Dropping Ubuntu systems in place of Windows wouldn't be difficult, assuming the software needed for their OPAC systems is not proprietary to Windows (most are web based anyway). The difficult part would be future maintenance, as the average I.T. Joe Technician knows Windows and nothing else.
(I do tech support/systems admin for a municipal govt.)
Our library system uses an Ubuntu LTSP system for OPAC terminals, and debian for some kiosk-type terminals at the branches. Mostly, because they have access to a Linux nutter who tinkers with this kind of stuff. It did save a lot of money and has been successful for many years.
However, when it comes to the actual workstations available for public use, there are numerious things preventing the use of Linux.
- They use a time management/pc reservation/print costing system like the one mevun described, which doesn't support Linux (and from the response I got from the vendor, probably never will).
- They often get computers via grant, which come with requirements (such as "must run MS Publisher 2007"). Most notably, computers they've received from the Gates foundation (yes, that Gates).
- Staff (and I mean librarians, not IT people) are often required to help patrons use the computers. It's all they can do to support people on one OS.
- Sadly, even in 2012, there are web pages that only work in IE, documents that only work in MSO, and peripherals that only work with Windows.
Honestly, I think for a smaller library just starting out with computers (and thus, patrons having no particular expectations of the library's computers), a friendly, locked-down Linux solution could work great.
Making a change at in an established setup requires buy-in from the whole staff, or else the project gets chucked at the first sign of a problem. It's hard enough to find IT people who are into Linux, never mind administrators and library staff.
Locally all our public libraries have switched over to Brocade from the PALS Library Systems or are in the process of switching over. As far as I'm aware Brocade uses a lot of open source components but it's not a 'free' system as far as I'm aware.
We don't have free to use PCs & Internet access in our libraries from what I have seen but something like LTSP could work I reckon.
For what it's worth, LTSP is absolutely friggen sweet. It's a beautiful way to mass-manage multiple systems in one shot, not to mention it really breathes live into old hardware to serve as clients (assuming your server isn't exactly a Pentium 4). I've set up a few labs in school districts utilizing LTSP with great success and extremely minimal maintenance.
Thanks for the replies folks! I might try to show the head officials of the library system some examples and advantages to using GNU/Linux over Windows.
If it has windows, surely they are likely to be experiencing the virus or malware issue. Show them how you are avoiding that by using the linux.
My local library has actually moved over to some kind of Ubuntu variant that they setup to look like windows. Guess it's just easier or cheaper to maintain.