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Below you will see my 13 Ways (and 147 Tools) to Help Your Library Save Money on Technology.

These are my favorite options for libraries to use as alternatives to the expensive paid services and software that we use now, usually because our parent organizations or IT departments have gone along with the mainstream, bought the expensive stuff from the well-known companies, and never blinked.  But now that we are all facing budget crunches the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades, we have a chance to show these alternatives to the decision-makers, save the organization some money, and support the open source movement at the same time. I have personally used all of these, at least in a demo setting. Most of them I use on a regular basis at work or at home. So trust me — these recommendations do not come lightly!  I think these tools are darn good, otherwise they wouldn’t have made the cut.

This list has come out of a few different presentations I’ve given for public libraries recently, from Hawaii to Iowa.  Take a look, see what you want to try, and let me know how it works.  The list is not exhaustive, so I invite all of you to comment on this post and add your own favorite free web tools, software, and open source awesomeness.

1. Free Software for Public & Staff Computers

  • Operating System (instead of Windows) – Ubuntu
  • Email/Calendar (instead of Outlook) – Google Calendar & Gmail
  • Web Browser (instead of IE) – Firefox, Google Chrome
  • Financial Software (instead of Quicken) – GNU Cash
  • Productivity Software (instead of Office) – Open Office
    • - word processing (like Word), spreadsheets (like Excel), presentations (like PowerPoint), databases (like Access), desktop publishing (like Publisher), and calculator (like, errr…, a calculator)
  • Image Editing (instead of PhotoShop) – GIMP
  • Typing Software – GNUTypist or TypeFaster Typing Tutor
  • CD writing – Brasero or InfraRecorder

2. Free Security Software Suite

3. Free Staff Scheduling Software

4. Free Team Meeting Tools

5. Free Tech Support Tools

  • Embedded chat (pop it in your intranet header) – Meebo Me chat widget
  • Voice or video chat (another way to contact tech support) – Skype, Ekiga, Sightspeed, or Tokbox
  • Screencasts on the fly (for tech support to help you!) – Jing
  • Discussion board (create a staff board re: common tech issues) – Google Groups
  • Remote Support (tech support folks can log in & control/see your computer) –, TightVNC

6. Free Audio & Video Tools

7. Free eLearning Tools

8. Free “Contact Us” Tools to Communicate with Customers

9. Free Social Network & Extended Web Presence Tools

10. Free Website Management Tools

11. Free eBooks (need to cut your eBook budget? that’s ok – there are a lot of free eBooks out there.)

12. Free Articles

13. Miscellaneous Other Free Stuff


“13 Ways (and 147 Tools) to Help Your Library Save Money on Technology”

  1. uberVU - social comments Says:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by TheLiB: New post on 13 Ways (and 147 Tools) to Help Your Library Save Money on Technology:

  2. jessamyn Says:

    This is terrific having this all in one place like this.

  3. Tweets that mention 13 Ways (and 147 Tools) to Help Your Library Save Money on Technology | Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton-Jan -- Says:

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  4. Mike Says:

    Never see Olark (formerly mentioned for chat and its free for libraries. It’s a really good option for small libraries – you can see it in action at

  5. John Says:

    This is a great list but I did notice a couple of things that people should be made aware of.

    1. AdAware is free for personal home use only . Use by any organizaztion requires a license.
    2. Skype reserves the right to appropriate both the cpu and bandwidth of any computer that it is installed on to use for its own purposes such as routing calls through.

  6. Melissa McCarthy Says:

    Super list! One great addition to the security arsenal: Microsoft Security Essentials. Lifehacker concurs:

    Standard disclaimer: I’m not affiliated with Microsoft (or Lifehacker, for that matter).

  7. Claudia Says:

    Thanks for the great tools!

  8. Ed Says:

    Microsoft Security Essentials is only licensed for Home use and/or Home based business use only according to their EULA which can be found here

    DimDIm has a free online meeting tool that can be found here .

