SPEC Kit 340: Open Source Software  · 11
Open source software (OSS) “licenses must permit
non-exclusive commercial exploitation of the licensed
work, must make available the work’s source code,
and must permit the creation of derivative works
from the work itself.” [St. Laurent, Andrew M. (2008).
Understanding Open Source and Free Software
Licensing. O’Reilly Media, p 8. ISBN 9780596553951].
The emergence of OSS increases collaboration
among research libraries, providing greater control
of library tools, as well as improving usability and
quality of library resources. This collaborative ap-
proach fits neatly with the knowledge and resource
sharing ideology of libraries. While OSS is ostensibly
“free,” adoption of OSS within an organization is not
without significant support, integration, and develop-
ment costs.
The purpose of this survey was to study ARL
member libraries’ adoption and/or development of
OSS for functions such as an integrated library system
(ILS), discovery layer, electronic resource manage-
ment, inter-library loan, digital asset management,
institutional repository, course reserve, streaming
media, study room scheduler, digital preservation,
publishing, floor maps, data warehouse, and other
library-related purposes. We wanted to understand
organizational factors that affect decisions to adopt
OSS, the cost of OSS, and the awareness of OSS sys-
tems already in use. With regard to development of
OSS, we wanted to understand: 1) research libraries’
policies and practices on open sourcing their code;
2) the frequency of research library contributions to
open source projects; 3) the reluctance of research li-
braries to make their code openly available; and 4) the
most common benefits and challenges encountered
when research libraries open source their code.
This survey was distributed to the 125 ARL mem-
ber libraries in February 2014. Seventy-seven libraries
(62%) responded to the survey by the March 17, 2014
Library IT Staff
The 66 responding academic and public libraries
reported between two and 50 staff with IT respon-
sibilities as all or part of their duties, with an aver-
age of 16 and a median of 14. Three national libraries
reported between 130 and 350 IT staff. This bimodal
distribution is stark, with the national libraries an
order of magnitude larger than their university coun-
terparts. Despite this difference in staff size, we find
no statistically significant differences in the relative
participation in OSS projects.
Seventy respondents (91%) develop software in-
house. Of those, the most common software develop-
ment practices include using version control (86%) and
performing usability tests (86%). The least common
practices include the use of independent quality as-
surance (24%), adherence to a formal, written code
reuse policy (10%), and the presence of a committee
or working group to encourage code reuse (7%). The
most common other software practices mentioned by
respondents were agile/scrum development method-
ologies (5 of 15 respondents) and pair programming
(2 respondents). Most respondents reported that their
library IT staff are encouraged to experiment with
new technologies (75 or 99%), and prototype potential
projects (62 or 82%).
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