Feasibility of adaptation of open source ILS for libraries in Kenya: a practical evaluation
Australian Studies Inst Lib
Purpose-Despite its fast growth and penetration in all sectors, it has been noted that open source software (OSS) is yet to find its optimal place in libraries, particularly libraries in the developing countries. Lack of documented information on the experiences and use of open source integrated library system (ILS) is a major drawback, and so the need for this study. The proposed study aims to help to investigate and test usability and cost effectiveness of a typical OSS for ILS. It will involve deploying the software from installation, configuration to creating customized user interfaces and structures that are specific to the requirements of the library's parent organization. The cost and performance of the OSS will then be compared with that of a typical commercial based software with the same functionalities.
Design/methodology/approach-A preliminary study has been conducted to collect data from libraries in the country through distribution of questionnaires to provide data for accurate analysis that will form the basis for recommendations. The target group includes library and IT personnel in the various institutions and the end-users within sample group. A case study is proposed to help establish OSS effectiveness in libraries. To test a typical OSS, parameters are to be drawn from two models open source maturity model and business readiness rating.
Findings-A casual observation of the Kenyan situation reveals that the majority of academic, public and research libraries depend on commercial, free or locally developed systems. This scenario may be attributed to lack of knowledge (or interest) in OSS alternatives and lack of sufficient technical expertise to support them. While there are quite a number of libraries and librarians worldwide that have shown a great interest in OSS, few library administrators have actually implemented OSS. Could this be due to fear of taking on the risks that may come with reliance on open source library automation systems? Is the low uptake due to lack of sufficient technical expertise in the libraries? The research outcomes will help formulate a model and guidelines to be used by systems librarians considering the use of OSS for library processes. Factors to be considered when deciding on OSS will be outlined.
Research limitations/implications-This paper is of importance to library personnel in Kenya as it establishes the effectiveness of OSS, with the aim of empowering the library staff who have for a long time relied on their IT departments and vendors for systems installation and implementation.
Originality/value-The study will result in a comprehensive evaluation of the economic and functional advantages of OSS as an alternative for the library in Kenya. Librarians involved in selection of software for their libraries will find this helpful when deciding on the type of software to select for their libraries. It will help to enlighten library professional about the value of OSS and how they can participate in the development of their own systems, instead of always relying on vendors.