Barriers to Initiation of Open Source Software Projects in Libraries

“Libraries share a number of core values with the Open Source Software (OSS) movement, suggesting there should be a natural tendency toward library participation in OSS projects. However Dale Askey’s 2008 Code4Lib column entitled “We Love Open Source Software. No, You Can’t Have Our Code,” claims that while libraries are strong proponents of OSS, they are unlikely to actually contribute to OSS projects. He identifies, but does not empirically substantiate, six barriers that he believes contribute to this apparent inconsistency.

In this study we empirically investigate not only Askey’s central claim but also the six barriers he proposes. In contrast to Askey’s assertion, we find that initiation of and contribution to OSS projects are, in fact, common practices in libraries. However, we also find that these practices are far from ubiquitous; as Askey suggests, many libraries do have opportunities to initiate OSS projects, but choose not to do so. Further, we find support for only four of Askey’s six OSS barriers. Thus, our results confirm many, but not all, of Askey’s assertions.”