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OSS Library Management Solutions?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the curl-up-with-a-good-book dept.

Books 37

spectre_240sx asks: "I work for a growing educational institution in need of a good database for its library. We're fairly small at the moment, and the cost of some of a decent commercial solution just isn't realistic in our situation. We'd rather spend that money on more books and better equipment for our labs. I'm sure I could come up with a usable database myself, but it would lack the refinement of a mature project and it would also be quite troublesome for me to find the time as I'm the only IT person at the school. Does anyone know of an open source solution that might suit our needs? 99% of the computers here are Mac OS X machines, and using X11 is a possibility, though a native (or web based) app would be preferable."

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FP (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12303416)

up yours gnaa

Not Free, but might help (3, Informative)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 9 years ago | (#12303480)

The program we use is Innovative Millenium [] . While it is not free, it does run natively on OS X clients. It is Java Based and seems to work well.
We've just had the 15th anniversary of the system, so it has been a good decision for us, by not having to change databases as the collection grew.

Koha (4, Informative)

isn't my name (514234) | more than 9 years ago | (#12303544)

I've heard lots of good things about Koha [] . I do not run library systems. I have never used Koha, but I have come across more than one article on it.

Their first FAQ item:

What is Koha*?/What can Koha do?

Koha is intended to be:
  • a library catalogue front end/OPAC
  • a library system intranet
  • a circulation tracking system
  • an acquisitions/budgeting system

You might also check out oss4lib []

Koha on Linux or BSD (2, Informative)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 8 years ago | (#12310947)

I've used Koha and know people using and testing it.
I've also used expensive systems like Notis, Aleph, Voyager, plus about four other major systems. I've also had the misfortune to be able to poke around the internals of some of those. None are good, though some have more drawbacks than others. Some that I haven't named are good others are really terrible.

Koha is rather good. It is better than the commercial systems in some areas and still lacking in some others. What it's mainly missing is a high-pressure sales team and a budget for whiskey & golf trips to soften people for signing .

Koha runs on any *nix or BSD, such as Debian GNU/Linux, OS X or even QNX. The software installation and configuration is easy. It's in Perl and uses MySQL and Apache. The customization of the interface and policies, though will take some time. The system requirements are not heavy and a library with a small user load can get by with a PII.

I have heard and seen good things about the OPAC, cataloging interface and the circulation modules. The cataloging is more flexible than most of the bigger name library systems, especially when it comes to non-roman alphabets. The acquisitions system is not familiar to me.

Except for the fact that it's far more flexible and customizable than the big name systems, it isabout as far along (or behind) as the others.

Re:Koha (2, Informative)

jonadab (583620) | more than 8 years ago | (#12312948)

When I was researching this for our library, Koha is the only open-source thing I found (and, I think there was also a fork of Koha, the name of which I forget, but it did not seem to be any better than Koha from what I could determine).

Unfortunately, I also had to conclude that Koha is really not ready for real use. I looked at its capabilities, and it is really not anywhere near the same ballpark, in terms of functionality, let alone polish, as the various proprietary solutions that are available.

We ended up going with GIS/Polaris, mainly because their quote came in some fifteen thousand smackers lower than the next lowest quote. (This may have had something to do with their status as our current vendor, since until now we have been using their Galaxy system, which is pretty solid but now really starting to show its age. If GIS were not our current vendor, their quote may have been more comparable to the others.) In some ways I wanted to go with another solution, but with the Director and Clerk Treasurer spending hours every week fretting about the possibility that the rumors of budget cuts *might* pan out, the larger pricetag was really not palatable.

But as far as Koha, I was not able to justify even mentioning it to my boss; I looked at it, and it just plain wouldn't do a lot of what we really needed; to a great extent, it would actually have been a step *down* from Galaxy, in terms of functionality (though, of course, getting the data into a relational database, as all modern systems do, is a pretty big win; Galaxy was developed in the era when it went without saying that the data would of course be stored in an undocumented custom binary format; but *any* modern system would get us away from that; Polaris uses MS SQL Server. We'll obviously have to stick it in its own subnet and isolate it from everything with a firewall, and I would have preferred Postgres or Oracle, but hey, there's a DBD module for it, so I'll be able to write a Class::DBI wrapper, and that's a *huge* improvement over a proprietary binary format.

