It's been a while since I went to a major conference. Limited help and budgets will do that to you. When I heard that this year's Evergreen International Conference was going to be in Cambridge, MA, I decided to heck with it, I'm going. I attended the first one in GA 5 years ago when the Maine Balsam Libraries Consortium was in its infancy. After what I saw and heard in Cambridge, I can tell you that both the software and the community using it have come a long way.
We started on version 1.209 if I remember correctly. The newest stable release is 2.5 and developers are already talking about what to add to 2.7. When we formed Balsam, the major clusters of Evergreen users were in South Carolina, British Columbia and Indiana. Today, pretty much all of GA, SC, IN, BC and MA are in, Mobius in MO, a group in TX, and other clusters in WA, OR, MI, CT, NH, OH and AK are expanding. On the international front, Evergreen is being adopted in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Canada, India, The Republic of Georgia and Tasmania.
Many of you know that I worked with Karl Beiser to support Innovative’s Millennium software. In that role, I attended several Innovative Users' Group Meetings. There were a bunch of people every year who dazzled me with their creativity and innovation at those meetings. I saw many of those same people at the Evergreen conference and they're applying their 'Star Wars' cool to open source now. That really excites me. My biggest problem with Millennium was the way enhancements and new features were selected. It was done by ballot and the academic libraries always seemed to trump what public libraries wanted for new features.
With Evergreen, the situation is completely different. Let's say there's a new component or feature you'd kill to have in the software, but it would cost $20,000 to develop it. The way the Evergreen community is structured, any number of libraries or consortia can pool funds and hire someone like Equinox Library Services to develop the code. Once it's working and blessed by the Evergreen oversight committee, it's rolled into the next release. Your consortium might only be able to pony up $1,000, but every little bit helps. There's also a website where bugs can be reported and tracked by a cadre of librarians three times smarter about this stuff than I'll ever be.
If you're interested in the development side, or simply want to lurk, these sharp pencils meet regularly on IRC and welcome new blood. The Evergreen community also has several listservs that are open to anyone interested in learning about Evergreen. Those, and most links related to Evergreen, can be found at http://evergreen-ils.org/ and the Evergreen wiki is here http://wiki.evergreen-ils.org/doku.php
So, you wonder, what happened at the conference? There were sessions on the git tutorial, documentation and developer hackfests, “Hello Reports: Stumbling toward the data you need,” “It's Funny Afterward: Technical tales of tragedy...and recovery,” “Evergreen Welcome Panel,”(I was on this), “The Import/Export Business: Working with Vandelay in Evergreen,” “Consider the KPAC: Implement and customize the children's catalog,” “License to ILL: How Equinox turned Evergreen 2.o into FulfILLment@, an open source resources sharing platform,” “Being the Cat Herder: Managing an open source software release,” “Batches, Buckets & Bookbags,” “Tiny Budget, Abundant Results: Creating an online catalog at Georgia's Governor's Mansion with Evergreen,” “Authority Control in Evergreen: The straight dope,” “Three Dozen Is a CrowdundefinedDeduplication,” A Practical Serials Walkthrough,” Structured Library Data: Holdings, libraries and beyond,” “Exploring a Browser-Based Staff Client,” and “SQL for Librarians.”
Pretty much every session's slides, handouts, documentation and links will be collected over the next couple of weeks and made available as links from one site. As with most conferences, one of the best aspects was the sharing and networking. One of my interests, stemming back to my days at the Maine State Library, is getting additional Z39.50 resources for catalogers. I'm in the process of swapping ours with two of the consortia who were there and may explore additional ones with single libraries that have extremely unique collections. I returned home, energized and enthusiastic, but a bit overwhelmed at all the information that was sent my way.
Now to why this piece is titled as it is. We received a grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation last year to help libraries interested in joining the Maine Balsam Libraries Consortium with migration costs. If what you have read here whets your interest, I, or project manager Chris Maas, will be happy to talk with you and do our best to answer any questions you might have. My email is email@example.com and the phone number at the Hartland Public Library is 938-4702.