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Library Philosophy and Practice (e-journal) Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Free and Open Source Soware Movement in LIS
Profession in Pakistan
Ata ur Rehman
National Centre for Phyiscs - NCP, Islamabad - Pakistan, firstname.lastname@example.org
University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan, email@example.com
e Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Rehman, Ata ur; Mahmood, Khalid; and Bhai, Rubina, "Free and Open Source Soware Movement in LIS Profession in Pakistan"
(2012). Library Philosophy and Practice (e-journal). Paper 852.
Free and Open Source Software Movement in LIS Profession in Pakistan
National Centre for Physics (NCP), Islamabad &
M. Phil Scholar, The Islamia University of Bahawalpur
Prof. Dr. Khalid Mahmood
Professor, Department of Library & Information Science
University of the Punjab, Lahore
Dr. Rubina Bhatti
Assistant Professor, Department of Library & Information Science
The Islamia University of Bahawalpur
Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement has brought a series of alternative
software solutions for almost all categories of software including Operating Systems, Database
Systems, Web Servers, Programming Languages, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP),
Graphics, Games, Networking, and System Administration.
FOSS Movement has got a major share in the market of software from its beginning.
Libraries are the early institutions which adopted computer packages for management of
information and automation of library procedures. FOSS Movement is very popular in libraries
around the world. Libraries have been blessed with Free and Open Source Software including
Integrated Library Software, Digital Library Management, Content Management, Inter-Library
Loan Management, Document Delivery Services, and other web-based services around the world
including developing as well as developed countries.
FOSS Movement in LIS Profession of Pakistan is not very old. It started in mid of the
first decade of 21st century and started the journey slowly. But now after five to six years, it is
getting popularity in all type of libraries in the country. The purpose of this study is to explore
the current status of FOSS Movement in Pakistan and the efforts made by the individuals or LIS
organizations to promote Free and Open Source Software in Pakistan. This paper has also
suggested measures to be taken in future to promote FOSS movement.
The methodology of this study is based upon the literature review and interviews of some key
persons involved in Free and Open Source Software in LIS in Pakistan have been conducted.
Keywords: Software, Open Source Movement, Libraries, Pakistan.
Paper type: Research Paper
1- Background of the Study
Free and Open Source Software, usually abbreviated as FOSS, F/OSS or simply OSS is a
very important and popular category of software in the world. Richard Stallman (A long time
Programmer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT from 1971 to 1983) founded the
movement and introduced GNU (Abbreviation of GNU’s Not Unix) manifesto. The purpose of
GNU project was to develop a UNIX like Free and Open Source Operating System to be
launched under a public license, GPL (General Public License). Linus Torvalds, a second year
student at the University of Helsinki developed a UNIX like operating system in 1991 which is
known as Linux now. The outcome of this movement is a long list of very useful Free and Open
Source Software in every category of life. FOSS software are very popular in every continent of
Libraries in all over the world adopted the software system for cataloging, classification
and dissemination of information. In Pakistan, FOSS Movement is relatively at early stage and
the movement is spreading slowly but steadily. Although a few articles are available about the
perception of LIS community towards FOSS and adoption but there is a need to record the
history of FOSS Movement in Pakistan. This study is an effort to fill this gap in literature about
FOSS Movement in Pakistan.
2- Problem Statement and Objectives of the Study
Free and Open Source Software Movement has provided alternatives for almost each
category of information management systems. Libraries of Pakistan are also adopting Free and
Open Source Software for daily tasks of libraries including Integrated Library Systems, Digital
Library Systems, Content Management Systems, etc. Professional associations of library and
information science (ILS) and individuals have contributed a lot for the promotion of this
movement and FOSS in Pakistan by creating awareness among library professionals and by
taking active part in the development and customization of favorite library software in last few
years. The objective of this study is to keep the record of all these efforts of professional bodies
and individuals. Another objective of the study is to find out the hurdles involved in the
promotion of FOSS in Pakistan.
