Statewide Open-Source Library Initiatives

Open-source library systems such as Koha and Evergreen give libraries large and small an alternative to having for-profit corpo-rations control their local systems. Learn how three New England states are making open-source solutions available throughout their states. State library officer panelists include Diane Carty from Massachusetts, Martha Reid from Vermont, and Michael York from New Hampshire.

Session info, slides, and links


  • It’s a rural state – only 18 out of 183 libraries serve communities greater than 10,000
  • VT’s state-wide and ILL catalog is Sirsi, which is no longer supported (and not liked by users), so open source presents an opportunity to do better
  • ILL is important because if people only have access to the collection in their small rural library, they’ll stop using the library
  • a better state-wide catalog opens the potential for a state-wide card for borrowing items and using electronic resources – however, some libraries are worried about the demand this might generate (and send their items elsewhere), and other libraries worry about lost revenue from charging out-of-town patrons for use
  • VT is currently running a Koha pilot with five libraries


  • Highly populated and organized/automated state, with 9 library networks
  • Three networks applied for and earned an LSTA grant for collaborating on catalog software
  • This is called MassLNC, uses Evergreen – after grant money was spent, the program is funded by contributions from the three networks (has one employee, the MassLNC Coordinator)

New Hampshire
First card-based union catalog started in 1932, centralized at the state library and offered phone-based ILLs to NH libraries – replaced in 1984 with NAIS automated statewide system, using LS/2000 from OCLC; then migrated to Gaylord product then to SirsiDynix, which included 234 publics and 600+ school libraries – this used a “node” system of co-op areas, and GMILCS, which serves NH’s population centers, is the only one left (others never achieved critical mass of population). The failure of other nodes led to individual libraries buying “playschool” versions of ILSs, which makes participating on a state level now difficult, because those very basic ILSs don’t support interoperability. Starting looking at open source, and decided to go outside the regular state government system (because of how slow and “no you can’t do that” it was – using the Park Street Foundation in Concord as funding agent for open source software

Why Open Source?

  • It gives libraries control, and lets them collaborate together and with the larger open source community, and there is a cost savings
  • you can use a single-service vendor (hardware, software, networking), instead of different vendors who never own (or fix) problems but just blame it on another vendor
  • libraries can identify the most important shortcomings, and devote development dollars directly to it

DIY or Vendor Support?

NH: uses ByWater Solutions – vendors have expertise that local support might not have, and it’s outside the state’s requiring justification for every change. As for the privacy of data in the cloud, that ship has sailed – no one has privacy or security anymore

VT: initially chose Evergreen because their evaluation determined it was the better option, but then switched to Koha because so many VT libraries were already using it. They first tried to hire new state employees to support the project, but couldn’t fit them into the budget, and then approached the state IT department and UVM but they weren’t interested, and so ultimately went with ByWater because that is who the VT libraries were already using. VT also used MARChive as a one-time records cleanup

MA: MassLNC contracts primarily with Equinox, but also does local development with network staff. This required a clear conflict of interest policy, to make sure network developers weren’t contracting on the side for projects they should be doing on network time. MassLNC and networks also have centralized bug reporting and development ideas tools

What is the future?

NH: Offer state-wide resources, but local areas can supplement these services with additional resources that are important to them (such as more frequent van deliveries, etc). Probably not a state-wide library card system – that was tried 1973-75, but stopped because it didn’t compensate lending libraries for lost access to their own material

VT: still have 30+ libraries not automated or using basic ILS (such as LibraryWorld), which need to be helped to connect to the rest of the libraries in the state. State-wide program is called Catamount, and VOCAL(?) is an existing network of about 50 libraries. One big need is to start a state-wide delivery system – current ILL is about 100,000, which is small because patrons cannot initiate ILL requests

MA: goal is to develop MassLNC into a state-wide catalog, with a common state-wide library card, with the minimum goal to get everyone on the same software and improve accessibility to all

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