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How to choose whether an open source solution is right for your institution. Listed below are studies that tackle this question, and provide a framework for evaluation.

Impressions and Concerns about Implementation

Rafiq (2007) conducted an international study to measure the LIS community’s perception of OSS adoption in libraries. He distributed his online questionnaire via international library discussion groups and listsrvs. He found that his respondents (68% from developing countries) were in general, positive about OSS in libraries. Concerns were mainly related to support, documentation, and implementation difficulty for library staff.

Economics of Open Source

Writing for Educause, Trappler (2009) is also cautious about OSS, noting that this option can provide a “viable alternative,” though it does not always save money or resources (para 1). He warns educators to be aware of the licensing agreements, and read them as carefully as a proprietary software license.

In House Support

Trappler warns that the complexities of some OSS may require “in-house support,” and that it is not a “panacea” (para. 16). One advantage he notes is that it is much easier to try out OSS than proprietary software, and he encourages educators to always include OSS bids to expand competition with proprietary vendors.

According to Trappler, evaluating the “features, functions and maturity levels” of OSS products is vital to the selection process. If an OSS solution is chosen, an institution can benefit by becoming part of an OSS community, and sharing support functions. When “appropriately managed” OSS can be more effective and less costly than proprietary software (para 30-35).

Gauging an Organization’s Specific Needs and Capabilities

Ven, Verelst & Manaert (2008) echo Trappler’s cautions. Targeting ten Belgian organizations which had adopted OSS, their study recorded and analyzed face-to-face interviews with key employees. Points discussed were cost advantages, source code, maturity, vendor lock-in, and external support. The authors conclude that organizations should not base their decisions to adopt OSS on what other organizations are doing or the “claims in the literature.” Rather, decisions should be made according to the specific needs and capabilities of the organization (p.58-59).


  • Rafiq, Muhammad. (2009). LIS community’s perceptions towards open source software adoption in libraries. International Information & Library Review, 41(3), 137-145.
  • Trappler, Thomas J. (2009). Is There Such a Thing as Free Software? The Pros and Cons of Open-Source Software. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 32(2), 10 pp.
  • Ven, K., Verelst, J., & Mannaert, H. (2008). Should you adopt open source software? IEEE Software, 25(3), 54-59. doi:Article

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