Literature review and interviews of the eminent experts of Free and Open Source
Software in country has been chosen to conduct this study. For this purpose the researchers
interviewed nine eminent scholars and activists of FOSS thorough phone, chat, e-mail, video
chat, etc (List of respondents is given as Annex I) and got their point of view about the FOSS
movement in Pakistan. For this purpose a semi-structured interview method was used and
questions related to the history of FOSS, their role and activities in this movement, future of
FOSS and suggestions for the promotion of FOSS were asked. Also the activities of these
individuals have been noted from the archives of major LISTSERVS (PakLAG,
Librarianwelfare, Libcoop, etc). Archives of official websites of library science professional
bodies have been used too. For this purpose the information has been recorded from the
• LISolutions http://lisolutions.org/
• PakLAG http://www.paklag.org/
• PLWO http://www.plworg.com/
• PULISAA http://www.pulisaa.org.pk/
4- Literature Review and Discussion
Herman (2008) states that in early ages of software development (1950’s and onward),
computer companies provided the software along with hardware. As hardware was the major
focus of these companies, the price of software was very low or nominal. Programmers at the
time had grown up in an era of freely shared software, much the same as many share cooking
Open Source Software, abbreviated as OSS is computer software that is released under
some free/public license and it permits users to study, change and improve the software
(Kandar, Mondal & Ray, 2011). This provides a great liberty for users to have the ownership of
software in real sense. Scerikar and Jang (2006) stated that Open Source Software evolved into a
sophisticated movement during 1970’s to 2000’s which has produced very stable and useful
software packages and after 1998, this movement has become a revolution in software
development industry. This movement of twenty years or so has drawn increasing attention in
organizations of all sizes – commercial, non commercial and governmental and even with
individual consumers as high quality consumer-oriented OSS products have emerged (Carillo &
Okoli, 2008). “A key aspect of [FOSS] is the availability of the source code – the human-
readable text files used to create the program. Accessing the source code allows anyone to
examine the program to see how it works, fix bugs, or change it to suit personal needs. Like
freedom of speech, one does not need to use source code to benefit from it” (Pfaffman, 2007).
4.1- Role of Richard Stallman
Richard Stallman, a longtime software developer at Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (MIT) announced GNU project in 1983 saying that he had become frustrated due to
the new changes in the philosophy of software industry. It was the time when many commercial
companies started developing commercial software and they hired the software developers on
commercial basis. But Richard Stallman left MIT, started GNU project, and launched Free
Software Foundation (FSF). The main purpose of this foundation was to secure right of freedom
of users. According to Free Software Foundation, Free Software is the software that provides the
following freedoms for the users:
• The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
• The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1).
Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
• The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
• The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so
that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a
precondition for this.
4.2- Open Source Movement
Richard Stallman is the founder of this movement and the main goal of the movement is
to give freedom to computer users by replacing software which has restrictive licensing terms.
Open source movement is a social movement and all people of the world must be blessed with
this movement (Kandar, et al., 2011)
According to Keats (2009), In the late 90s, a group of people who were unhappy with the
single-minded emphasis of Richard Stallman and the FSF on freedom, and who had personal
differences with Stallman, developed the concept of open source and formed their own
movement to promote it. The focus of this parallel movement was on the shorter-term business
benefits, particularly software quality, rather than on the freedoms of users. The main argument
for the term open source software is that the concept of “free” is ambiguous and that business
people are somehow afraid of, or uneasy about the idea of freedom.
The Open Source Initiative (OSI) was founded in 1998 as a nonprofit education and
advocacy group for open source software (Tiemann, 2009). Open Source Initiative
(http://opensource.org/) describes the following criteria for Open Source Software as Open
Source Definition (OSD):
1- Free redistribution of software
2- Source code should be available
3- Derived works
4- Integrity of the author’s source code
5- No Discrimination against Persons or Groups
6- No Discrimination against Fields of Endeavor
7- Distribution of License
8- License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
9- License Must Not Restrict Other Software
10- License Must Be Technology-Neutral
Trainor (2009) describes that one of the biggest advantages of the open source model is
that all users of the product have the potential to contribute to its development. So everyone has
liberty to enhance the functionality of any OSS.