  9. james fox Says:

    2 more quick. VLC to play almost any media (dvd’s cd’s etc, also takes screenshots) and TubeChop to only play clips of any youtube video. great list.

  10. 20100127 « El blogsitorio Says:

    [...] 147 herramientas para ahorrar dinero en la biblioteca, ahora que hay crisis en España y recortes en la Web of [...]

  11. Jean Costello Says:

    Hi –

    I’ve used these two sites that review & distribute freeware for years: Snapfiles
    and Freeware Files

    Also, here are two great Firefox plugins for web development and documentation: Firebug
    for inspecting and editing code and Fireshot for browser screen capture and annotation.

  12. Renato Jacobsen Says:

    I would recommend Malwarebytes against malware and spyware. We’ve been using the free version (not real-time protection) successfully and I find it more efficient than some of the ones you mentioned that I have used on my personal computers.

  13. Diane Romm Says:

    Great list!! For hardware, I would recommend thin clients. They’re affordable, last much longer than PCs, stand up to constant use, and require little or no maintenance.

    For more information, check out my article in Library Journal entitled “It Pays to be Thin.”

  14. Justin Says:

    Thanks for the list. Any suggestions for free online storage?

  15. sharon Says:

    Google Docs and for free online storage and sharing.
    Dabbleboard for quick, and not so quick, diagrams, annotated images, etc.

  16. 13 Ways (and 147 Tools) to Help Your Library Save Money on Technology | Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton-Jan « Netcrema – creme de la social news via digg + delicious + stumpleupon + reddit Says:

    [...] 13 Ways (and 147 Tools) to Help Your Library Save Money on Technology | Librarian in Black Blog – … [...]

  17. Stefanie Says:

    malwarebytes is another great free antivirus resource. It isn’t a program that will run in the background, but it has gotten rid of MANY problems that our paid for antivirues and antimalware could not.

  18. Ron Says:

    Free subject guide creator: SubjectsPlus
    Other free citation keepers: Connotea, CiteULike

  19. Heather Braum Says:

    Thanks for a great list; I’ve heard of many of these, but not all. I concur on the malwarebytes software others have suggested. It’s gotten me out of a bad spyware situation many times, and also picked up/removed nasty spyware that the other tools you mentioned didn’t catch.

    Also, I have to put in an extra recommendation for LogMeIn. I work for a 14-county regional library system (NEKLS in Kansas), and LogMeIn has been a lifesaver, timesaver, and money-saver for us. We use it in so many ways on our libraries’ computers: troubleshooting, training, software install, and extracting data for migration to our Koha Consortia, NExpress ( Without LogMeIn, our Koha migration would have taken 3 times as long. We don’t have to travel to extract the data; just remote into the servers, extract the data, and upload it to our vendor’s FTP server.

    Our librarians love it because they don’t have to sit there trying to explain a problem; they’re at the point where they just ask us to remote in, to explain something or fix a problem. We love it at NEKLS!

  20. Got a library? Got any money to run it? Yeah, me neither. | Librarians do it Between the Covers Says:

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  21. Sarah Says:

    Favorite free online file storage is at and There are others, but these are two goodies! Technology Magazine has a good list of more.

  22. Life UnLISted » No More Beanie Babies; Still Plenty to Learn: Post 1 Says:

    [...] I may work for in the future (for example, thanks to Google reader, I stumbled across this article that offers tips for saving money on technology in a library.).  I know I’ve got a lot to learn [...]

  23. Explore » Blog Archive » Free!!!! Says:

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  24. Chas Says:

    I like what I see on this list with one exception and one omission:

    Exception: AVG is awful, use Avast free, or AntiVira home instead or

    Omission: Superantispyware found at


  25. chris gibson Says:

    A nice compilation. Thanks. I’ve added this to my delicious page.

  26. sherry Says:

    Thanks! Great List!

