Friday, March 30, 2007

Open Source Decisions

Bravo to the Guggenheim!

According to the Linux PR newswire, the New York museum has chosen the open source library system Koha for their special collections and archives. This is a great step for those advocates of open source solutions within the community of museum professionals.

What I like about the Museum's decision for open source is the valuing of flexibility as a core system requirement.

"The Guggenheim's future development ideas include creating an interface that allows selected library special collections to be searched online as well as creating a bibliographic "crosswalk" between the catalog and the Museum's collection management software. "

The variables in the management selection matrix are shifting. 10 years ago, this decision (and criteria) would have been unheard of within any cultural institution. I was talking with the DigiComm group last night and we were reveling in the old days in which IT's sole function was keeping servers up and running. With that mandate, open source is the last responsibility that any CTO would into consideration. The refrain is memorable, "I value reliability first and foremost. Who is on the line if the technology fails? That is why we purchase Microsoft because I know that there is always someone to call when things go bad." And so on... As platforms, servers and networks have grown more reliable, IT has been freed from this tyranny of unreliable technology to really become a the natural partner in connecting departments and bridging information/service gaps.

Though the museum world has been slow entering this phase (see my post on the challenges of entrenched vertical managment), the adoption of open source technology in a major cultural institution points to sector-wide shifts that will surely cascade in the coming decade.

Though it is just the library system, this is a start. Publically-accessible standards and platforms have a great way of leading to other, more pervasive open solutions.

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