A critical issue that is related to FOSS is the quality assurance model of software and
these software are not much user friendly in usage. Tawileh and Rana (2006) state that end users
usually argue that the FOSS community is technology-centric and the community feels difficulty
to adopt FOSS.
4.3- Open Source Software (OSS) and Libraries
Libraries are the early users of computers and software. Libraries started using software
in 1960s and word processors, spreadsheets and other packages were being used for day to day
operations of libraries. During 1960s the term library automation was being used for automating
the library procedures. Development on a standard for catalog sharing was started in 1967-68
and it was named as Machine Readable Catalog (MARC).
Rafiq (2009) says that most of the libraries in developing as well as developed countries
do not afford to purchase costly commercial software and FOSS have more attraction for them.
There are many state of the art library software projects available in FOSS category for
all kind of routine procedures. An initiative in this regard was the establishment of Open Source
Software for Libraries (OSS4Lib Project – http://www.oss4lib.org/) at Yale Medical Library in
early 1999. The mission of oss4lib is to build better and free systems for use in libraries. Toward
this end, it maintains a listing of free software and systems designed for libraries (the physical,
books-on-shelves kind), and it tracks news about project updates or related issues of interest
(Chudnov, 2005). Libraries are reengaging with software development projects and a dozen of
library projects are being developed by library community (Schneider, 2009).
A general perception about the Use of Free and Open Source Software is that it is
necessary to have the programming skills to use a FOSS. According to Rafiq and Ameen (2009),
“OSS applications require both an LIS and IT skill set. This issue can be addressed with the
induction of IT professionals in libraries. Pakistani libraries, especially the large one like
university libraries, may introduce new designations like system librarian, computer
According to Hoy and Koopman (2008), “The use of FOSS in libraries is gaining ground
in parts of the world where there is sufficient technical expertise to provide support and the
library market is big enough to support its use. In the developing world FOSS expertise needs to
be fostered by governments to make sure its use is viable, particularly as the markets are small
and expertise is lacking.”
In Pakistan, Free and Open Source Movement is relatively new and still in its early
stages. Open source software has become more common in the library and in everyday life
(Petrich, 2009). According to library professionals who participated in this study, the first Free
and Open Source adopted in Pakistan was Greenstone Digital Library Software (GSDL) by
United Nations Digital Library in 2000-01 (n1=2). But it is the matter of fact that GSDL after its
implementation at UN Digital Library could not get popularity till the last week of June 2006
when a Sample Multilingual Digital Library was launched by the University of Management and
Technology Library with documents in English, Urdu and Arabic language. Another
development in this regard was the First National Workshop on Greenstone Digital Library
Software by PakLAG at Islamabad on June 22-24, 2006. In the mean time, Mehran University
of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro launched another Free and Open Source Software,
Zebra Indexing Server to put their library catalogue on LOC Z39.50 gateway. This information
was shared by a senior library professional, Mumtaz S. Memon who gave her presentation on
MARC 21 and shared the success story of launching z39.50 catalogue on LOC Gateway using
Free and Open Source Indexing Server, Zebra in a workshop at National Agricultural Research
Centre (NARC), Islamabad in 2005. This presentation opened a new opportunity for library
professionals and PakLAG took the lead and arranged a few hands on trainings on Zebra Server,
Yaz Client and MARCedit utility to convert existing library catalogue into MARC21. PakLAG
team launched many library catalogues on LOC gateway during this time.
A few Free and Open Source Software which are being used in Pakistani libraries are
Koha ILS, Greenstone Digital Library Software (GSDL), DSpace, EPrints, Zebra Indexing
Koha is a full featured open source ILS (Integrated Library System) currently being used
by libraries all over the world (Randhawa, 2008). It is MARC and z39.50 compliant library
system for all type of libraries. It is web-based software that has been built on LAMP (Linux,
Apache, MySQL, Perl/PHP) platform. A large number of libraries in the world are using Koha
ILS for library automation.
