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April LTR: Open Source Public Workstations in Libraries

Submitted by Daniel A. Freeman on April 17, 2009 - 3:55pm

LTR_April_Cover_MiniApril's issue of Library Technology Reports, "Open Source Public Workstations in Libraries" by John Houser, is out this week.

In a time where an economic downturn and concerns about climate change are influencing library managers’ decisions, many libraries are looking for ways to save money and reduce environmental impact. Open source operating systems and software applications can decrease power utilization while providing a positive patron experience.

In this issue of LTR, technology consultant and open-source software expert John Houser explores three different approaches to using Open Source Workstations in libraries. The first approach is simply to replace the Windows operating system with a Linux distribution on every PC. The second approach was to utilize a multi-user configuration, based on Linux, which supports two to six users on a workstation. The third approach is to use the Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) software to run a terminal session for every user from a central server or set of servers. This thin-client approach can support a large number of users connected to one server—50 or more, if the server is configured appropriately.

The report takes an in-depth look at these approaches using three case studies. While the implementation of these workstations was successful in all cases, this close exploration reveals which approach might be best for a given situation, making it easy for readers to apply the lessons of the case studies to their own libraries.


Open source public workstations are an excellent option for libraries looking for cost-effective alternatives to proprietary software. Any systems decision in a library is extremely important, so it is vital for decision makers to consider all angles before making a choice. Still, with growing popularity and a growing number of options available, open source workstations are an increasingly important part of the library technology world.

With this issue of Library Technology Reports, you can gain valuable insight into how this technology might be of use to you.

You can read more about this issue and purchase a copy here.


About the Author

John Houser served as Senior Technology Consultant for PALINET from 2006 through 2009. His responsibilities included enhancing PALINET's role as a leading technology advisor through awareness building, training, and consulting. He also facilitated implementation of new technology tools, methods and resources for members in areas like open source software, digitization and digital library development, portals and federated searching, institutional repositories, and e-content management. John's most recent prior position was Director of Information Systems at VTLS Inc, where he designed and coded that company's internal management system and the reporting module for their flagship product. Previously he ran the Information Systems Department at the Detroit Public Library, and was also a Systems Librarian at UCLA. John holds an MILS from University of Michigan, and a BA from Grinnell College, IA.