ROSE Blog Interviews: Barbara Irwin, Loads of Linux Links Maintainer

Rikki Endsley

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Feb 07, 2011 GMT
Rikki Kite

Recently I received an email from Barbara Irwin, a Linux user since 1997. After 30 years in the library business, Barbara retired about nine years ago. "After retiring, I was looking for a useful and interesting project in Linux and/or open source," she says. "As it happened, a neat project literally fell into my lap via my local LUG, which I had been participating in," she adds. The neat project is website called Loads of Linux Links.

Barbara says that the database was started by a fellow VLUGer, who gave it up when his job required him to be overseas. Now Barbara maintains the site in her spare time. "The purpose of the Loads of Linux Links project is to collect, organise, classify and maintain important URLs about Linux and the Open Source movement for all levels of Linux users," she says. "It features special link collections: latest 100 links, 'cool' and 'must see' links. There is also a Linux News Highlights Atom feed." She says that the project is a good fit with her librarian skills and knowledge in classification and database issues. "I have fun reading the Linux and open source news and interacting with folks around the world," she says. "I try to keep the database selective and on the small side, because otherwise those 404s would drive me crazy! I also try to include active, community-driven projects."

I replied to Barbara's email and she answered some questions I had about her retirement, Linux in libraries, and her participation in the open source community:

RK: How did you first hear about Linux and why did you start using it at home?

BI: I first heard about Linux in 1996 from my husband, Alan, who had years of UNIX experience, so it was a natural for him to use Linux on our home computer. I was working at the local public library at the time, primarily using a UNIX-based automated library system, but had to use a Microsoft word processor for my documents. Not a happy experience. So I was delighted that our home was -- and still is -- a Windows-free

RK: What role do you see Linux and open source tools playing in libraries today?

BI: Linux and open source are no-brainers for libraries! Most libraries' budgets are generally strapped for cash even in non-recessionary times. There is excellent, free and open source software for library applications. Integrated Library Systems (ALS) for circulation, acquisitions, cataloging, and public, online catalogs are the obvious ones. There are several excellent systems available, including Koha and Evergreen. From my years of experience using a proprietary ALS product, it would have been such a joy to use an open source product because it gives you so much control over the features your organization requires rather than depend on the whims of a commercial company. I remember waiting six months for a simple change in the Acquisitions module that would make work flow more efficient. Proprietary equivalents are very expensive and upgrades are costly as well.

RK: Do you know other retirees who are involved in open source?

BI: My husband is actively involve in several projects at SourceForge including the PLplot scientific plotting software package and the FreeEOS equation-of-state implementation for stellar interiors.

RK: Have you helped introduce other people in your community to Linux and/or open source technologies?

BI: I haven't actively introduced people to Linux, but when the subject of computer difficulties come up (on their home computers), I mention the option of Linux and give them a brief overview. So far, there haven't
been any takers that I know of except for our friends in Alberta. Alan did most of the heavy lifting with them via email or phone. They're happy campers with Ubuntu. My one piece of advice is not to be a strident, pushy advocate. Don't sell Linux by dissing Microsoft. Also, if people have a strong support network of Microsoft experts in place, they should probably stick with Microsoft. I hope with my Loads of Linux Links website I have spread the word about Linux and open source throughout the world.

Besides Linux/open source and an open Internet, I am passionate about organic gardening (saving heritage varieties and growing our own food) and public libraries. All these communities have a common thread: sharing information.

If you or a woman you know would like to participate in this series of interviews, please email me at:

Related Link:

Sharon Moreland, Technology Consultant at the Northeast Kansas Library System

Read additional interviews:

Alison Chaiken, MeeGo Technical Consultant at Nokia

The Document Foundation's Jacqueline Rahemipour

Susan Rose, OLF Medical Track Committee Chair

Margarita Manterola, Debian Developer

Valerie Bubb Fenwick, Staff Engineer at Sun Microsystems

Ellen Siever, co-author of Linux in a Nutshell

Juliet Kemp, author and admin extraordinaire

Red Hat's Mel Chua

Noirin Shirley, Vice President of the Apache Software Foundation

Cheryl McKinnon, CMO of Nuxeo

KDE Project's A. L. Spehr's Kendra "Admin" Schaefer

Emma Jane Hogbin, co-author of Front End Drupal

Sharon Moreland, Technology Consultant at the Northeast Kansas Library System

Meike Reichle, Debian Developer

Máirín Duffy, Team Lead for Fedora Design Team

Hillary Rettig, author and activist

GNOME.Asia's Emily Chen

GSoC participant Kanika Vats

FSF's Deborah Nicholson's Dru Lavigne

Stormy Peters, Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation

Linux Foundation's Angela Brown

Erica Brescia, CEO of BitRock

Ohio LinuxFest's Beth Lynn Eicher

Ohio LinuxFest's Moose's Carla Schroder

Urban Forest Mapping Project's Kelaine Vargas


  • Thank you!

    Thank you, Barbara Irwin. I love loll, it's one great site i've ever seen. Thanks again!
comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to our Linux Newsletters
Find Linux and Open Source Jobs
Subscribe to our ADMIN Newsletters

Support Our Work

Linux Magazine content is made possible with support from readers like you. Please consider contributing when you’ve found an article to be beneficial.

Learn More