Get out of jail, go free, part I

Posted on Mon 16 June 2008 in misc

As Mark Leggott mentioned in Vendor to Open Source ILS in 1 Month #1, I had the pleasure of assisting the migration of the University of Prince Edward Island library system from Unicorn to Evergreen. A little over a year ago, in discussing the business case for open source library systems, I stated that one of the problems we faced with migrations is that the license for a proprietary system often inhibits openly sharing of information about how to export data from those systems in machine-usable formats. Thus, the open source library community needs to encourage the development of "migration ninjas". Little did I know that I would soon join the guild of ninjas and become deadly and silent, and unspeakably violent(1)(2).

As a result, I have created a utility script that should be of assistance to SirsiDynix Unicorn or Symphony sites who are interested in exploring the possibilities offered by other library systems. The rather dryly named "" script was added to the Unicorn API repository as entry # 228 today under a GPL v2 license(3). As the script uses the Unicorn/Symphony API, however, I am sadly (to the best of my knowledge) not free to simply share the script with anyone. Therefore, to gain access to the script you must be an API-certified Unicorn or Symphony customer. Still, by making an export script available to SirsiDynix customers that provides the raw data in a relatively standard output format, it should ease the effort required by the migration ninjas for open source systems to massage the data into the needed input formats, and to avoid the tetsu-bishi scattered by the proprietary systems in defence of "their" data(4)(5).

  1. Barenaked Ladies, "The Ninjas". Their website is horrible Flash and JavaScript overkill but damnit Jim, they're musicians, not webmasters; the "Snacktime" album is especially recommended if you have kids.
  2. Although I have to say I'm nowhere near as violent as Mike Rylander, who with his PostgreSQL-fu can carve seemingly any piece of data into the shape needed for import into Evergreen.
  3. Thanks to Mark Leggott for insisting that I retain copyright over the scripts created during the UPEI migration and for allowing me to share those scripts in the appropriate avenues. It's another weapon (shuriken? ninja-to?) in the migration ninja arsenal.
  4. This data does, after all, belong to the libraries who license a library system, but at least one company reportedly has a pattern of repeatedly removing interfaces that enable easy machine-readable access to library data...
  5. I find myself being thankful that Unicorn does provide an API for generating machine-readable data exports; all that it cost our library was a week of my life and the associated training fees and travel expenses