【試譯】用 Open Source 守護圖書館權益

原文:Save the Libraries – With Open Source

For some in the world of free software, libraries are things that you call, rather than visit. But the places where books are stored – especially those that make them freely available to the public – are important repositories of the world’s knowledge, of relevance to all. So coders too should care about them alongside the other kind, and should be concerned that there is a threat to their ability to provide ready access to knowledge they have created themselves. The good news is that open source can save them.

在自由軟體的世界裡,”library” 是我們較常呼叫的「工具」(函式庫),但較少造訪的「地方」(圖書館)。但是這些典藏圖書的地方——特別強調,是為了提供公眾自由汲取知識而存在的地方——是不分你我的世界知識寶庫。是故,軟體開發者亦應關心另一種 “library”,尤其當現今圖書館機構面臨一種威脅,以致他們竟然難以獲取原本就由他們自己所創建的「某種知識」時。

好消息是,開放原始碼可以幫得上忙。

The story begins even before RMS had his idea about the benefits of hackers sharing code, back in 1967, when the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) was created:

OCLC was founded in 1967 by Fred Kilgour, a pioneering Ohio librarian, with a simple idea: Instead of having every library in the country separately catalog a book — laboriously entering its title, author, and subjects in just the right format — why not have one person enter the cataloging information, upload it to a central computer, and then let everyone else download a copy from there?

故事說來話長,甚至比 Richard M. Stallman 因為心生「駭客的逆襲」念頭而去搞自由軟體基金會還要早。讓我們重返 1967 年,OCLC 成立的那一年:

「OCLC 成立於 1967 年,由一位觀念高瞻遠矚的俄亥俄州圖書館員 Fred Kligour 所倡議,他的想法其實相當簡單:『與其讓每間圖書館個別、各自去為同一本書編目(一種極其複雜、為圖書建立正確的書名、作者、主題分類等書目資料格式的作業),為何不讓某一編目館員先建好編目資料後,上傳到一處中央電腦主機,然後其他同樣需要這份編目資料的人只需下載回來即可、不需再自己費力重新建檔?』」(譯註:此即所謂的「合作編目」概念)

The kinship with free software and many collaborative content projects like Wikipedia is evident. But the OCLC’s WorldCat has not followed the same development path as Stallman’s GNU project:

Today [WorldCat] has around 50 million book records. But OCLC, the group that owns and operates it, has been a different story. It started small — a little office in Ohio, a set of membership dues to share the cost of running the servers. But OCLC’s control passed from librarians and academics to business people (its senior executive comes from consulting firm Deloitte & Touche). They realized they had a monopoly on their hands and as costs for running servers have gone down, their prices have gone up. They charge you once to get your records added to WorldCat and charge you again to get them back out and charge you a third time for a whole series of additional fees and services.

And these prices are high. A friend who runs a small public library with around 5000 cardholders was asked to pay $5400 to contribute his records and $700 to get records out, plus a whole series of “User Support” and “New Member Implementation” fees — all far more than he could afford.

自由軟體運動及諸多的內容共建計畫,像是維基百科等,它們的發展脈絡都相當清清楚楚、明明白白。但是 OCLC 的 WorldCat 並未如 Stallman 主持的自由軟體基金會和 GNU 計畫那樣走上相同的發展:

「如今 WorldCat 已有約五千萬筆書目資料的規模。但是咱們的 OCLC,這個擁有、運作這些海量書目資料的機構,則有異樣的發展。草創初期的 OCLC 位在俄亥俄州的一間小小辦公室裡,參與的成員共同分攤經費以維持伺服器運轉。但是,現在的 OCLC 主導權卻由圖書館員、學者轉到商人手中(其高階行政人員出自勤業眾信會計師事務所)。這種壟斷局面致使維護伺服器的單位成本雖然逐年下降,但是他們的收費卻愈見攀高。你上傳書目資料到 WorldCat 時,他們跟你收一次錢;你自 WorldCat 將書目資料下載回來時,他們再跟你收一次錢;然後,他們又再跟你收一系列哩哩叩叩的附加費用和服務費。」

「這些收費真的所費不貲。我朋友經營一間小型、約有五千名閱覽證持有者的公共圖書館,即被索求 $5400 才能上傳他們館的書目資料至 WorldCat,還要再付 $700 以下載書目資料,接著還有一堆的『使用者支援費』、『新會員入籍費』等——這些遠遠超過他所能負擔的金額。」

Clearly, the original kinship with GNU has long gone: now, users are expected to cough up not just to use WorldCat’s records, but even to contribute. In other words, WorldCat has moved to the Microsoft model, where you have to pay for the program, and also for support in order to file bug reports to improve the program.

As the rest of the post quoted above explains, the situation looks like it is going to get even worse. In particular, it seems that it is going to get harder to export bibliographic data without constraints to other catalogues, including free alternatives such as Open Library.

