Information architecture - parallel planning for digital and physical services

Lars Noodén
For The Pysical Library and Beyond
Library as Place and the Library in Cyberspace

Järvenpää, Finland, 11-12 August 2005

Appendix A: Interesting Tools for Libraries

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but merely meant to highlight some of the more useful and flexible tools available. Any of these, with the exception of Opera, can be freely modified, customized or re-distributed. It is even possible to use only the relevant components and remove the rest. It is possible to purchase support, training, custom development or professional services. Some companies specialize in a specific product. It is also possible to form project groups to add specific functionality or features.

All of these tools rely on open standards, which means that it is easier to replace or combine them with other tools.

Useful Software for Desktops and Public Terminals

These tools can be useful on staff desktop machines or some public terminals:

Productivity tools or suites
Productivity suite including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation graphics, vector graphics, and an equation editor. Handles styles and long documents very well. Supports EU-recommended, XML-based, international file format OpenDocument. Available in many languages.
  • Writer - word processing
  • Calc - spread sheet
  • Presenter - presentation graphics
  • Draw - vector graphics
  • Base - front end for relational databses
Similar to, but with paid support and available only in ten languages.
Web-browser, advanced e-mail and newsgroup client, chat client, and HTML editing. Flexible and secure.
Small and fast. Extensible with add-ons. Secure.
Not open source but smallest, fastest and secure.
Mail clients
Fast, secure, spam filters, sorting.
Advanced e-mail, web browser and newsgroup client, chat client, and HTML editing
Not open source and limited to Mac OS 9, OS X, and MS-Windows but otherwise excellent.
Audio Editing
Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds.
Record live audio. Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs. Edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, and WAV sound files. Cut, copy, splice, and mix sounds together. Change the speed or pitch of a recording.
Ardour is a digital audio workstation. You can use it to record, edit and mix multi-track audio. (For advanced users.)
Audio players
XMMS is a multimedia player for unix systems and can play media files such as MP3, MOD's, WAV and others, such as Ogg Vorbis, with the use of Input plugins. XMMS is mainly targeted at music playback. For five years in a row XMMS has been voted Favourite Audio Tool by the readers of LinuxJournal.
Winamp is not open source, but there is a no-fee version as well as a paid version.
The GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. Excellent for digital photography or other RGB image manipulation. Not a competitor to Photoshop, but still more powerful than what most users or your average digital photographer will need.
Blender is an integrated suite of tools for the creation of 3D content. It offers full functionality for modelling, rendering, animation, post-production, creation and playback of interactive 3D content. (For advanced users.)
Chat / Instant Messaging
Gaim is a multi-protocol instant messaging (IM) client for Linux, BSD, MacOS X, and Windows. It is compatible with AIM and ICQ (Oscar protocol), MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, IRC, Jabber, Gadu-Gadu, SILC, GroupWise Messenger, and Zephyr networks.
There is also an encryption plug-in for Gaim.
Jabber is an open, secure, ad-free instant messaging tool for services like AIM, ICQ, MSN, and Yahoo. Under the hood, Jabber is a set of streaming XML protocols and technologies that enable any two entities on the Internet to exchange messages, presence, and other structured information in close to real time.
Video editing
Kino is a non-linear DV editor for GNU/Linux. It features excellent integration with IEEE-1394 for capture, VTR control, and recording back to the camera. It captures video to disk in Raw DV and AVI format, in both type-1 DV and type-2 DV (separate audio stream) encodings.
Also, Kino can export the composite movie in a number of formats: DV over IEEE 1394, Raw DV, DV AVI, still frames, WAV, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4. Still frame import and export uses gdk-pixbuf, which has support for BMG, GIF, JPEG, PNG, PPM, SVG, Targa, TIFF, and XPM.
Kstars is an easy to use desktop planetarium with detailed star charts and the ability to simulate a real time view from any date/time, longitude and lattitute. It provides an accurate graphical simulation of the night sky, from any location on Earth, at any date and time. The display includes 130,000 stars, 13,000 deep-sky objects, all 8 planets, the Sun and Moon, and thousands of comets and asteroids.

