The Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS), known as the initial developers of the open-source integrated library system (ILS) Evergreen, will use a recently received Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant to help plan the development of Loblolly, an open source software project to ease library accessibility for physically impaired patrons.
GPLS received the $97,843 National Leadership Grant (match: $52,868) from the IMLS in late September, to “organize a planning committee from approximately 40 national leaders with expertise in library accessibility to plan the development of an open-source software system for libraries that serve users with visual or other impairments that prevent their use of traditional printed and text-based materials.”
GPLS expects to gather approximately 40 national library-accessibility experts on the planning committee, including representatives from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped at the Library of Congress. State librarians and directors of statewide library services for the physically impaired have “expressed significant interest in this effort,” said Georgia State Librarian Lamar Veatch.
The first steps will be to “coalesce a community of interest among the state library agencies” and other groups to agree upon an initial set of requirements, both functional and technical, for the software. The first face-to-face meeting is tentatively planned for February 2012.
Loblolly as ILS?
Though exactly what form the software will take is yet to be determined, Veatch told LJ that it is currently envisioned “as a stand-alone ILS that would be able to link to other library management systems as needed.” However, he said, Loblolly may take the form of a software module or discovery layer to be used with other systems.
The primary purpose of the software will be “to enable the state library agencies to better provide Talking Book Services,” said Veatch, but may also include “many new and innovative functions,” such as tools to help blind and visually impaired patrons more easily search library catalogs and engage with social networking services. Reader’s advisory services are also planned to be integrated into the new software.
Loblolly, like Evergreen, will be developed and released as open source software—a fact that will broaden the software’s availability by allowing libraries to avoid license costs, Veatch said. Although it is “certainly possible” that Loblolly will be built on the Evergreen platform, Veatch said, there are “no plans at this early stage to make it an ‘official marriage.’”