The day started off with a bit of history (things I didn’t know). In 1999 the Horowhenua Library Trust in New Zealand was looking for an ILS that would meet their needs but couldn’t afford what the traditional vendors were offering. The only option was to contract out with a development group to create the right system for them. They chose Katipo Communications Ltd. When the product was done in 2000, Katipo recommended that Horowhenua release the ILS under the Open Source License. Why? Because Horowhenua’s problem was that that the company who first developed their ILS had gone out of business and they didn’t have the staff to alter the system. By making the software Open Source they would always have support from the programming community.
In 2001 the Nelsonville Public Library was looking at Koha as a possible solution for their library, but they had a big hurdle to overcome – there was no MARC support in the system. Here’s where Joshua comes in. He was working for Nelsonville and worked on adding MARC support to Koha. The great thing about Open Source is that once he was done – everyone in the US could use this system with MARC support.
Josh moved on to create LibLime. LibLime provides support and development for open source library tools – like Koha.
History lesson over
First comment – right out of the box – no customization – Koha looks better than most catalogs I’ve seen!
Josh started by showing us a search on the Nelsonville Public Library catalog for “it” (a stop word on most search engines) and the top hits returned were all different editions of Stephen King’s It!! How many other catalogs can do that? The next search was for “o” – first hit? Oprah’s O Magazine.
The system also offers a ton of different sort and refine options (all customizable for your library’s needs) and native support for RSS feeds for every search you run in the catalog.
Two neat features that caught my eye were the book bag and the virtual shelf.
You (as patron or librarian) can create a virtual shelf of resources from the catalog. Librarians can then share the URL for the shelf with patrons who come in with a related question. So if you always get at least one question a day for information on adopting a pet you could provide the link to the virtual shelf for your patron (kind of like a pathfinder – or the project function in PennTags).
The book bag is a way to mark records and then email, print, etc them all to yourself in one swoop. A future project is that you’ll be able to export these books to a citation management system like EndNote and create your bibliography right from the catalog.
Then there is the advanced search page! You can search any MARC field – there is a ton of data in our records that is never accessed. The example we saw was from Nelsonville’s Advanced Search page. Over on the right you can choose Subtypes & Collection Codes – these are fields that aren’t usually searchable – but they’re on the records – so why not?
The beauty of Koha (other than the easy to use search and easy to edit templates) is that your data is your data! Anything you enter into the database is yours to manipulate – and that means you can edit search pages like this one to search any fields you choose!
My favorite quote from the day? “That’s pretty trivial to implement” – Josh would say this whenever we asked for a feature – well most of the features
Overall, a great presentation and a great product – I can’t wait to see more!!