1 n=? refers to the number of individuals having this point of view
Rafiq and Ameen (2010) conducted a survey of sixty one (61) university libraries in
Pakistan to find the use of Free and Open Source Software and found that only three libraries
(4.9%) were using Koha ILS but as far as the intentions of the library professionals are
concerned, 47.8% library professionals said that they would adopt Koha ILS in future.
Greenstone Digital Library Software is another open-source software for the construction
and presentation of digital information (Randhawa, 2008). “Greenstone is a suite of software for
building and distributing digital library collections. It provides a new way of organizing
information and publishing it on the Internet or on CD-ROM. Greenstone is produced by the
New Zealand Digital Library Project at the University of Waikato, and developed and distributed
in cooperation with UNESCO and the Human Info NGO. It is open-source, multilingual
software, issued under the terms of the GNU General Public License” (About Greenstone,
Rafiq and Ameen (2010) reported that out of twenty libraries, seven libraries were using
Greenstone Digital Library Software (35%) and three libraries were using EPrints (15%) in
Pakistan. 90.9% libraries told that they would use Greenstone Digital Library Software (GSDL)
DSpace is an institutional repository creating software. It is also an open-source software
designed and developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries and Hewlett-
Packard (HP). Document submission in DSpace is very easy and management and access of
digital contents is very systematic. DSpace supports PDF, HTML, JPEG and other favorite file
Zebra Server is z39.50 indexing server by Indexdata. Zebra server is used for indexing of
MARC data to retrieve by using some z39.50 client. Yaz is a very simple client to search the
MARC records from Zebra Server. This data can also be accessed by other Integrated Library
Software (Koha, Virtua, etc).
Other Free and Open Source Software in libraries are EverGreen (ILS), WordPress
(Blogging / Content Management), Joomla (Content Management System) and Zotero (An
extension of FireFox browser used for citation management).
5 – Findings and Discussion
In Pakistan, Koha ILS was first introduced at University of Management and Technology
(UMT), Lahore in 2006 (n=2). Then further explored at NRSP-IRM (Now N-IRM) and its first
public catalogue was launched at N-IRM (Rehman, 2007). Pakistan Legislative Strengthening
Project (PLSP) was started in 2005 and the objective of this project was to automate the libraries
of four provincial assemblies (Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, NWFP/KPK). Koha ILS (for
windows) was selected for this project. This project included software deployment and data
conversion of existing library catalogue (Rafiq & Ameen, 2009).
Rafiq and Ameen (2009) describe that 60 percent of respondents to their survey
mentioned lack of budget (finance) as their number one problem in library automation.
Therefore, FOSS can be an alternative for library automation in libraries of Pakistan.
Establishment of Digital Library Network of South Asia (DLNetSA) is a major development for
the promotion of Free and Open Source Software in South Asia and LISolutions is working as
member of DLNetSA and National Node of Pakistan. LISolutions has also been elected as vice
chair of DLNetSA for two years in 2010. The major objective of DLNetSA is to promote
Greenstone Digital Library Software (GSDL) and Koha in South Asia (n=1).
Development of Koha-GSDL integration LiveCD and an international training on GSDL-
Koha integration using DLNetSA LiveCD in Pakistan are the major achievements of DLNetSA.
Dr. Mohan Raj Pradhan, General Secretary of DLNetSA from Nepal was one of trainers in this
Promotion of Free and Open Source Movement in Pakistan can be studied deeply by
exploring the following aspects:
1- Capacity building of library professionals through seminars, trainings,
workshops and talks
2- Development and enhancement in FOSS
3- Research activities for the promotion of FOSS
5.1- Seminars, trainings, workshops and talks
Capacity building of library professionals for the adoption of FOSS is very important.
Analysis of interviews of library professionals associated with FOSS movement shows that many
events have been conducted by individuals and organizations. The list of trainings, workshops,
seminars and talks is given in table 1.
