Open Source News

Women in Open Source: Lisette Scheer

This month we are interviewing some wonderful women in the open source community! Here are some excerpts from our interview with Lisette Scheer of Latah County Library District.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and your current role in open source.

I am from Pullman, Washington in the rolling hills of the Palouse area of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. My whole career has been in libraries, beginning as a shelver in high school and interning at a number of libraries during my college years. Currently I’m the System Administrative Assistant at the Latah County Library District, based in Moscow, Idaho. This means that I’m responsible for helping keep our systems, including the Open Source ILS Koha running smoothly for our staff and patrons.

What led you to open source?

The first time I encountered open source software was while interning at a library over the summer in college. I was tasked with evaluating ILS for a migration from a defunct catalog to a new system. Two of the options I found were open source: Koha and Evergreen. These two catalog systems ended up being my top recommendations for a new system, in part because of their customization, their communities, and their fit for the needs of the library. The choice was made after my internship was complete, but I believe they went with Evergreen. I was very pleased 4 years later when I started working at the Latah County Library District to find that Koha was in use and when the opportunity arose to dig deeper into Koha as the System Administrative Assistant I jumped at the chance.

What is a favorite project, experience or memory related to open source?

I first started in my current position shortly before the 2016 Koha-US conference in Monterey California. I was lucky enough to be able to attend on short notice and was feeling a little like I’d fallen in the deep end, moving from the circulation desk to Sys Admin and behind the scenes work. I wasn’t really sure what to expect at the conference. I felt extremely welcomed and learned so much at that conference. It was especially nice to be able to put faces with names from the email lists and the IRC. It was definitely very helpful for getting started in the Koha community.

What do you love about open source?

One of the many things I love about open source is the speed with which changes can occur, and how anyone can be involved. In Koha we have an open Bugzilla where anyone can make an account and use it to report and comment on bugs. The community encourages front end users to comment on bugs, how problems affect them, and how new features might be helpful or harmful to their workflow. This is especially great because it gives users greater agency over the product they are using, unlike a proprietary system. It also gives the chance for participants to test new features when there are patches available. They can provide feedback on the new features as well as being able to help advance fixes and bugs that matter to their specific library. There is also an opportunity for those interested to become developers and further help to improve open source products. If those feel overwhelming to you, there is a great documentation team working on the manual that is also looking for contributors. The agency these options give to end users is quite empowering and allows for the creating of a library system that works for each library.

What is something you are listening to or reading right now?

Currently I’m reading “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig and listening to the podcasts “The History Chicks” and “Gaslight Nation”

Anything else you'd like to share?

I feel so lucky to become a part of the Koha community and to have been involved in Koha-US on various committees and special interest groups as well as being the Koha-US President last year. Everyone is great about answering questions you have or pointing you in the direction of helpful resources when you’re digging in deeper. We want everyone who uses Koha to feel supported and like they have help when they need it. I’ve grown a lot thanks to my involvement with Koha, from being nervous about using Bugzilla to report a problem, to having small patches in the project. Anyone can be involved in open source projects and I think that is such a strength both for the projects themselves having a diverse group of people working on them, but also for the people who are contributing, in whatever way.