Useful Server-side Tools

These tools can be used to provide useful services for library patrons and staff:

Networked Storage
Samba is an Open Source/Free Software suite that provides seamless network storage and print services to SMB/CIFS clients. Rather quick to install and configure.
AFS is a distributed filesystem, useful for networked storage, pioneered at Carnegie Mellon University and supported and developed as a product by Transarc Corporation (now IBM Pittsburgh Labs). It offers a client-server architecture for networked storage (aka file sharing), providing location independence, scalability and transparent migration capabilities for data.
Useful Server-based Tools
RT is an open source issue tracking / workflow program (aka electronic reference desk) by Best Practical Solutions LLC. Used by universities, government agencies and Fortune 100 companies. RT doesn't cost anything to copy or use, no matter how much you use it, but RT is commercially supported software.
Koha is the first open-source Integrated Library System (ILS), developed initially in New Zealand by Katipo Communications Ltd and Horowhenua Library Trust. It is MARC and UNIMARC compliant and uses perl, MySQL, and Apache.
Greenstone is an open source, multi-lingual suite of software for building and distributing digital library collections. It is produced by the New Zealand Digital Library Project at the University of Waikato, and developed and distributed in cooperation with UNESCO and the Human Info NGO
Squid is one of the most popular full-featured Web proxy cache systems. It supports proxying and caching of HTTP, FTP, and other URLs, proxying for SSL, cache hierarchies, caching of DNS lookups, and much more. Highly configurable.
Terminal Servers
Linux Terminal Server Project
LTSP is an add-on package for Linux that allows you to connect lots of low-powered thin client terminals to a Linux server. Applications typically run on the server, and accept input and display their output on the thin client display. Allows really old/slow computers to perform faster by using the server for processing and the old/slow computer only for dislay, input and output.
K12Linux in Schools Project
K12LTSP is based on RedHat Fedora Linux and the LTSP terminal server packages. It lets you boot diskless workstations from an applications server. You can use old PC's as diskless clients or buy new ones for under 200 € each, since all applications run on the terminal server itself and not on the client. Workstations are "thin" and have no software or hard drives. Thin-clients are perfect for schools because they are easy to install and require little maintenance. They are reliable and immune to malicious tampering and viruses.
Interesting Distros
Ubuntu Linux
Ubuntu is a complete Linux-based operating system, freely available with both community and professional support. The current Ubuntu release supports Intel x86 (IBM-compatible PC), AMD64 (Hammer) and PowerPC (Apple iBook and Powerbook, G4 and G5) architectures. Ubuntu includes more than 16,000 pieces of software, but the core installation fits on a single CD.
Skolelinux is made as free (as in speech) software, and is an overall computer solution based on school's resources and needs. It is a customized Debian distribution. Skolelinux is a network architecture tailored for use in schools, developed and supported by a large and growing international community, designed to be easy and cheap to maintain and gives the students their own usernames, home directories and services.
Debian is a free (as in speech) operating system for your computer. Debian uses the Linux kernel (the core of an operating system), but most of the basic OS tools come from the GNU project; hence the name GNU/Linux. It provides more than a pure OS: it comes with over 15490 packages, precompiled software bundled up in a nice format for easy installation on your machine.
Graphical User Interfaces
KDE is a powerful Free Software graphical desktop environment for Linux, Unix and similar workstations. It is highly flexible and easy to use. KDE has a kiosk mode useful for kiosks and public terminals.
Fluxbox is yet another window manager for X. It has KDE support, but is much, much smaller.
Cross-platform development kits
There are sometimes things that are easier to do with a piece of dedicated client software than via a web interface. However, then the big risk is getting locked into a specific platform.
Used even in mobile phones. Available in a dual license: GPL or commercial.
GTK+ is a multi-platform toolkit for creating graphical user interfaces. GTK+ has a complete set of widgets and is suitable for projects ranging from small one-off projects to complete application suites. It is Free Software and part of the GNU Project. However, the licensing terms for GTK+, the GNU LGPL, allow it to be used by all developers, including those developing proprietary software, without any license fees or royalties.
Other Kernels
Nearly all users and even most programmers will not notice one way or the other which kernel is used. However, depending on the service or activity, one kernel may offer advantages over another. It's generally not a big deal, though. Generally, the applications and tools are the same and based on the GNU project.
Common versions of the kernel are 2.2, 2.4, and 2.6. Not to be confused with linux distributions, which are complete operating sytstems plus applications.
There are three variants: FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and NetBSD each with a special focus. Advances in one are usually quickly ported to the others. The newer Macintoshes have been using BSD for the last five years or so.
A closed source, yet very reliable microkernel whose main selling point is reliability for years at a time.

Mon Aug 8 18:36:04 EEST 2005