[Koha] Freely-available OpenSource not equal to cost-free

Erik Stainsby eriksta at vpl.ca
Tue Jun 24 04:43:09 NZST 2003

The current debate about the required ease of installation that Koha must 
aspire to has again raised the necessity to distinguish between Open 
Source code ( free availability ) and software products which do not cost 
anything ( any amount of currency ) to use.

Let us not forget that an integrated library management software package 
has always been a very complex piece of technology.  This complexity will 
always translate into cost of maintenance and raises the threshhold skill 
levels required to install and configure a package.

As Mike Ray pointed out, many of us make a living by providing the bridge 
between the technical requirements and the end-users' need for simplicity 
and ease of use.

I am not trying to justify crypto-babble installation jargon.  There is 
enough of that spontaneously without trying to inculcate its creation.  
But the need to keep a given codebase abstracted enough from a particular 
circumstance ( OS/hardware/language )  that it can appeal to a wide 
audience necessarily requires the installation personnel ( IT staff ) to 
provide the bridge.  And Koha very admirably keeps that bridge quite 
small.  There are many librarians who have managed it through patience 
and learning as they went.  An IT professional may have an easier time of 
it, if the variety of the biases inherent in the installers fits their 
own experience.  It pros will also bitch more pointedly when they find 
something in the biases of the installer which offends against their own 

Let's not get caught up in a religious war over particular OS/installer 
preferences.  Koha is young, still struggling toward version 2.0  There 
will doubtless be many evolutionary steps between now and "maturity".  
The functionaolity of the catalogue and the user records is well on its 
way.  Creating bibliographic records requires skilled understanding of 
library science and practices.  So too the installation and configuration 
of the software package.  This is simply a common fact in the nature of 
the work.


Erik Stainsby
Systems Support Technician,
Web and Database Services,
Vancouver Public Library

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