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A Critical Theoretical Model for Library-Led Technological Development: A Case of Open Source Software and Libraries

Ajit K. Pyati

ASIS&T Annual Meeting - 2006 (ASIS&T 2006)
Austin, Texas, November 3-9, 2006


The public discourse of libraries is increasingly aligned with the development of a global “information society.” This current research study critiques the global policy discourse of the information society, building upon the critiques of Webster (2002) and arguing that a global information society may serve to undermine library service goals and accelerate processes of information commoditization and the privatization of library services in an increasingly commercial environment. Countering these ideologies and policy goals requires developing critical theoretical frameworks and modes of action. In response to this idea, this study, building upon technology studies and critical theory, proposes a theoretical model for library-led technological development. Using a critical theoretical framework and an in-depth, qualitative case-study methodology, an academic library in British Columbia, Canada is studied as an example of innovation in library open source software development. The open source movement has generated a great deal of attention for its challenges to proprietary models of software development, as well as to traditional notions of property (Weber, 2004). An emerging movement within the library profession is considering open source software as a way to reduce dependence on proprietary software vendors, and to have more control in the development of technology in libraries (Frumkin, 2002). However, little work has been done in theorizing and understanding how libraries can best utilize open source software to enhance their service ethics and goals. This case study of open source software development will thus serve as an exploration in the development of a theoretical model for library-led technological development. This case will test and develop the proposed theoretical framework, and identify the various institutional, economic, and political factors that foster open source software development and technological innovation. Findings from this research will contribute to an understanding of the open source movement within libraries, and can provide a theoretical lens for analyzing library-led technological development in other contexts, both local and global.

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