Oh, BTW, YMMV (Re:Koha) (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 8 years ago | (#12313370)

> But as far as Koha, I was not able to justify even mentioning it to my boss;
> I looked at it, and it just plain wouldn't do a lot of what we really needed

I really should add here that I'm not implying there won't be libraries who find it does everything they need; I was just stating what I found to be the case in our situation. We had specific pieces of functionality we were looking for, and Koha did not deliver. If it had been a couple of minor things, I could have thought about implementing them myself (being as I am fairly conversant in Perl and enjoy working in it), but it just wasn't close enough.\

It also would have been a hard sell, even if it did *everything* we wanted, because of support contract issues, but I didn't get to the point of trying to sell it, because I concluded that it was more than I could do to get it doing everything we needed in the kind of timeframe we were looking at. YMMV.

Re:Koha (2, Informative)

phoenix_rizzen (256998) | more than 9 years ago | (#12326012)

The fork you speak of is OPALS-NA, which adds a *much* nicer user interface to Koha. There's also a newer version known as zOPALS that uses z39.50 servers/protocol for most import, search, and export duties. zOPALS also handles union catalogues across sites.

We've been testing OPALS-NA at 6 sites (4 elementary schools, 1 secondary school, and 1 central library cataloguing site) for the past year. We've also been testing zOPALS for the past three months or so. Everyone is very impressed with it so far.

OPALS-NA/zOPALS isn't free, and it's not fully open-source (you get the source and can play with it however you like, but you aren't allowed to share it with anyone).

And it's Canadian, written/managed by Bibliofiche in Montreal, Quebec. :) Can't get much better than that. :)

They've added links and integration with their CERF product, which link search results to relevant (and human checked) websites, and Knowledge Suite product, which is an online course outline, teaching plan creation/sharing site.

Delicious Library (2, Interesting)

sachmet (10423) | more than 9 years ago | (#12303582)

Delicious Library [] may suit your needs until you get large enough that you need an industrial-strength solution.

Re:Delicious Library (1)

spooky_nerd (646914) | more than 9 years ago | (#12303892)

Agreed. It's not open source. But it is OS X native, and at $40 a pop it's not very expensive either.

Delicious Library-Digital Repositories. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12304011) []

Fedora is a general purpose repository service developed jointly by The University of Virginia Library and Cornell University. The Fedora project is devoted to the goal of providing open-source repository software that can serve as the foundation for many types of information management systems.

The software demonstrates how distributed digital information management can be deployed using web-based technologies, including XML and web services." 128_submission.pdf []

"aDORe: a modular, standards-based Digital Object Repository ..."

Re:Delicious Library (2, Informative)

babbage (61057) | more than 9 years ago | (#12304185)

Agreed. Delicious Library is a fantastic application that should be able to do a wonderful job with this. Out of the box, it already has support for some of the things that a real, physical, lending library would need:

  • It maintains a list of assets (books, movies, albums, video games), and will look up as much information about each asset as possible from Amazon's site
  • Inputting data is fairly easy if you have an iSight camera or their Bluetooth scanner. Once the bard code has been read, everything else happens automatically.
  • It automatically generates a list of borrowers from your user account's address book, and will allow you to keep track of who is borrowing which asset; likewise, you can look up what assets each borrower is currently holding, including when they borrowed it.
  • Most of the interesting data exists as XML files under ~/Library/Application Support/Delicious Library, so if the application itself doesn't do what you need, you can hack the XML source to do what you want. For example, if you want to provide a web front end for people, it would be fairly easy to hack up a script that uses XSLT to translate the DL XML data into an HTML site.

Etc. []

Plus, it's a young application from a young company [] , made by what seems to be a tight & enthusiastic team of people. I bet they'd be deliriously happy to find out that an actual library wanted to use their application -- if you contact them about what you want to do, they might even be able to get features you need into future versions of the software.

It's not open source, but it's damned good software. Give it a try and you may find that it's just what you need to get started...

Re:Delicious Library (1)

This is outrageous! (745631) | more than 9 years ago | (#12308713)

They may be nice, but the flash animation [] on every one of their pages got me off their site as fast as I could.

(Using Mozilla 1.7.2 on OS X 10.3.8 with, I see, Macromedia Flash Player 7.0 r24 in /Library/Internet Plug-Ins --> Spinning wheel with browser CPU usage at 90%.)

