Open Source ILS in use: The Monteverde Institute

The Monteverde Institute, a non-profit research and study abroad organization in Monteverde, Costa Rica, hosts the John and Doris Campbell Library. This summer, I’m an intern at this library to work on their digital presence (check out my final project at ).

Like many libraries, in the Global North and Global South, the MVI Library has its share of challenges: limited funding, few staff (actually, just 1!), and lots of services to keep up with. The library staff of one is Library Coordinator, Marlene Leitón Campbell. One of the challenges we looked at together in my short time here  in Costa Rica is the digital system managing collections, the Integrated Library System.  We spent some time investigating new options that could improve the services offered. She joins me in writing this post to share what we found.

Some of the most popular open source offerings in North America are very powerful and complete systems.  KOHA and Evergreen are the most common systems implemented. The current Open Source Integrated Library System at MVI is a low cost, open-source software designed for Latin America, SIABUC. SIABUC is an open source software available from Universidad de Colima, a public university in Colima, Mexico. This software is in Spanish, modular, and web-interface enabled. It allows acquisitions, catalog analysis, searches, inventory, lending, and service record keeping.

SIABUC: Benefits and Challenges (by Marlene)


Marlene Leiton Campbell

Marlene Leiton Campbell is the Library Service Coordinator at the Monteverde Institute.

SIABUC has evolved over more than 25 years, in this new version (SIABUC 9) it is a renewed, much more powerful and easy-to-use software. It is designed with the needs of Latin American institutions in mind, focusing its tasks on the control of the processes in a more logical and natural way in order to offer better library services. It is easier to use and customizable according to your needs. Client-server architecture, robust, scalable, and a reliable data engine, Postgre SQL. It is compatible with MARC 21 standard and other library standards. There is support for web services through a service-oriented architecture.

With SIABUC 9 you will get all the necessary components to optimize the services of your libraries and information centers.

  • Control and follow up of requests for bibliographic and documentary material.
  • Allocation of budgets, payments, invoices and credit notes.
  • Reception and delivery of material for cataloging in MARC 21 format.
  • Authorities control integrated to the chip capture process
  • Import and export data in SBC and ISO-2709 formats.
  • Generation of barcode labels for processed materials.
  • Automatic queries to the collection, by directories, words or parameters.
  • Automatic re-indexing of the database.
  • Mechanisms for the backup and restoration of the database.
  • Loan service adaptable to libraries with open or closed bookshelves.
  • Simultaneous management of inventories by type of collection or type of material.
  • Capability to host several libraries in one server.



The annual payments for remote policy to get SIABUC 9 maintenance and annual hosting get bounced over and over again because University of Colima doesn’t give the right information to process international payments. The Monteverde Institute Library has had this problem since 2009.

Users don’t know under what keywords to look under, and when they use search terms for example, “environment%” it only has 18 search results, but if the user writes “environmental” it returns 149 results.


New Options – ABCD

One of the new options possible at MVI is another open source and Latin American based software, ABCD. ABCD is a primarily cataloging and search tool available for many types of materials and collections, focusing on primarily Spanish and small scale options in Latin America. It is an emerging open access resource, not yet at the level of SIABUC, but with potential and a growing audience. Unfortunately, ABCD has been, for both Adrienne and Marlene, less than ideal for the MVI Library.

The Central component of ABCD includes modules for Database Administration (creation of databases, editing of structures, utilities), Cataloging, Acquisitions, Circulation / Loans and Statistics. A Thesaurus Management module is also being prepared as part of the cataloging module for a specific database with a thesaurus structure with consistent control of hierarchical levels. As part of this central module we can also mention import and export services, printing and database management tools such as locking / unlocking and making global changes over fields of records. If the (new) “Document Supply” and “Digital Library” modules are installed, the librarian or systems administrator can also provide answers to requests for information and digital documents. In fact, any database can be completely managed (edition, search, presentation…) from this central hub. This “Central” module, in fact, represents the back-office component of ABCD, users do not have access to it but the results they see and are offered are fully defined in this central module of the software!

ABCD offers fewer modules than SIABUC – ABCD has 3 and SIABUC has 7 modules. ABCD is a free software program while SIABUC is low cost (about $300), although it varies every year.

ABCD for a beginning cataloger (that’s Adrienne) was fraught with easier and easier mistakes. The catalog could easily lack structural integrity, and is not immediately set up to handle multiple types of printed materials.  It also has several glitches in the interface that could quickly lead to a confused and lost user. From this perspective, though, there were also many benefits. The forms were complete and intuitively laid out. There were many options for administration, like Marlene described, which definitely help set up the program for the specific tasks at hand.


Overall, ABCD is not likely to be a good fit for MVI in the near-term.  The challenges to user-interface and the lack of modules for addressing needs at MVI are not balanced out by the cost-savings or functionality perks it may offer.  SIABUC will remain in place at MVI until another option has been discovered, and the many other open-source software options available still hold promise to provide ideal ILS functionality to this little library.