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Webinars create a buzz about FOSS in libraries
An brief overview of EIFL-FOSS webinars from 2011 and 2012...
Access to knowledge is fundamental to education and research, and thereby socio-economic development.
Students and scholars in developing and transition countries often rely entirely on the library for learning and research materials. Libraries equipped with modern Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and skilled staff, offering comprehensive digital collections, can provide this essential support.
Libraries in developing and transition countries cannot afford to keep up to date with technologies as licenses for proprietary software can be very expensive. There are a lot of FOSS (free and open source software) tools available that can enhance library services to their user communities. FOSS technologies potentially put a great deal of control into the hands of librarians - however not every librarian has technical knowledge and the people who make decisions about which technologies to implement can find it difficult to obtain the information they need to make such decisions. It was the aim of the EIFL-FOSS programme to provide a series of free webinars to increase awareness and encourage usage of FOSS in libraries. This activity sparked interest among libraries in downloading and trialling different software tools and advocating at management level for allocating resources to implement FOSS tools. A total of 12 webinars were held in 2011 and 13 in 2012.
Each webinar features either an expert in a particular FOSS library software tool, or someone who has led an implementation pilot, with often a case study from a library that has implemented the tool in question and been using it for some time followed by a question and answer session. After the webinar, a recording of the session and presentation slides (if any) are made available on the EIFL website along with further information about the software, where it can be downloaded, how library staff can access support mailing lists, etc. Three webinars illustrate the buzz created around FOSS for libraries by the webinar series.
In January 2011 EIFL-FOSS’ very first webinar was delivered by Simon Ball (EIFL FOSS Programme Manager, and also Senior Advisor for JISC TechDis in the UK - an advisory service on accessible technologies). Many free tools for supporting disabled library users were showcased. The webinar featured a pilot project at the University of Zimbabwe, where several key disability support tools (such as a virtual magnifying glass and text-to-speech software) were piloted. The interest around the use of free tools to support disabled library users has grown tremendously over the last two years, to a point where EIFL has developed a Step-by-Step user guide to the most useful software of this type.
In October 2011 EIFL’s webinar featured the developer of SubjectsPlus, Andrew Darby (University of Miami Libraries, USA), and the leader of a pilot project to implement it, Zimbabwe's EIFL FOSS Coordinator Amos Kujenga (National University of Science and Technology, Zimbabwe). SubjectsPlus is a FOSS tool that enables libraries to create and manage online research guides, exposing the full range of the electronic resources to users. Due to strong interest in this tool we have overseen implementations in Cambodia and Kyrgyzstan in 2012 and EIFL commissioned Mr. Kujenga to compile a Step-By-Step user guide to assist those who would like to implement the software but would benefit from technical guidance. Mr. Kujenga is also running an online wiki to create a community of interest around SubjectsPlus across the EIFL network.
In 2012 a webinar on VuFind delivered by Mark Williams (Swansea University, UK) was followed, due to popular demand, by a Q&A webinar with the developer of VuFind, Demian Katz (Villanova University, USA). VuFind is a library resource portal to enable all library users to search and browse through all of the library's resources by replacing the traditional OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog). It provides a flexible search engine for finding both metadata and full text.
The March 2011 webinar by Kevin Stranack (Simon Fraser University, Canada) focused on CUFTS and GODOT. These are e-resource management tools which enable library staff to manage e-resource collections cost effectively while enabling library users to discover and access e-resources simply and easily. The webinar proved so popular that in November 2012 the EIFL-FOSS Coordinator for Russia, Andrew Sokolov (St. Petersburg University, Russia), delivered our non-English webinar when he presented a webinar in Russian detailing his library's implementation and use of CUFTS over the last five years.
So far the webinars have attracted a total of over 450 participants, with hundreds more accessing the recordings after the event. The full list of webinars, including the recordings and further information about the tools, can be found on a separate page for each year on the EIFL website:
‘The webinars have been informative in nature, helpful and they have provided knowledge on a wide scope of software to choose from. The recorded webinars have provided ample time to review and further understand the presentations.’
Judith Nannozi, Librarian
Uganda Martyrs University, Uganda
‘The webinars I attended were of great value. I learned and shared the output with my colleagues.’
Mandy Taha, Senior Librarian
Library of Alexandria, Egypt
‘This is very fast and easy way to learn. More of such webinars should take place next year.’
Richard Bruce Lamptey, IR Librarian
"The webinars are a terrific move in promoting open source. I have met many who have praised them."
Edmund Balnaves, Information Coordinator
IFLA IT Section