This is your best bet: "Books 2.3.1" (1)

Domini (103836) | more than 9 years ago | (#12305230)

Delicious Library is awesome value for the price, but if you only want to do Books, then look at Books [] for Mac OS X. It's OSS and free (for now?).

I don't know of any other apps for books which have not already been listed here... there are even less good ones for the PC...

Dspace. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12303698) []

"A groundbreaking digital repository system, DSpace captures, stores, indexes, preserves and redistributes an organization's research material in digital formats." []

"KnownSpace is a data manager---something that can help users build, organize, reorganize, annotate, search, mine, visualize, and navigate large, heterogeneous, dynamic data spaces. The aim is to provide a uniform platform for researchers around the world to develop and disseminate software to provide better interfaces, more intelligent applications, and more sophisticated and uniform networking---all for free, with source code easily changeable and available to anyone."

A possible front-end. []

Re:Dspace. (1)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 8 years ago | (#12311053)

Dspace is a good repository system. That's quite different from library systems which sometimes include a repository system for electronic resources.

Dspace's job is digging up the document via searching or browsing. Lending a physical artifact, like a CD or a book, is not a task it is intended to track. So if your entire collection is wholly electronic and could be put on the web, then Dspace might be a good option.

huh ? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12303736)

How bout : pro jects&Go.x=0&Go.y=0

there are plenty available including
1. Library Manager
A library automation program. Author: Volkan YAZICI
No screenshot
[Development Status] 3 - Alpha
[Environment] Web Environment
[Intended Audience] End Users/Desktop
[License] OSI Approved :: GNU General Public License (GPL)
[Operating System] OS Independent
[Programming Language] PHP, SQL
[Topic] Database :: Front-Ends

Added: 10-Mar-2002
Updated: 06-May-2002
Rating: 8.44/10.00
Vitality: 0.00%
Popularity: 0.19%
License: GNU General Public License (GPL)
2. OpenBiblio
A library automation system. Author: Dave Stevens

[Development Status] 4 - Beta
[Environment] Web Environment
[Intended Audience] End Users/Desktop
[License] OSI Approved :: GNU General Public License (GPL)
[Operating System] Microsoft :: Windows :: Windows 95/98/ME, POSIX :: Linux, Unix
[Programming Language] PHP
[Topic] Education

Good question (1)

Karamchand (607798) | more than 9 years ago | (#12303817)

I've been searching for such an app too. OSS, should have the ability to import data from amazon by scanning the barcode of the book, cross-platform, including an OPAC.. Suggestions anyone? Thanks.

Re:Good question (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 8 years ago | (#12313464)

> OSS, should have the ability to import data from amazon by scanning the
> barcode of the book, cross-platform, including an OPAC.. Suggestions anyone?

That part's easy. A quick hack using WWW::Mechanize could be thrown together in probably under an hour, to retrieve what info is available from Amazon. PAC would take quite a bit longer, because of the sheer amount of functionality involved in a good PAC, but no individual part of it is hard. The cross-platform part does not add more than perhaps 5% at most to the difficulty of the problem, assuming you design that way in the first place. (Trying to retrofit cross-platform onto an existing solution is another matter, of course.)

Doing a good patron services module is another thing. Circulation is a much harder and more complex problem than you would think at first. Then there's cataloging, which is a royal pain...

They should outsource (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12303942)

I think they should optimize your job an give your paycheck to 8 eager Indians in Hyderabad, who would quickly scan through the printous of the library books, and then reply "Yes, sir, please don't get upset, it shows that Moby Dick has been checked out to another customer. Thank you, sir."

Yawn (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12303960)

OSS is a steaming pile of some of the shittiest software ever to be vomited forth from untalented monkeys.

What Kind of Database (1, Interesting)

escowles (526641) | more than 9 years ago | (#12304170)

It seems like a lot of people are confused by the term "library management system". There are really two categories here, depending on what kind of stuff you're organizing:

If you're talking about books, slides, and other physical items, then you need an OPAC or something like it. Delicious Library was suggested, but I'd guess that it wouldn't scale to meet your needs. Koha looks like a better bet. I haven't tried it out yet, but it definitely looks promising. I've been surprised that there isn't a major open source OPAC/ILS, since there are a lot of libraries doing a lot of software development, while at the same time paying ridiculous yearly licensing fees to the commercial ILS vendors.

