Review: Open Source Web Applications for Libraries
Coombs, Karen A. & Amanda J. Hollister. Open Source Web Applications for Libraries. Medford, New Jersey: Information Today, Inc., 2010. 268p. Trade Paperback, $39.50. ISBN: 978-1-57387-400-7.
Is your library interested in creating blogs, wikis, content management systems, reference and instruction tools, or resource discovery tools? Open Source Web Applications for Libraries is a helpful source for librarians exploring how to build open source web applications to improve communication with patrons or to provide enhanced information finding aids.
Coombs and Hollister have written an easy to read open source reference guide. The text is logically written and consistently gives the same information for each product – background, download and installation instructions, information about add-ons and plug-ins, links for additional information, and examples of library websites where the tools are in use. Even though the guide is written in layman's terms, it still requires the reader to have some knowledge of web server development, PHP, Linux, SQL, and database design. The authors present these concepts in an introductory chapter. They did a good job of taking technical information and making it as easy to understand as possible. Code samples are included to further illustrate specific points for customizing or enhancing each application.
There were two shortcomings with the book. First, the writers missed the opportunity to include a section on open source integrated library systems such as Koha and Evergreen. Second, no software security features and deficiencies were discussed for most products included in the guide.
A book such as this has a short useful shelf life when it comes to features and examples, as products rapidly change and new products are developed. However, the text will remain useful for some years as it supplies background information on open source web application options. For any library looking for new ways to bring patrons and information together, Open Source Web Applications for Libraries is a recommended addition to the library's professional collection.