Why Librarians Don’t Share Code

January 21, 2012

Many librarians love to use open-source software, but are reluctant to contribute their code back to the community. At LITA’s Drupal4Lib Interest Group discussion, Chair Nina McHale presented the results of a survey of librarians that tried to find out why.

Only 15% of respondents said they had contributed code back to open-source communities. Nearly 70% said they would like to but haven’t, while small numbers said either they were not a programmer or did not want to contribute their code.

The survey analyzed six factors. Most commonly cited was perfectionism: 51% of respondents said their desire for code to be perfect before sharing was likely a factor. Second was dependency, the concern that users would expect support that the librarian couldn’t provide, cited by 36% of respondents. Quirkiness, the belief that their code is too specialized to be of use to a broader audience, was third, cited by 31% of respondents.

To encourage librarians to contribute their code back to drupal.com, the group proposed increasing communications venues and opportunities, developing a “wish list” of modules, and establishing a formal relationship with the drupal.org libraries group to eliminate redundancy.

The discussion concluded with a Drupal Fail panel, in which participants commiserated over their Drupal mistakes and shared what they’ve learned from them.