Get your FOSS on: Wellington library geeks

Wellington has a vibrant open source development community. There are some fantastic open source projects happening in libraries in Wellington and the surrounding area. Here’s more about the projects and people doing neat things in libraries, most of which are open source. This is part two of a three part series on the open source and library tech communities in Wellington.

Chris Cormack is the original Koha developer. Koha was the first open source integrated library system (ILS) in the world. An ILS is the system that you use when you search a library’s online catalogue, check out books, and that library staff use to catalogue items, run management reports and often track their book orders. In 2007 he won a New Zealand Open Source Award for his contributions to Koha. Like many of the active community minded geeks in Wellington, Chris also works at Catalyst. He is the current translation manager for Koha. I’ve learned a lot from him about Koha, the open source community here in New Zealand, and the Koha community around the world. We’ve had great conversations about software, community, politics, and how these things are connected.

Kete is an open source project that allows you to “create online areas for collaboration for your community. Write topics and upload images, audio, video, documents. Discuss them all. Link them together”. It was developed by Horowhenua Library Trust and Katipo Communications, the same team that started Koha. I had a great meeting with the core developer, Walter McGinnis, who works for Katipo Communications. I got to see a sneak peak of the next release. Walter is smart and passionate about the work he does. He’s had the most interesting jobs including being a “gas station attendant” and janitor in Antarctica, as well as doing some casual film projection on the side, in trade for coffee. He answered all the questions I had about using Kete as a platform for a community archive project, like QueerHistoryProject.com.

Aotearoa People’s Network is “about providing free access to broadband internet services in public libraries so that all New Zealanders can benefit from creating, accessing and experiencing digital content”. Many of the APN sites have a local Kete where people from that community can upload their stories, images, and other content. My only criticism about this amazing program is their decision to use internet filters on the whole system. Yay APN! Boo filtering!

Horowhenua Library Trust is the little library that could. Jo Ransom, the Deputy Head of Libraries, is an innovative and gutsy leader who is a strong and loud advocate for libraries and their users. HLT is the birthplace of Koha and Kete. In 1999, HLT was forced to find a new ILS that could deal with a change in millenium. Proprietary ILS vendors didn’t have a system that could manage on dial up speeds and cope with the interference from the electric fences on local farms. They worked with Katipo and funded the original Koha development. Recently they funded the development of Kete, a community digital repository. I also admire Jo’s guts in standing up to her council to fight against the introduction of revenue targets (which would mean user fees) for HLT. Jo is one rad librarian, and HLT is one rad library system.

Brenda Chawner is finishing her PhD thesis that looks at factors influencing satisfaction with open source software in libraries. She was also the head of the library school at Victoria University and is organizing free software prophet Richard Stallman’s next visit to New Zealand. Stallman will be one of the keynote speakers at the LIANZA conference. Brenda describes him as “one of the most influential people the audience has never heard of.” I really enjoyed all of our conversations about open source and libraries, and how different projects develop different cultures. She’s a great teacher, and I’ve learned a lot from her.

Part 3 in this series will look at upcoming conferences and companies in Wellington.

One thought on “Get your FOSS on: Wellington library geeks”

  1. Hey Tara,

    This is a great series of posts – well done you! And thanks for the kind words. We didn’t set out to be at the bleeding edge of this stuff – it was more a case of needs must!

    Cheers Jo.

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