If you're talking about managing digital images, movies, ebooks, websites, and other digital resources, then DSpace and Fedora are the two major players -- both are open source, and both seem to have a good number of users (though DSpace has the edge on that point). There's also NCState's MyLibrary, which is more of a portal system, for cataloging websites in addition to other types of resources. That could be useful for having a decent library website without having to do a lot of custom coding and database setup.


Koha, plus... (2, Informative)

Cryptonom (653167) | more than 9 years ago | (#12304343)

You definitely want Koha [] ( For Koha support, and special flavors: LibLime [] ( and for even more library goodness, Keystone [] (

Ask the Whitebox Linux folks (a library) (2, Informative)

Roadkills-R-Us (122219) | more than 9 years ago | (#12304391)

Start here:

This is a build of RedHat's EL by a public library system in Louisiana. They run servers and at least 50 workstations off this. I don't know if their LMS is ISS or not, but it's worth asking.

The library's site is:

anbd includes link to online research and an online catalog. (The online catalog is unavailable as I type this).

Swede Open Source Solution and Frankenstein method (1)

cursion (257184) | more than 9 years ago | (#12304443)

There was an open source/freeware project being worked on in Sweden several years ago - the only information I can find on it now is here [] . It might help if I spoke something besides English...

They were using an NT machine to do some of the work, but the database behind it all was MySQL. They were working towards a web interface too. The database layout from that or another project could be really useful - especially if they can handle everything thrown at them by OCLC and MARC records.

I say with the sql tables, MySQL, PHP, Apache, and more free time than you have - you could come up cool. (All that except MySQL is already on those OSX boxes.)

I'm surprised the library software market doesnt have a great open source solution - you would think it would have grown up around Unix in the 70s and 80s. I guess geeks never spent enough time in the library (thats what my dad, the librarian, says). (I used to work at VTLS too... left in about '95)

I've been thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12304775)

My small company has been seriously considering designing an open source library management solution for some time now and now seems like as good a time as any to do so. So I ask you this:

Aside from book management, what other functions would your ideal software have?

Alexandria (1)

E_elven (600520) | more than 9 years ago | (#12305056)

A really open-source version might be Alexandria [] .
Written in ruby, runs on Gnome.

OSS4lib, Koha, etc. (2, Informative)

Noksagt (69097) | more than 9 years ago | (#12306392)

I am a developer involved with refbase [] . I say that not to plug the product (it is a bit minimalist for a real library, but there are many individuals, research groups and departments who use it to host papers), but so you know where I'm coming from. I have interacted with the open source bibliographic community & have tried many products & keep an ear to many others.

First, check out the oss4lib blog [] and openbib [] . These will point you to a lot of other good material.

Next, absolutely download , which is one of the most full-featured & comprehensive library solution that the F/OSS community currently has. []

I personally thing cheshire [] deserves a shout out too. A clean, FAST python-backed online catalogue with cross-site searching & conforming to a lot of nice standards like MODS.

You should also keep an eye for developments from bibliophile [] . This is a collaboration between many players of F/OSS literature databases.

Don't bother, it's not worth it (2, Interesting)

mendax (114116) | more than 9 years ago | (#12307430)

First, I must point out my potential biases. I work as a software engineer for a particular prominent integrated library system company.

I've recently had the need to think about open-source library systems. They appear to be cheap but you need to consider the support implications. Library software, like all software, has bugs in it and library software is particularly complicated making it hard to rigorously test. Who are you going to call when something doesn't work right? Who's going to fix the bugs you discover? Who's going to patch your software once the bug is fixed? People are very expensive.

You say you work at a small institution. *ALL* library software contracts, regardless of company, are negotiated. Small libraries usually pay less than larger libraries for the same systems. The price negotiated in the contract is partially based upon what the vendor thinks you can afford, what it thinks other vendors you're talking to want you to pay, the kind of support you need, etc.

When you buying library software from someone, you're not buying software, you're buying a solution, complete with help desk support, some systems administration, upgrades, and customization. It's the only way to go with this I'm afraid.