Table 1. Events for capacity building of professionals in FOSS adoption
Sr Event FOSS Type Organizer Place Dates
1 National Training Workshop on
Koha, Dspace and LibraryWorld
TLS (Koha, DSpace) Hands on
PLWO Karachi July 25-26,
2 International Training on e-Library GSDL, Koha Hands on
Islamabad July 20-22,
3 National Training on Total Library
Solution – TLS
TLS (Koha, DSpace,
LISolutions Lahore July 9-10,
4 National Workshop on PakLAG
Koha with Dspace
PakLAG Islamabad June 27-29,
5 Training on “Open Source Tools for
GSDL Hands on
LISolutions Islamabad March 12,
6 One-Day Workshop on Research by
Using Open Source Software
Zotero Lecture /
PLWO Lahore February 19,
7 A talk on “Free and Open Source
Alternatives for Library Operations”
Multiple FOSS Talk /
PULISAA Lahore January 15,
8 Three days training on Koha 3.2 Koha (Linux) Hands on
LISolutions Sargodha October 28-
9 MARC Conversion, Zebra Server
and uploading catalogue on Library
of Congress gateway
Zebra Server Hands on
PakLAG Karachi October 2,
10 Seminar on Promotion of Free and
Open Source Software in Pakistan
Multiple FOSS Seminar /
LISolutions Islamabad August 6,
11 2nd Two day Training of Koha
Koha (Linux) Hands on
LISolutions Bahawalpur June 15-16,
12 Seminar on Need for Establishment
of National Node of GSDL in
GSDL Seminar /
Karachi June 10,
13 PakLAG Koha Orientation Seminar PakLAG Koha Demo PakLAG Karachi March 20,
14 1st Two Day Training of Koha
Koha (Linux) Hands on
LISolutions Bahawalpur March 03-
15 3rd National Workshop on Koha ILS Koha (Windows) Hands on
PakLAG Lahore August 30-
16 2nd National Workshop on Koha ILS Koha (Windows) Hands on
PakLAG Islamabad June 25,
17 1st National Workshop on Koha ILS Koha (Windows) Hands on
PakLAG Islamabad May 30-31,
18 Training for Information
GSDL, Other topics Seminar /
KIMS Islamabad March 17-
19 1st National Workshop on
Greenstone Digital Library Software
GSDL Hands on
PakLAG Islamabad June 22-24,
20 3rd Workshop on Advance Library
Zebra Server Hands on
PakLAG Islamabad February
21 2nd Workshop on Advance Library
Zebra Server Hands on
PakLAG Lahore July 15-16,
22 1st Workshop on Advance Library
Zebra Server Hands on
PakLAG Lahore July 8-9,
5.2- Software Development
As the philosophy of FOSS is based upon sharing every person in the community of
practice can participate in the up gradation process of any OSS. As Koha and Greenstone Digital
Library Software are the two favorite library software, users have added new functionality and a
few new features have been added to customize them according to their needs. PakLAG Koha is
an example of customized version of Koha for Windows. “PakLAG team started working on
PakLAG Koha in April 2007” (Shafiullah, 2011). A new module of patrons card generation has
been included along with virtual keyboard, Urdu spine label creation module and Urdu MARC
record export functionality (n=3). Now PakLAG has made PakLAG Koha (for Windows) free
and also launched its latest version Koha 3.4.3 (Fedora version) with DSpace (Institutional
Repository) software free of cost (Shafiulla, 2011). LISolutions’ has also added a few reports and
on-screen keyboard in Koha (Windows Version) and source code to this enhancement is
available at LISolutions’ website (n=1). Similarly UN Digital Library team has customized the
look and feel of GSDL to match with the current color scheme of UN website (n=1). National
Rural Support Programme – Institute of Rural Management (NRSP-IRM, now known as N-IRM)
has also customized the user interface of AHKRC Digital Library (Akhter Hameed Khan
Resource Center Digital Library) and this collection can be accessed at http://ahkrc.net.pk/ .
