VALENJ: WALDO & the Koha Open Source ILS

John Stromquist, Executive Director of the WALDO Consortium talked to us about their decision to go with the Koha ILS and LibLime. WALDO is a multi-type library consortium. Of their membership, there are 12 full members (this means they have a shared ils), 11 associate members (this means they share a union catalog), 500+ regular academic members, and 400+ public members. WALDO helps libraries with vendor contracts, John said that “anything that saves librarians time is worth it.”

WALDO’s ILS History

From 1983-2004 the WALDO libraries used the PALS ILS (an open source forerunner that was owned and operated by librarians), but support was dropped in 2004 and they had to find a new alternative.

They decided not to follow the traditional procurement process for libraries which is to write the biggest RFP you can imagine – no less than 12,000 questions will do – the problem with this is that the vendors can lie faster than you can write – the problem with this is that after the fact you remember the things you forgot. This didn’t sound like the best option for finding a solution for their member libraries.

Instead they decided to assess the marketplace for the top 2 or 3 vendors, interview current customers (what a great idea), negotiate contracts with top vendors, and then make the award to vendor with best overall contract offering. The problem was that the second ILS they chose also ended up being sold out.

For the next decision making process, the executive board found other legacy systems equally undifferentiated and really not worthy of a migration efforts – what else could be considered? They decided that they needed to seriously consider open source – especially after Georgia PINES success with Evergreen, like WALDO, they are a large consortium with heavy loads.

Choosing Open Source


  • functionally equal to current system
  • hosting services
  • software maintenance (bug fixing)
  • applications development
  • 24 x7 help desk

Tipping points in choosing open source:

  • open source model itself – control and collaboration
  • standards based architecture
  • modern development capability (younger and capable of rapid development – have to be careful what you say to josh
  • because you make a suggestion and he goes home that night and implements it)
  • protection against vendor lock in

If they didn’t go with open source:

  • outsider ownership of legacy companies
  • troublesome legacy business models
  • near certainty of migration anyway (if you stay with the vendor you have)
  • diminished service levels (people aren’t happy with the level of service and they’re very vocal about it)
  • likely impact of open source commercial vendors (if they don’t go with open source, what will happen to legacy systems as open source becomes popular?)

John mentioned the same thing that Bob did, not many academic libraries are using open source. Right now, open source seems to be used more in the public arena, but WALDO wanted academic library support since that was their primary audience.

They had demos of both Koha Zoom and Evergreen. Koha Zoom presented the best architectural fit for WALDO by offering data and policy independence for each library. John also chose Koha because it was a more mature package overall.

Working with LibLime

WALDO and LibLime worked collaboratively during the initial meetings after making their decision. One day was spent with the librarians talking, sharing their needs with the LibLime folks and the other day was spent with LibLime addressing those needs and telling the librarians what they could do.

After these meetings, LibLime came back to WALDO to work with 6 libraries to make note of all of the requirements to meet their needs.

WALDO set pretty high expectations on LibLime, but the company stood up to the test and came back with what was requested in time. In the end, the time and cost proposals looked favorable to those at WALDO and so they made their final decision.

The Future

In addition to their contract for support with LibLime, WALDO is also paying for over $600,000 worth of development (course reserves – call slip processing – music collection requirements), $200,000 of which is being held for other uses like an ILL module. All of the development that has been planned will be done by August 2008 and then shared back with the community.

In addition to this initial development plan, WALDO is asking new subscribers to contribute to an open source development fund. The initial contribution level will be at 15% of direct subscription service costs. In the end the funds could exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars, all to be put toward developments that will later be shared with the entire Koha community.


John’s talk was pretty impressive. When you see the amount of money being thrown into proprietary systems that are fostering the culture of work arounds that Josh mentioned, and then you see what that same money can do in the open source environment, it’s amazing!! I’m really excited to see what other consortia like WALDO to for the open source community over the next few years.

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  1. Great writeup. I especially like the bit about not doing an RFP. And of course I like to hear about stuff that’ll be coming down the pike in future upgrades!

  2. It was pretty darn impressive to see what people are investing in Open Source for libraries!!

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