Using open source to provide remote patron authentication

Jackie Wrosch (Detroit Area Library Network, Detroit, Michigan, USA)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Publication date: 1 December 2005



To develop an open‐source remote patron authentication system to replace a problematic, proprietary vendor product.


Functional requirements were developed using the vendor product as a model with additional requirements determined by the libraries planning to use the application. Using PHP on Apache web server with a connection to our ILS database on Sybase, a flexible system that can be configured to the local libraries requirements was created.


Overall, the new system has been welcomed and the most widespread problems we encountered have been resolved. Most importantly though, using an in‐house system empowers libraries to introduce enhancements and bug fixes as soon as possible and not rely on a vendor's schedule for doing so.

Research limitations/implications

A project like this would not be possible if the ILS database was proprietary and inaccessible from other, open‐source technologies like PHP or the data structures were not published.

Practical implications

The remote patron authentication system is only one possible use of these technologies. Other applications using ILS data could be developed.


Using PHP with Apache and a connection to the ILS database, the necessary functionality was retained and added other features that improved reliability, configurability and cross‐browser usage. By embracing this approach, the authors also retained control on its future development and improvement.



Wrosch, J. (2005), "Using open source to provide remote patron authentication", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 520-525.

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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