As we have discussed earlier that the use of FOSS require some technical skills because
the deployment method is not easy for a lay man. Keeping in view the users’ skill set in mind,
some efforts have been made to make the process of deployment and configuration easy. Total
Library Solution (TLS) by LISolutions is such an effort. It is a suite of Free and Open Source
Software preinstalled and pre-configured and users need not to worry about the lengthy
procedures of installation and configuration. This is a Live DVD that can be found on world’s
largest FOSS portal Sourceforge (Rehman, 2011). PakLAG has also launched a USB version of
Koha on Linux to make the installation and configuration process easy (n=2). Translation of
GSDL interface in Urdu language is also an on going project of GSDL with the collaboration of
LISolutions. For this purpose, LISolutions has engaged volunteer library professionals who are
working on the translation of GSDL.
5.3- Research Activities
Research activities can play very important role for the promotion of FOSS movement in
Pakistan. The following researches have been conducted in Pakistan in the last few years.
1- Rafiq, M. (2009). LIS community’s perceptions towards open source software adoption
in libraries. The International Information & Library Review(41), 41(3), 137-145.
2- Rafiq, M., & Ameen, K. (2009). Issues and lessons learned in open source software
adoption in Pakistani libraries. Electronic Library, The, 27(4), 601-610.
3- Rafiq, M., & Ameen, K. (2010). Adoption of Open Source Software in Pakistani
Libraries: A survey. Information Age, 4(3), pp 35-38.
4- Ata ur Rehman, M. Phil Thesis on “Use of Free and Open Source Software in University
Libraries of Pakistan” (Cont.) at Department of Library and Information Science, The
Islamia University of Bahawalpur
5- Farasat Shafiullah, “From LAMP to Koha: Case study of the Pakistan legislative
assembly libraries” presented in KohaCon 2010 at Wellington New Zealand (25-27
6 – Conclusion
Free and Open Source Movement in Pakistan is in early stages but progressing steadily.
Professionals of LIS are playing very important role in adoption of FOSS in their libraries.
There is a dire need to organize hands on trainings and workshops for Free and Open Source
Software for library professionals by professional bodies including PLA. To get the benefits of
Free and Open Source Software, it is necessary to encourage the research activities in this field
from LIS schools.
Efforts for the promotion of Free and Open Source Software should be acknowledged by
library professionals to make this movement successful so that an alternative of commercial
software may be available for every library having low budget.
7 – Recommendations
Following recommendations have been made by the participants of the study to speed up
the FOSS movement in Pakistan:
1- Pakistan Library Association should realize the importance of Free and Open Source
and solid steps should be taken for the promotion of Free and Open Source
2- FOSS should be included in the curriculum of MLIS Library Science in all Library
3- Individuals and professional bodies working on Free and Open Source Software
should work in collaboration.
4- University Libraries should fund Free and Open Source Projects for customization
of software for local needs.
5- Alternative support for Free and Open Source Software should be available on pay
for support model.
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Annex – I
Participants of the Study:
The following library professionals were interviewed for this study:
1. Amir Rasul, Hafiz - National University of Science and Technology (NUST) - Islamabad
2. Ashfaq Hussain – Supreme Court of Pakistan - Lahore
3. Bushra Almas Jaswal - Forman Christian College - Lahore
4. Farasat Shafi ullah – National University of Science and Technology (NUST) - Islamabad
5. Muhammad Ajmal Khan – Pakistan Library Automation Group (PakLAG)
6. Muhammad Rafiq - International Relief & Development (IRD) - Afghanistan
7. Muhammad Rafiq Awan – The Islamia University of Bahawalpur - Bahawalpur
8. Mumtaz S. Memon - Mehran University of Engineering & Technology, Jamshoro
9. Nadeem Siddique – Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) - Lahore
Annex – II
1. What is your role in the introduction/adoption of Free and Open Source Software in
2. In which capacity you have worked for FOSS Movement in Pakistan?
3. In your point of view, what are the important steps taken by individuals or organization
for FOSS Movement in Pakistan?
4. What steps can be taken to promote FOSS in Pakistan?
5. What are the major hurdles in adoption of FOSS in Pakistan?