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A key ingredient of finite-element analysis programs is the linear-algebra solver, typically either a linear-system solver or an eigensolver. The first part of This work tries to justify why it is important to have recourse to publicly available software for addressing this part of the computation. A number of libraries are mentioned as successful examples that exhibit a series of desirable qualities. Although some of these libraries force the programmer to somewhat change the programming style and may be difficult to learn, the benefits usually pay off the extra effort. The second part of the paper describes one of these libraries in some detail, namely SLEPc, the Scalable Library for Eigenvalue Problem Computations, which is used to illustrate the benefits of modem software paradigms for scientific and engineering computing.