A library serves two roles: a repository of information and a catalog or index of information. Public libraries have vast quantities of information, and they have a variety of tools to help users find and access the information they require. We have been working with the Software Porting and Archive Centre and are developing an analagous solution for software by creating a vast library of public domain software available for binary installation over the network. To accomplish this goal we have addressed several issues that face users trying to find, install, and utilize software.
Users can often state problems they need solved, but they often are not aware of tools to help solve the problem. The software library provides a number of methods for finding software packages, including: categorization, title, and keyword indexing of descriptions and documentation. In the future, the library will also contain bundles of software, such as "web server", which will contain a suite of software for solving a particular (common) problem. In the near future, users will connect to the library using the web, use the browsing and searching tools to find useful software, and install the software over the network using a push-button web interface.
A software library has special problems because the software is is installed and used on many systems with various localized configurations, because the various packages contained in the library often interact and depend on each other, and because the software is upgraded independently of the operating system and other packages in the library. Each of these issues creates problems for the software librarian, and there are no completely satisfying answers to the problems created by these issues.