Open Source Software: Pros and Cons

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Open source software has become extremely popular in the past few years, and for good reason. It is free to use, modify, and share, and in many cases, it is as good or better than its proprietary counterpart. There are many types of open source software that can be used in an educational environment. Linux is an open source operating system that can be used instead of Microsoft Windows; Perl, Ruby, and Python are open source programming languages that can be used instead of Microsoft C++; Firefox and Chrome are open source web browsers that can be used instead of Microsoft Internet Explorer; LibreOffice is an open source office suite that can be used instead of Microsoft Office; and GIMP is an open source photo editor that can be used instead of Adobe Photoshop.

Open source software can also be utilized for an integrated library system. Three common systems are Koha, Evergreen, and OPALS, which are sometimes used with a hosting site such as Equinox Software of LibLime. There are pros and cons to using an open source ILS in the Argyle school district, as listed below.

PROS CONS
Flexible and customizable Steep learning curve
Initial low costs Potential long term costs (training, hosting site fees)
Highly reliable No professional tech support or service
Accessible (don’t have to be a computer wiz to use) Not as user friendly

For my school district, an open source ILS could be beneficial, not only in terms of saving money, but also as far as being able to customize it for optimal use. It would be beneficial to make the change over the summer so that the library staff can be trained and become familiar with the new system before the start of the school year.

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