Information Today
Volume 18, Issue 8 — September 2001
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Technology Resource Foundation Makes Available Its Free Web-Based Integrated Library System

The Technology Resource Foundation, a Seattle-based nonprofit group, has announced the release of OpenBook, a free Web-based integrated library system. The system offers flexible, sophisticated automation to small and mid-sized public or school libraries and was created to increase digital access to information.

According to the announcement, OpenBook uses open source code to offer a low-cost, simple-to-use system rich in features generally found only in high-end systems. The current technical beta version includes complex searching capabilities, a full bibliographic record with external resource linking as defined in MARC21, and a cataloging function that is MARC21-compatible. Some distinctive features include the following:

  • Low Cost—OpenBook can automate, for example, a small library of 10,000 records for under $1,000 for server hardware and with no charge for the operating system.

  • A completely Web-based cataloging system—It's simple to use, works with any existing hardware or software, and supports all popular browsers.

  • Combines total capture and retention of all MARC21 fields with custom configuration of cataloging display fields

  • A multilingual interface—Can be displayed in any Roman- character language

  • Patron ability to access the system from home

  • Enhanced safety features, including backup, restore, and purge

  • A home page development template
In an upcoming release, OpenBook also will include a full circulation module and other features such as Z39.50 server and client capability to allow for integration into a cooperative library system or community college campus.

"Libraries are critical to information access, which is at the heart of a healthy democracy. We created OpenBook to enable libraries, regardless of their financial resources, to automate and improve their ability to serve patrons," said Willem Scholten, executive director of the foundation. Prior to founding the Technology Resource Foundation, Scholten worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to bring thousands of libraries in needy communities online.

"OpenBook offers such a complete and affordable solution that it is being received enthusiastically both here and abroad," Scholten said. "Because it's written in open source code, we have university professors who are very excited about using it to challenge their students to add to the system and make [it] even better. That's the beauty of open source—it allows us to have a constantly improving product, with all users sharing the benefits of each others' learnings."

OpenBook developed as a modification of Koha, the first free open source library system created in New Zealand by the Horowhenua Library Trust and Katipo Communications, Ltd. The Technology Resource Foundation's OpenBook design team, which comprises experienced librarians and programmers, used Koha as a basis to develop OpenBook from the ground up. OpenBook is general-public licensed and no user fees or other licensing charges are incurred by the installing library.

The Technology Resource Foundation, funded by a start-up from the Waitt Family Foundation, develops and pilots model programs and online resources to increase digital access to information in the very poorest communities. In particular, it works to develop low-cost, low-bandwidth technologies for use in public-access labs, libraries, and schools.

Source: Technology Resource Foundation, Seattle, 206/332-7400;

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