2013 Evergreen Hack-A-Way


Originally posted by Chris Sharp, PINES System Administrator, on October 1, 2013:

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the Evergreen Hack-a-Way, a mini-conference of the Evergreen development community developers and other technical staff from all over North America.

The staff client memory leak was one of the main topics of discussion.  As the PINES libraries know, these leaks are under active investigation by Equinox at GPLS's behest, and they, along with other issues have brought the question of the future of the staff client to the fore.

The Evergreen staff client is built on a development framework known as XUL (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XUL), which is the technology that underlies many of Mozilla's products, including Firefox.  Unfortunately, newer versions of XULRunner have not worked well with the existing Evergreen development pieces, which has resulted in some good features - like automatic staff client updates - and some problems - like the degradation of plain text printing options and staff client memory leaks. 

The consensus in the room at the Hack-a-Way, myself included, was that the Evergreen development community needs to move away from XULRunner altogether and replace it with something that is more "future-proofed".  Most people in the room were in favor of phasing out the staff client and eventually replacing it with a web interface that could be run in a standard web browser such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.  The problems of receipt printing, standalone/offline services, and workstation registration would need to be handled differently, but would be addressed by this development. 

Since the original preference in the PINES libraries was for a staff client as a separate program outside of a browser we on the PINES staff would be very interested in your feedback on this idea.

We will, of course, continue funding development efforts towards fixing the current memory leaks in the meantime.

The Hack-a-Way also resulted in our first working mobile-friendly OPAC site.  You can read details about that development (screenshots included!) here: http://evergreen-ils.org/hackaway13-mobile-catalog/.  Since PINES is targeting Evergreen 2.5 for our upgrade over MLK weekend, this feature will be included.  It is the result of true collaboration between developers, system administrators, and front-end users that exemplifies the best of the Evergreen Community.

The Evergreen community is going this route rather than developing platform-specific apps.  Developing and maintaining Evergreen apps for all possible platforms (Android/iOS/Windows Phone/Blackberry/etc.) would require many more financial and personal resources than can be sustained by the volunteer community, so those are not on the radar at this time.  It should be noted that a web-based staff client would probably increase the likelihood of having the ability to develop and maintain a mobile staff client app in the future.

Most of my own time was spent building and re-building test environments to sign off on proposed bug fixes for the next Evergreen release.  I got a lot of guidance directly from the developers of each feature, so this was very productive for me personally and moves the development community a bit closer to being able to consider the 2.5 Evergreen release complete.

There were attendees at the Hack-a-Way from the following Evergreen-using institutions:

  • Indiana State Library/Evergreen Indiana (IN)
  • Bibliomation (CT)
  • MassLNC (MA)
  • Merrimack Valley Library Consortium (MA)
  • C/W MARS (MA)
  • Kenton County Public Library (KY)
  • Equinox Software, Inc. (GA)
  • SITKA (BC, Canada)
  • Calvin College (MI)
  • Traverse Area District Library (MI)
  • Grand Rapids Public Library (MI)
  • Berklee College of Music (MA)
  • Laurentian University (ON, Canada) (remotely)

Please contact the PINES staff if you have any questions or concerns.