For those of you who don’t know, I have run some distribution of Linux on my laptop since 2006 (Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, Fedora, and currently Debian(in that order)) and I currently run Debian GNU/Linux on the server that runs this blog. Most Linux distributions release every six months to get the latest and greatest software out there to the masses, whereas Debian releases every 18-24 months and is meant to be a rock solid platform for you to build upon. Debian is also completely run by volunteers and has been for 17 years, proving itself to be a rock of the Linux community. I may experiment with other Linux distributions, but I always seem to come back to Debian. On Sunday, Debian released their 6.0 release, nicknamed Squeeze. It shows that a group of dedicated volunteers, now numbering around 1000, can really accomplish something remarkable.
Not only do I use Debian personally, but I know that my library’s IT staff uses a Debian derivative (Ubuntu) to run its servers. That means that all of the great services that the SCRC offers, such as our collections database, our digital archive, our public wiki, and our soon to be released Omeka site all run on free software created by volunteers. That’s not to mention that our new library website is going to be built on Drupal 7 and our new OPAC will have VuFind on top of it. Commercial vendors that provide library services, such as OCLC, Sirsi, and others can provide good services but their prices start to add up. Without free software, libraries and archives wouldn’t be able to provide nearly as many great services that we give to our patrons. With one of the rocks of the free software world coming out with a new release, its a good time to remember how much special collections and archives rely on our IT staff and the solutions they can provide to do remarkable things.