Everyone's your partner in open source

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left and right brain


When I first started working at ByWater Solutions the company was in its infancy, and as such couldn't afford a full time employee, but that didn't stop them from hiring me. ByWater Solutions provides support, hosting, training, and development for the Koha open source integrated library system. Brendan Gallagher, the CEO at ByWater, was (and is) an active member of the Koha community, as I am.

So when Brendan wanted to hire me, he turned to the community to ask how they could help keep me employed in the Koha world, and Paul Poulain at BibLibre (a similar, more mature, company in France) stepped up and offered to co-sponsor my employment for that first year with the understanding that ByWater would allow me to spend work-time keeping the Koha manual up to date.

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When Opensource.com said they wanted to do a series of articles on how having an open source job has changed us, this story came to mind. Can you think of any other industry that would do this kind of thing for a "competing" company? I can't! But then again BibLibre and ByWater aren't competitors, we see ourselves as partners. Everyone who works on or with Koha is a member of the worldwide community and as such works together toward a common goal: making Koha awesome.

I've said it here before, an open source project is only as strong as the community behind it, and so that's how my open source job shaped my view on the world. I talk to friends about their companies and am so confused by the lack of collaboration (both within and outside of the organization) I see. It all seems so stressful to remember that someone is your competitor and as such can't be shared with. I think this is also why it was such an easy transition for me to go from being a librarian (working in libraries) to working for a software company. In libraries it's all about sharing and openness already, if someone has a question you help them find the answer regardless of where they came from or who the work for.

I still live by that rule, and the great thing is that my employer does too.

My work and the fact that I have been lucky enough to find a full time job working with Koha has made it so that the entire non-open source world seems foreign to me. Collaboration and sharing and helping others are what it’s all about for me in all areas of my life and work now. When talking about Koha to a group of libraries, someone inevitably mentions “competing” open source library systems like Evergreen, but the thing is even another open source product isn’t “competition”—it’s yet another potential partner. In fact, in the case of Evergreen, there already is a partnership in place with shared community members, support vendors, and code.

We can all learn from each other and in the end make it so that (in my world) all libraries are using an open source integrated library system!

View the complete collection of articles from Careers in Open Source Week.

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Nicole C. Baratta (Engard) is a Senior Content Strategist at Red Hat. She received her MLIS from Drexel University and her BA from Juniata College. Nicole volunteers as the Director of ChickTech Austin. Nicole is known for many different publications including her books “Library Mashups", "More Library Mashups", and "Practical Open Source Software for Libraries".

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