Andromeda Yelton

Across Divided Networks

I even really like citrus fruits! And yet.

December 16th, 2009 · 8 Comments · Uncategorized

So apparently LibLime (a support vendor for Koha, a major open-source ILS) has done a bait and switch — people who signed up for Koha support are in fact getting a vendor-specific, only-sorta-open version of the software.

I’ve been having unkind words about LibLime percolating in my head for a week which I’ve been not posting here, because I try not to be an unkind-words sort of person. But I no longer feel restraint about that.

So here’s my experience with LibLime:

They deleted my, and all my classmates’, final projects (Koha demos which they were hosting). The day before they were due.

A miscommunication was involved, and it can’t be said to be entirely Koha’s fault. The demos had been, properly, on a deletion list. But they also deleted them without notifying their client in advance. Or…noticing that there had been a tremendous amount of activity on these sites. Or, indeed, noticing that they had had support transactions on those sites within the last few weeks.

(This was ironic as part of my group’s conclusions about Koha is that you shouldn’t run it unless you personally are very comfortable with a Linux command line, or have a close and trusting relationship with an IT department or hosting company. So much for that plan…)

In addition, the demo sites they gave us were missing some very important functionality, and they couldn’t figure out how to fix it. I figured out how to fix it. Let’s keep in mind here that I’d never worked with Koha before this term, and the documentation…well, isn’t ideal, let’s say. I couldn’t implement (or verify) my solution because I didn’t have access to a command line, but I could use the knowledge to figure out a hack I could implement from the front end which got it working well enough for our purposes.

So for those playing along at home: yes, that means the person totally inexperienced with the software and without access to the command line diagnosed and fixed the problem before the person who gets paid to do that.

LibLime…oh, LibLime. I want there to be inspiring, kick-ass open-source support companies for the library world. I want open source to be able to offer both market and conceptual challenges to traditional software. I want the library world to have the agility that open source offers to try new tools and new paradigms. None of that is going to happen without quality support. That support, alas, is not you.

(via Jessamyn West; Nicole Engard, the author of the bait-and-switch post linked, is also a regular on the thought-provoking Library 2.0 Gang podcast with all sorts of library-luminary names)

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Nicole Engard

    Thanks for commenting! But don’t let this sour you on the open source ILS solutions out there. There are several vendor options and they are not all the same!

    • Andromeda

      Wow, fastest response ever :) .

      Don’t worry; I’m still very interested in open source. (And I made sure to check you’re no longer with LibLime before posting — I’m glad there are other options out there; I just don’t personally have experience with them.) For all that I complain I actually really enjoyed debugging Koha, and I am genuinely excited about the ways open source allows for rapid prototyping of new ideas — the final project in question was for a class on ILSes (I’m a Simmons student), and it was clear how much room there is for…well…razing the whole idea of an ILS and starting over, say, and that’s something that won’t happen fast enough without open source options.

      But the open source options can’t be widely implemented without strong support. (So feel free to tell me why ByWater is better. ;)

      • Nicole Engard

        The answer is simple – we’re completely open – open source, open with each other, open with the community – open :)

        Also, we act like a real open source vendor in that we work with the other open source vendors – we have shared contracts and partnerships with many of them – I love that :) And 2/3s of us are librarians :)

        Anyway, I’m glad that you are still open to open source and that you got to play with an open source ILS as part of your library class – I never got to do that in library school :(

    • Andromeda

      Hm, seems I can’t keep nesting replies forever, so back to the top…

      Actually and truly open (backed up with actions) is a fine thing. And I always love cultures that do software with librarians, or libraries with technological sophistication — being a library student whose friends are plurality-if-not-majority software engineers, I’m always running up against culture clashes, no matter which set of people from my life I’m talking to. As you might infer from the tagline ;) I want to be crossing that gap, so I’m a sucker for people who are.

      The ILS class (unfortunately elective, not requirement) was a pretty good thing. Final project on Koha, minor project on OPALS, access to demo sites of a variety of proprietary solutions, as well as some history and present-day geography of the ILS market.

  • Warren

    My workplace runs Evergreen, another open source ILS. We’re happy with it and with the support we get from Equinox (which is far better than the support from our previous two commercial vendors).

    Soon after the LibLime fallout, Equinox published “The Equinox Promise”, in which they pledged to keep their code open and in public repositories.

    Having never dealt with them, I can’t speak for ByWater or BibLibre, but their response to all of this has been great, too.

    • Andromeda

      Good to know. Unfortunately Evergreen isn’t among the ones we got to play with in my ILS class this term (but hey, open source means I can install and play with it whenever I feel like…).

      The promise looks nice (and the default WordPress theme is cracking me up; I’ve seen that theme a number of times myself…)

      (Welcome to the blog!)

  • Ben

    “They deleted my, and all my classmates’, final projects (Koha demos which they were hosting). The day before they were due.”

    Wow, that sucks. What was the project? Who specifically deleted it — Koha or LibLime?