LiveContent Libraries

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We strongly believe that libraries are a great way to plant seeds in the community to help the FOSS movement expand. This project will help bring more awareness to open source by providing an example of an operating system and free open source applications that could be implemented on library patron terminals. If the ideas can catch on, the long-range effects might be that libraries would begin to implement free open source software on machines permanently, thus providing a wealth of benefits both to patrons in terms of a more free computing environment and severing the long-standing ties between libraries and proprietary software license fees.

Another venue for supporting LiveContent within libraries is to add the LiveContent distro to the library collection. This would allow users to check out the disc and explore on their own on home computers. This is an especially useful option to address the vast differences in library computing environments and amount of technical support library staff can provide to patrons.

LiveContent project within library settings

  • public libraries vs academic libraries vs other libraries - public libraries have less resources, less staff time to examine new products and test out - at the same time FOSS might most benefit small public libraries, especially rural - need to target
  • academic libraries are often equipped for more research, and might be better geared towards having the resources for testing and future development
  • what kinds of agreements do libraries have with software providers now, if any?
    • many locked into proprietary software, but not by choice - more a function of ease, what patrons expect, technical experience of staff
  • make the cds very intuitive, well-labeled, good supporting documentation - fedora has a lot of good documentation
  • will we only make spins for i386? - probably the architecture of most library terminal machines, unless some use older macs - ppc
  • how do we distribute LiveContent without spamming?
  • originally we had the idea that we needed to keep the distribution of LiveContent to CDs, since they are the media that is most able to be used across the board, especially at places like libraries, which have vastly different landscape of computing power - but are DVDs possible? - can fit so much more content on a DVD
  • less to do with the software and more to do with presentation and documentation and usefulness
  • different libraries have different budgets which allow for a vast range in hardware and training
  • what about adding the CDs to library collections - ISSN numbers? - might be a good way for people or use at home, but doesn't align too well with the applications and content becoming dated
  • accessibility concerns at libraries

computing environments

San Francisco Public Library

  • at San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) main branch, there are two types of computer terminals:
    • those that are used solely for card catalog lookup - no other features provided
    • those where patrons can access the internet (via internet explorer) and use the Microsoft Office 2003 suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) - there are no other applications that are accessible through the tailored, limited-view interface

Ann Arbor District Library (notes from meeting with technology director)

  • thin-client public computing setup throughout the entire public district
  • no disc drives at all
  • still supporting floppy drives
  • support plug-in USB drives
  • $400 base machine running on MS terminal server (most stable environment)
  • nodes are non-writable
  • "commodity" computing - basic internet access, no high end applications, audio works but technically not supported
  • ann arbor is one of the few libraries that are doing it this way--requires lots of up front investment
  • all applications available to patrons are located on the desktop and locked down (acrobat reader, calculator, internet explorer, firefox, excel, powerpoint, word, paint, telnet ssh, wordpad)
  • public terminals are used mostly for internet access, some word processing. the other apps are infrequently used
  • 70% of the people in Ann Arbor have computers at home
  • libraries that have money can set up things like thin clients, so delivery of content through disc drives is not an option
  • libraries that have less resources like smaller rural libraries have standard machines, but less tech help
  • patrons might be confused about how to use the LiveCD/LiveDVD, especially since they are so used to working on windows machines
  • LiveDVD might be good to add to the collection so people can check out and take to home computers
  • suggestion of putting out the LiveDVD as a kit with an instructional/informational booklet


  • Researched 3 libraries in Putnam County, N.Y. in upscale districts, the 3 libraries had, Firefox and Gimp installed. Further research in under privileged areas will be done. Visited private library which relies on Donations in Cold Springs, NY. Had no FOSS installed and where extremely receptive to the CD idea.


  • Webjunction
  • TechSoup
  • MaintainIT project
  • LITA
  • oss4lib
  • alatechsource
  • "Public Libraries and the Internet 2006: Study Results and findings" report available for download here - may provide some insight to landscape of public library terminal workstation metrics


We will investigate options for getting the CDs into the hands of the libraries we wish to target. While we wish to provide a quality LiveContent disc to the most libraries we can, we realize that mass mailing may not be the best way to accomplish this distribution goal, especially since this may be considered a type of spamming. Ideas other than mailing include hosting the contents online and doing outreach to libraries and other interested parties through a widespread press release, listservs, hand out at events, or get an in through professional organizations like the American Library Association.


  • American Library Association Conference
    • Anaheim, CA
    • June 26-July 2, 2008