[Fsf-friends] Library software...

Frederick Noronha fred@bytesforall.org
Sun, 23 Jun 2002 10:56:00 +0530 (IST)

Below is something I had written some time back. Unfortunately, like many
good projects, the young men involved seem to have got busy with their
working lives, after finishing college. 

Perhaps it would help if, after putting in so much work, such initiatives
could be taken up in the spirit of free-software/open-source. Unless
efforts are made to involve bigger teams of people... it won't happen. FN

On Sat, 22 Jun 2002 fsf-friends-request@mm.gnu.org.in wrote:

> From: "r_sreekumar " <r_sreekumar@rediffmail.com>
> hello
> we are looking for a library software (GPL) for my college 
> library. plese inform if anybody have any information.
> sreekumar

By Frederick Noronha

GOA, May 27, 2001 -- Librarians could get the smile back on their faces,
thanks to the initiative of three young engineering students from Goa who
have put together a software package that takes the monotony out of managing
thousands of books that cross their counter.

Gaurav Priyolkar, Sharmad Naik and Hiren Lodhiya (all 21) of the Verna-based
Padre Conceisao College of Engineering have put together the library
management software, which they hope will soon be utilised in their own

What's more, since the package is based on the 'Open Source' Linux-based
approach to writing software, it will be freely distributed to anyone else
wanting to use it. In contrast commercially-produced software products doing
similar tasks costs lakhs of rupees.

Gaurav, Sharmad and Hiren are all final year computer engineering students,
and undertook this challenge as part of their project. "This software will
be kept in Open Source (its 'source code' will be available to anyone
wanting to implement or improve the product). It could be utilised by anyone
who needs it or finds it useful," Gaurav told this correspondent.

Unlike other available software, this still-unnamed product is capable of
handling library-member records, fines collected, invoices and even report
generation. Books and libraries being at the heart of the
information-collecting process, if found useful, it could play a useful role
in helping libraries be more professionally run.

Librarians would now perhaps not have an excuse that a suitable software is
not available for the computerisation of their operations. This software
means there are no bulky paper card-catalogues, fines don't have to be
laboriously calculated, you don't need thick books or files containing
records of all members, and you can get 'reports' of various library
operations in a matter of seconds.

Hiren -- who along with his two other colleagues first encountered the
alternate Open Source GNU-Linux operating system barely a year back -- says:
"When we started, we never thought we would reach this far."

His colleague Sharmad has been making frequent trips to the nearby Indian
software Mecca of Bangalore, to get a better grasp of Linux-related
concepts. Smiling, he says: "Some projects of other students shrunk along
the way. Ours grew vastly (and became even more ambitious)."

The trio spent two months putting together what ended up as a fairly big
project. "Any database with 20 tables is an impressive size for a project.
Our has some 84 tables," says Hiren.

Linux, an Open Source means of writing software which implies collaborative
functioning and the free sharing of knowledge by those working on such
projects, is gaining popularity among young Indian developers. 

These young engineers say they gained immsense help from international
mailing-lists that proved very helpful in sorting out their difficulties,
via the Internet. "We were very happy when one day, we noticed a bug in
PHP," says Hiren, explaining how the collaborative style of writing Open
Source software helps all to gain from the shared knowledge.

"Now our hearts are into this project," says Hiren. They expect their own
Goa-based college to implement the software in its library probably. "We
want to keep the source-code open so that any future batch can continue to
work on improvements and enhance the potential of this software further,"
says Hiren. "Any other library can also get the benefit of using it."

In writing the project, they sought help from libraries at the Goa-based
National Institute of Oceanography and the Goa University. 

Gaurav explains that the software allows any library-user to log-in either
as a member of the general public, a library member, or a staff-member. Each
one using the software has certain priviledges, depending on his or her

Library members, for instance, can search for books or make a request that a
book be reserved for them. Library-staff, on the other hand, can look after
the issue, return or renewal of books. Some staff are entitled to add new
members or 'change their profile'.

Other staffers -- like the acquisition clerk -- can place orders for new
books, make invoices, or physically locate the books on the shelves upon
their arrival. 

On the other hand, the 'administrator' gets overall charge, and can get a
number of useful statistics on pressing a button. He can find out the daily
inflow of readers, fines collected, or the members defaulting on the return
of their books.

"If a book you want is not available, you are asked if you want to reserve
it. One major problem is that some people keep renewing books and hogging it
for themselves. Under this computerised system, it will not be allowed once
there is a reservation pending," explains Gaurav. In addition, all
transactions (books borrowed, etc) will be intimated to members by an
automatically-generated e-mail message.

The young engineers who worked on this project say equivalent commercial
softwares cost between Rs 5 to 10 lakh. They were all praise for Goa
University's computer science department head Prof Gurunandan Bhat, an Open
Source and Linux enthusiast, who encouraged them to undertake this
potentially-useful project. 

Its running platform is Linux, it uses a Postgres database, the webserver is
Apache, its scripting languages are PHP and Perl, and its front-end can be
any web-browser, making it easy for any end-user. (ENDS)