The Evergreen community has been enriched by the arrival of Galen Charlton, and we took a moment to ask him a few questions so we’d all get to know him better.
A Little About Galen…
Galen has worked in library automation for the past eleven years, performing data migration and special projects for Endeavor and Ex Libris. Galen’s most recent position was Vice President of Research and Development at LibLime, where he participated in the development of open source software for public and academic libraries. Galen is currently release manager for the upcoming version of Koha, another open source integrated library system.
What interests you about working for Equinox?
I find Equinox’s commitment to open source software for libraries very appealing, and I enjoy working with library hackers and librarians. After many years of telecommuting, I am also looking forward to working in an office with real life creatures who do more than meow at me.
What is important about open source software?
One of the most important aspect of open source is that it encourages the notion of software as a means and nexus of communication not just for machines, but for people as well.
Open source software is a natural fit for librarians, who have a long history of communicating with each other about the best ways to run libraries and provide services to their patrons. By working together on open source ILSs such as Evergreen and Koha, digital repository systems, discovery interfaces, and so on, librarians can not only carry on their discussions of best practices in the library journals, mailing lists, and blogs, but embody the fruits of their collaboration in tools that they’ve directly participated in designing.
Where do you see open source development in the next ten to fifteen years?
It may take a bit longer than fifteen years, but I see open source development going away. By that, I mean that the notion that source code is closed by default will no longer be the norm; open source will become the new normal. On the other hand, it remains to be seen how open source project culture will evolve.
When you get stuck on a problem how do you solve it?
For technical problems, my first instinct is to turn to Google. In particular, assuming that the question is not something that self-evidently can be answered by referring to the manual or API documentation, I look for results from mailing list archives, IRC logs, bulletin boards, and other fora that focus on back-and-forth Q&A. In fact, one of the ways I judge the usability of a piece of software is whether its error messages are written to be easily Googleable.
If search engines don’t turn up anything, I turn next to my colleagues, then start asking on the relevant mailing lists. By that point I’ve also started digging through the code. One of my mantras is that when you fix a problem, you should try your best not to create ten more in its place.
For non-technical questions, I take a different approach, starting by asking my colleagues and mentors. I want to be told stories; in listening to somebody’s narrative of how they encountered a similar problem and got through it (or perhaps didn’t!), I draw parallels to try to apply to my situation.
What do you keep on your desk?
My desk in my home office in Gainesville is the repository of computers and various bits of technological gimcrackery. It is also the best kitty playground ever; my cats are very good at telling me that I ought to consider the floor to be the natural extension of my desk. I have not yet achieved a paperless office, and am more of a stacker than a filer.
What do you do to chill out?
I read omnivorously, play chess, watch Doctor Who and other good TV sci-fi, take walks in the twilight, and usually fail to get around to cataloging our rather large collection of books. Cobblers, kids, shoes — you can fill in the blanks.
Do you have any pets?
I have four cats, LaZorra, Erasmus, Amelia, and Sophia (better known as Zorie, Rasi, Mellie, and Sophie). One of my coworkers back at Endeavor did cat rescue on the side, and I adopted LaZorra and Erasmus from one of the litters she found. It was an education for me, particularly in cat biology, as (oops!) I didn’t realize just how early cats can be become pregnant. Hence: Amelia and Sophia.
Erasmus is probably the most misnamed cat ever – far from emulating any of his wise and educated namesakes, he is … less than smart. He can literally lose track of me in the house, even if I haven’t stirred from the couch in some time. To compensate, he is made of sweet, and adores his sister and daughters – not that they would permit him to have it any other way!