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  29. Cuberdon Says:

    Anything about library management softwares themselves?

  30. Sarah Says:

    Cuberdon, I’m not totally sure I know what you mean by library management software. Are you talking about Integrated Library Systems (ILS)? Or something else? If you describe more, perhaps I or my readers can help out.

  31. Demetria Says:

    Thanks for sharing this information.

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  34. Blog(s) I follow « Another Document Management 1 Blog… Says:

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  35. Vancouver Web Design Says:

    Thanks a lot for this post. I just wanted to add that I’ve been using Spider Send to send large files and I’ve been very very happy with their services so far. I run a web design company that requires transferring files quiet a bit.

  36. Miss Pippi Says:

    Thank you for the great list of tools!

  37. John Heighes Says:

    Thanks for the list….very handy.
    Thought a good inclusion would also be Koha and Kete, respectively, the Open Source ILS and Library and Archiving software developed here in NZ by Katipo Communications and the Horowhenua Library Trust.

    Both have been taken up by libraries worldwide and the software is evolving very nicely.

  38. 13 Ways (and 147 Tools) to Help Your Library Save Money on Technology « Clem's Blog Says:

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  39. Sarah Says:

    John, Koha is on the list actually! But thanks for the other suggestion for Kete. I had not heard of that before!

  40. Jen Says:

    more free image editing software Paint.NET –

  41. Kenny Johnson Says:

    Good list. Here’s some comments:
    Operating System (instead of Windows) – Ubuntu — I don’t use Linux, but I’ve heard good thing about Linux Mint — and some seem to prefer it to Ubuntu

    Image Editing (instead of PhotoShop) – GIMP — Gimp is probably the best Photoshop replacement, but if you want something simpler, I really like

    Free Security Software Suite — Honestly, Microsoft’s free “Microsoft Security Essentials” is your best bet now.

    again.. great list.

  42. Shawn P. Calhoun Says:

    Great list — dropbox might be a good add (I’ve only used personally – not sure if its an enterprise app).

  43. Patrice Chalon Says:

    For ILS, you can also add PMB, an open source ILS from France (; english version available

  44. small business software Says:

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  45. A Ghost of Daisies » Blog Archive » How to tech out your library without spending dough Says:

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  47. Gabby Says:

    Microsoft Office website has a bunch of free Excel templates for staff scheduling. The Weekly Employee Shift Schedule Template (|) can schedule up to 20 employees and 9 shifts. Work hours and labor costs are automatically computed based on shift assignments and labor rates.

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  49. Windows XP Drivers Says:

    This is something that my local librarian should read. Thanks for sharing!

  50. Gibbson Says:

    Hey everyone, why don’t you check this out. Free International Conference Calls , Global conferencing, Conferencing on the move, Secure, encrypted calls and so on. Greets from Manchester ;)

  51. Internet Librarian, part 8 « Water Librarian's Blog Says:

    [...] Sarah Houghton-Jan of San Jose Library talked on this topic. She mentioned many specific tools, but I’m mostly going to list the types of stuff available. Her complete presentation is available online. (If your network blocks Slideshare, you can see a similar post on her blog.) [...]

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  53. Charles Says:

    I would like to suggest other Linux’s besides Ubuntu, sure it has lots of PR but other distributions work better.

    Both PCLinuxOS, and Linux Mint Debian are far more user friendly and have better hardware support. Both are at least as secure as Ubuntu. ..

    While we’re talking about great open source software, Eric Melton has created an OSS Self Checker, it works with SIP/SIP2 systems like Sirsi Symphony. Our library saved over $100k by building 4 of these using retired computers instead of going with OEM self checkers. We made a picture based manual to help other libraries build their own as well.

  54. nspire Says:

    its nice great site and i have added in my favorites list

  55. Eva Says:

    John, Koha is on the list actually! But thanks for the other suggestion for Kete. I had not heard of that before! And, If you are interested in video converter,please visit:

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