很明顯地,OCLC 已悖離了和 GNU 計畫相似的初衷。現在,WorldCat 的使用者得付出一堆不樂之捐,不但是下載書目紀錄要,甚至連主動貢獻、上傳書目紀錄也要。換句話說,WorldCat 的經營模式已和微軟無異,你買軟體得要付費沒錯,但你還要為了技術支援而掏錢,然後這些本是產品臭蟲的「技術問題」被歸檔成報告,好讓軟體公司再去「改進」產品品質。

上面這篇引文之後的敘述,則顯示出這種壟斷情況似乎還會更糟。特別是往後若要將 WorldCat 的書目資料不受限制的匯出到其它圖書目錄,可能會更難,比如要匯到免費的同性質網站 Open Library

The open source community has been here before, when the communally-created CDDB database was bought and the terms governing its use were modified, essentially making it hard to export data to other, free alternatives – just as is happening in the world of libraries today:

Things changed dramatically when the open CDDB.com server was bought by a company that wanted to make money from the contributions that users had made. The index file created by the Internet community could no longer be copied. Patents were obtained and granted. A large public outcry resulted, and led to the start of several projects to create an Open Source competitor for the commercial CDDB.com (now Gracenote).

In other words, the open source community simply routed around the damage by not submitting data to the closed CDDB, and by supporting instead free alternatives like Freedb and MusicBrainz, both of which are thriving.

開放原始碼社群早已經歷過類似狀況。之前,由公眾創建的 CDDB 資料庫被買下後,當它的使用政策隨之變更時,便使得難以將它的曲目資料匯出至其他免費替代資料庫。如此的境遇,正如同圖書館今天面臨到的問題。

「突然來了個大改變,開放性質的 CDDB.com 伺服器被一家公司買下,他們想拿使用者貢獻的資料來牟利,將原本由網友建立的曲目資料索引檔限制不再供人自由複製,還去申請了專利並獲准。這些舉動引起網友強烈公憤,並開始著手數個計畫,好建立一個開放原始碼的競爭產品來和 CDDB.com(現在的 Gracenote) 對尬。」

換句話說,開放原始碼社群的行動是鼓吹不要再提供資料給封閉性的 CDDB、改而支持其它免費的同類資料庫,像是 FreedbMusicBrainz,這兩者都相當有人氣。

Against this background, an obvious solution to the libraries’ dependence on OCLC’s central repository of bibliographic information is to start up an open equivalent along the lines of Freedb and MusicBrainz: basic hosting costs are now small, and altruists willing to run mirrors would doubtless start popping up given that the benefit to the community as a whole is so great. Users will rapidly switch their contributions to a truly free database that all can access, and this will soon surpass any legacy system, which will, in any case, find itself cut off from the community it has hitherto depended on (and taken for granted).

在這種模式下,圖書館對 OCLC WorldCat 這種集中式聯合目錄的依賴問題,在 Freedb 和 MusicBrainz 的前例下,即有個明顯的解決方案。現在基本的網路主機架站成本已相當低廉,樂意協助幫忙網站做映射處理的利他主義者,無疑地會爭先加入提供資源的行列,如此能讓社群整體的獲益達到非常大。使用者將迫不及待想跳槽到這個他們能夠真正自由存取的資料庫,將他們的書目資料上傳到這裡,讓整體資料量快速凌駕那些「舊」系統。噢,我說的是「那些」將發現自己被社群捨棄的「舊」系統。

Unfettered access won’t be the only way that users benefit. As has become evident in recent years, releasing large quantities of primary data for free allows all kinds of innovative secondary uses to be developed, some of which can be exploited commercially – but without needing to close off the primary materials, or charge for them. As a rich and diverse ecosystem arises, users will gain new tools and capabilities that simply were not possible with a locked-down database, and companies will gain a host of new business opportunities.

開放不受限制的自由存取,並不是使用者獲益的唯一之道。近年來各種跡象明確顯示,將大量的原始資料開放出來、提供進一步的各種加值應用,其中部份還可作為商業應用——卻無需將原始資料封閉起來或收費。當一個豐富、多樣的資訊應用生態系統出現後,使用者會獲取更嶄新好用的工具以及系統性能,商業公司也能從中發掘新的商機——而這種事情在一個封閉的資料庫當中絕無可能。

What’s striking about the current discussions swirling around the OCLC saga is that they are being conducted in something of a vacuum, despite the fact that open source has a rich store of relevant experience that librarians could usefully refer to. The only problem is that little of it is to be found in books.

最後一段不譯了。

CC BY-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

One thought on “【試譯】用 Open Source 守護圖書館權益

  1. 唉..實際工作時某些”封閉”的資料庫,在開發其他系統時,還得先用廠商提供的API才能一筆筆抓出來,再弄到自己寫的系統….

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