Monthly Archives: February 2009

CISTI takes a hit

It’s been talked about offline for a few weeks now, but I haven’t seen much on this sad news:  CISTI has taken on some big cuts, and I’m told that about 40-50 CISTI librarian staff – from locations across the country – were given the pink slip.

The  Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) is Canada’s national science library and is internationally recognized for its support to science, technology, engineering and medicine, mainly through National Research Council (NRC) programs and partnerships.

It comes down to this:   Strategic Review process + Budget 2009 = program review cuts.

This is not good. Sign of the times?

Footnote:  NRC (National Research Council) not to be mistaken for NRCan (or Natural Resources Canada).

NRCan Library selects Evergreen ILS

It’s official – Natural Resources Canada Library (NRCan Library) has selected the Evergreen ILS.

Evergreen is one several open source systems on the marketplace, and was selected on the basis of functional requirements but with serious consideration given to several important marketplace trends:

  • one big library
  • vendor neutrality, especially in regards to discovery interfaces
  • strong support for a functional API (application programming interface)

The collaborative, open source development model used by the Evergreen ILS community is anticipated to give us better long term options and situate our library to respond to these and other important library trends. The move addresses duplicative ILS infrastructure as a result of a consolidation of departmental libraries.

Canadian government asks about Open Source

CBC reports on the federal government of Canada’s request for information on open source – you can view the actual RFI as posted on Merx, the government’s tendering system.

The purpose of the RFI is:

to help the Government of Canada (GC) put together guidelines related to the planning, acquisition, use and disposal of No Charge Licensed Software (NCLS). While there is already significant interest for No Charge Licensed Software within the Government of Canada there are many questions being asked… There exists operationally a requirement to produce common guidelines that are fair, open and transparent and can be applied consistently across departments.

I have some quibbles about just what they’re trying to accomplish with some of the questions, but I’m happy to see some interest and hope that this RFI leads in some way to giving open source the visibility it deserves.

I can attest to the  “significant interest” reference. In the last year, I’ve both witnessed and experienced hands-on some incredible developments that would have been unthinkable a year to two ago. Yesterday, for example, I found out about a major government data centre running Ubuntu + Open VZ for a significant rollout of virtual servers – and this from a one of the “lead agencies” too.  Drupal is in used in at least half dozen departments that I know of, a federal government library is set to move to an open source ILS, and the list goes on…

ILS Migration: SirsiDynix and III on exit support and maintenance

Planning a migration? Eventually you’ll have to determine when you’re going to unplug your existing maintenance contract, an important factor given the ILS marketplace norm of restricting usage to paying maintenance customers.

Most proprietary software at least gives you some illusion of ownership and control by letting you run the software for years after you paid for it (why pay for support if you don’t need it?). For the growing number of SaaS-based network services (e.g. RefWorks or Ebsco AtoZ), this is not the case, but at least it’s clear up front that customers are entering into what is  essentially a car rental type of agreement for software use.

The wonky thing about most ILS EULAs is that you normally don’t think of the SaaS model when you’re running the software locally.  You buy the software but that “purchase” should really be understood as a down payment against a lease agreement. You didn’t buy anything that you can keep or share!

When I look at my desktop & server-based applications that we run (excluding the few SaaS providers we use), I can’t identify a single vendor that would unplug me effective termination of our annual support & maintenance (or prevent me from using the software without a paid support contract in place).  Not a single one.

In any event, we’re exiting our Unicorn & Millennium systems and moving to a new open source ILS  (more on this later), and here’s how the two vendors responded to our request to go month-to-month or quarterly (your results may differ):

  • SirsiDynix: not allowed, we must purchase another full year’s annual support and maintenance
  • III:  accepted our request to go with 2 additional quarterly payments, rather than paying for an unwanted full year’s maintenance.

[BTW, we have two systems in place here as we’re in the process of amalgamating several libraries]

Personally, it’s frustrating that we can’t run the software on terms that even Microsoft would permit (i.e. without annual support & maintenace), but ok I get the deal: we rented a car.  I also didn’t expect III’s “flexibility” here since they’re arguably the most proprietary of the bunch, so good on them.

And finally, it’s a bit of a shame in that this situation significantly impedes many libraries’ ability to re-direct scarce funds towards any new ILS investment (as well as manage a migration with more  flexibility) since you’re not always able to optimize migration scheduling with the end of your maintenace contract.