Foreword – Practical Open Source Software for Libraries


When I first corresponded with Nicole, she was a recent library school graduate working at a law library in Philadelphia. She was already aware of the technical merits of free software (as in freedom) and open source software (FOSS) and had redesigned and built the intranet at her work with FOSS tools. What she was only just learning about was the philosophy behind free software. A functioning free and open source software project is about far more than the program code alone; it is as much about freedom and community as it is about software.

The Free Software project I work on – Koha (, which is an integrated library system – is a good illustration of this community in effect. The fact that a programmer in Poland working for a small monastery can add a feature that makes the lives of the librarians at the Cook Islands National Library better daily is what FOSS is all about. Nicole being a librarian was quick to understand the power of being autonomous and the beauty of a functioning free and open source software project. Indeed one could say the primary function of a librarian is to facilitate the transfer of knowledge, thus empowering their communities, which is the same role free software plays.

In the few short years I have been fortunate to count Nicole as a friend, I have watched her grow from initiate to an integral and indispensable part of a free software project. She runs workshops on open source, gives presentations, blogs almost daily and now writes books on the subject. Her insatiable appetite for knowledge and her desire to make the world a better place make her an excellent teacher; her enthusiasm rubs off on all those around her.

In this book, which is almost like her journey, Nicole takes us through learning what open source is, and tells us what it isn’t by examining and debunking some of the more popular myths around it. The book then leads into how libraries can make the best use of open source, with chapters packed full of concrete and real world examples. Each chapter builds on the rest and by the end you will come away with a much deeper understanding of what FOSS is, and why we love it so.

Chris Cormack

Christopher Cormack has a BSc in Computer Science and a BA in Mathematics and Maori Studies. While working for Katipo Communications he was the lead developer of the original version of Koha, which went live at Horowhenua Library Trust on January 5, 2000. Since then he has served various roles in the community as release manager, QA manager and currently translation manager. Christopher believes in free software, and allowing users the freedom to innovate.