following questions: 


  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • How would open source software help in providing the solution?
  • Does any open source software provide all or part of the solution?
  • How can the maturity and stability of relevant open source software be determined?
  • What skills are required to install, configure, customize, integrate, operate, and maintain the open source software?
  • Does your organization have the needed skills? If not, how can they be acquired and institutionalized?
  • In which cases does the value provided by the open source software exceed the cost of using and maintaining it, compared with other solutions?
  • Understand and manage open source licensing issues, especially if their company distributes software applications.


Both open source projects and libraries strive to offer systems and tools that are user-friendly. Users’ feedback and suggestions are incorporated in their next version of code. Finding the right OSS based on your needs and evaluating its maturity is a very cumbersome task. The website has listed more than 70,000 projects. By investing in  open source projects more and more, libraries can shape their path toward better library services and operation over the long term. Fortunately, for libraries, open source products have been established in recent years with long term business models. Moreover, the libraries looking to adopt the open source product can contact the companies specializing in open source software.

According to Bohyun Kim [3], who has discussed about the increasing investment in Open technologies.

"The Invest in Open Infrastructure (IOI) initiative ( began in 2018 with the aim of improving funding and resourcing for open technologies and systems that support research and scholarship. In order to fully support and sustain the practice of open scholarship, libraries themselves must invest in the critical components of the open scholarly and research environment to ensure that they grow and prosper."

The important thing that you have to keep in mind  before opting open source product is to evaluate the software’s maturity and the level of support provided by the community that surrounds the project so that you can understand the risks. 

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