How do you explain open source in education?

An elevator pitch for open source

open source and education discussion
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Every year I attend the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference as an exhibitor. This year's conference was busier than any I've ever been to. So many people had either heard of us (ByWater Solutions) or Koha or just about open source in general. One librarian though approached our booth with caution. She informed me that she was told to come see what we were about by a manager but that she was very nervous. What she actually said was, "Open source scares me."

First off, I was really proud of her honesty. Most people who are scared come to us defensive, but not this woman. I sat her down and asked her why she was scared. She shared stories with me of her past experiences with open source software, software that didn't quite do what she wanted. Once I knew where she was coming from I could ease her fears.

I started by defining open source in the simplest of terms: that open source software is just software with a different development style and license. That open source software comes with extra freedoms that proprietary software does not. I told her that not all open source software is created equal; in fact not all software in general is created equal. I brought in examples of proprietary software that has let us all down and wrapped up my elevator pitch with a simple comment, "You're not afraid of open source software, you're afraid of all software, and that's okay. Let me show you how Koha is better than what you're using and how there is nothing to be afraid of."

When the woman left our booth she was much calmer and actually seemed quite excited to get a chance to use Koha. And who knows, maybe I even convinced her to try other open source software.

What's your elevator pitch for open source?

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About the author

Nicole C. Engard - Nicole C. Engard is a 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". Nicole can be reached at nengard@gmail.com.