The Koha Company-go-round

While I was under snow last week, the world saw a flurry of Koha company news. We found out that PTFS is to acquire LibLime and ByWater Solutions and BibLibre are partnering for the U.S. With the past ByWater Solutions and PTFS, Inc. partnering, it seems like four of the younger Koha companies (established 2005, 2007, 2008 and PTFS started with Koha in 2008 I think) are now linked together, so it’s not entirely surprising that ByWater congratulates PTFS on the purchase of LibLime. What did surprise me is the “impressed with PTFS’s resources” quote from Liblime owner Josh.

Some librarians are asking “What will the acquistion of Liblime mean to Koha libraries?” but I’m wondering what does this mean for the Koha project?

Well, there’s still our co-op (established 2002) and the other older private Koha companies (Calyx, Katipo and so on), as well as the rest of the younger ones, so I think there’s still the motivation for a vendor-neutral non-profit group to host the project. Recent history has shown that it’s too painful if any one private company hosts it. It’ll be interesting to see how the recent private company deals help that work. If all goes well, a bright new day for Koha, as wizzyrea hopes.

On another level, I’m a bit disappointed that a theoretical Free and Open Source Software player (even if things like LibLime Enterprise Koha had muddied the water) has been sold to a mixed FOSS+proprietary player. I’m almost cross with Liblime’s owners for selling up, but I don’t know if that’s fair. Selling up is a fairly common exit move in private companies, so shouldn’t I expect it? Do librarians expect it? Is this why some seem reluctant to buy from start-ups which are still independent?

As you may know, TTLLP is in common ownership, so we can’t really be bought. This is a self-defence or legacy-guaranteeing mechanism for our cooperative, where our assets are pledged to other common ownership cooperatives if our corporation dies. I think it also has the fringe benefit that we’re a fairly safe home for things like trademarks.

This unbuyability means that I feel I’m watching the sales and cross-linking of our competitors from the sidelines, from a viewpoint more like Koha users than the other vendors, waiting for the dust to settle and the chips to fall where they may. Whatever happens there, will still be here.

Unsurprisingly, there have been a couple of new entrants into Koha support, although the Liblime-controlled Koha project website doesn’t show them yet and reportedly its “new support company” submission form has been broken for weeks, which is irritating.

Interesting co-op-y things are happening in the wider library systems world, too, with Karen Coombs going to work for the OCLC library cooperative and Polaris Library Systems workers buying the company although I’m not sure yet if they’re becoming a worker co-op or “merely” employee-owned. I suspect many of these announcements are timed for #alamw10 which is a big US library conference. Has anyone seen more co-op or Koha announcements which I haven’t spotted in the conference PR flood?

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