Re:Don't bother, it's not worth it (1)

mink (266117) | more than 9 years ago | (#12308167)

My experiance with software (outside of the library world) has been with both Open Source projects and Proprietary closed source companies.
Often with commercial software you dont get support. You have to pay per incident or pay a regular support fee. There is nothing wrong with this, but it does make the cost less attractive.
With non commercial software you need to get a feel for what support groups ther are, be it from the developers, newsgroups, user mailing lists or the projects website.

Sagebrush? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12309636)


OpenBiblio (3, Interesting)

Micah Stetson (96059) | more than 9 years ago | (#12309421)

OpenBiblio might be a good fit. It's written in PHP and uses MySQL for its database engine. It was very easy to install, and I have it working on NetBSD, GNU/Linux, and several versions of Windows. Since we put it in, we've gotten a constant stream of good comments from our patrons and our library personnel -- mostly about how easy it is to use.

Now, I should point out that I'm a developer on the OpenBiblio project, so I'm probably biased. But I think it's surprisingly good. We don't quite have the feature set that Koha has, but the code is much more approachable, if you need to modify it.

I began using OpenBiblio because no open source library software did what the libraries I'm working for needed. It had the basic feature set, without a lot of extra fluff to get in my way. And the code was straightforward enough that I could modify it to fit my needs pretty easily. No other library system I looked at had quite the right mix. It's certainly not perfect, but we're working on it. I think it's a serious contender. []

spectre_240sx??? (1)

Seraphim_72 (622457) | more than 9 years ago | (#12309933)

Is there a way to contact you? The Minnesota State College and University System uses a thing called PALS [] for thier needs. They have supported it internally for years and functions across a huge [] number of college campuses both public and private.

Here is the deal though, they (for political, not library, reasons) are moving off of it and onto a different system. As this entire afair was made with state dollars I am a bit curious to know what is going to be done with the code base. I got the email addy of the top developer and I can shoot him off an email tomorrow to see what he says. If you are interested let me know. seraphim_72 [at]

Books for MacOS X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12310859)

The free software Books [] is OSS, based in OS X, and is in the process of adding a lot more library-related fetaures.

Emilda (1)

p0ppe (246551) | more than 8 years ago | (#12311185)

"Emilda is a complete Integrated Library System that features amongst others an OPAC, circulation and administration functions, Z39.50 capabilities and 100% MARC compatibility. MARC compatibility is achieved using Zebra in conjunction with MySQL."

heard of this recently (1)

PrebleNY (797307) | more than 8 years ago | (#12313904)

As a librarian at a federal R&D center I have also been looking into this (our current OPAC/ILS was selected 10 yearss ago as the lowest bidder and it has delivered the value you would expect from the lowest bidder, who has been sold several times and developed the product very litte... end rant) this topic came up on my grad school alumni BB (yes most professional librarians in the US have at least a Masters degree) in addition to the other excellent resources already mentioned (Koha for example)... I will add Evergreen which can be found at as someone else mentioned earlier, it really depends on what kind of in house support/customization you can handle (both an issue of technical expertise and just man hours available) and the scalability required. Some of the OSX options are fine for someone tracking their personal collection of less than a 1000 items which are lent to friends and relatives, but even a small library OPAC has much higher needs and moving from simply OPAC functions (check in/out, overdue notices, catalogue searching) to a full ILS could add modules for acquisitions, interlibrary lending, multisite support, multiple user levels (staff, patron, admin) etc. You want to have a good idea where you think you might end up in 10 years and then pick an appropriate option that will provide you the basic functions you need and formats that can be imported into the next great thing down the road (add in the current maturity of the project, committment of the development team, frequency of updates/releases, etc.) Best of luck!

browser based systems are key (1)

digitalride (767159) | more than 8 years ago | (#12316765)

We've pitched KOHA to some libraries, but non-technical librarians are afraid that something will break and there will be no support.

Even if a closed source management system is used, make sure that clients can connect using a standard web browser. Then all of your client machines can be open source, running Firefox. Some people use LTSP thin client/server setups in large libraries, but our [] multi-user machines provide 4 workstations for $999 which is even more economical.

It just kills me to see library patrons referencing card catalogs and typing documents on $800 dell machines running XP. More money might be wasted on the client machines than the management system itself

Re:browser based systems are key (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12410445)

Well the good news is that Koha does have vendor support now from LibLime [] . LibLime provides full vendor services on open source including migration assistance, staff training, and software maintenance and support.
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