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KohaCon 2009: The History of Koha

Apr - 16 - 2009
Nicole C. Engard

Chris Cormack with input from Paul Poulain started the conference off with a history of Koha.

Chris started working on Koha 3077 days ago :) (he thinks).

Koha was started at the Horowhenua Library Trust by Katipo

  • need a new ILS (because of a y2k bug)
  • no suitable response to their RFP (none of the vendors actually read it – because none of their solutions would actually work)
  • it’s just a database, how hard can it be? (hehe) — this is what they thought!!

Neither HLT or Katipo wanted to be vendors so they decided to release it under the GPL – didn’t want to write the project and then try to sell it (they were developers and weren’t sales people and HLT was a library not a sales team). They also looked at it as if you give something out you’ll get something back.

We didn’t understand how libraries worked so they did rapid prototypes where they would show the librarians what they had and ask if that was how they wanted it to work and then the librarians said yes or no and they moved on once they got right. We only had one day off in the year – Christmas day – because of their deadline – in the end they found that it was just a database – “but a database with INSANE rules” and exceptions to those rules.

January 5, 2000 Koha went live and announced to the world on July 2000 (article in Library Life in NZ). In that time they did a lot of cleaning of the code to make it tidy so that other people could install it. Soon after the release HLT won some awards and the software started selling itself – just like they wanted. When 1.0 was released in July 2000 it only took 20 minutes before someone first downloaded the system.

By 2002 things really got moving. Paul Poulain joined up and started working on Koha for a friend because his company went bankrupt, he wasn’t planning on starting a business around it, but in the end this led to BibLibre. Also in 2002, Nelsonville Public Library in OH started looking at Koha. 2002 also brought the next major release version 1.2.0 (which included Paul’s first major contribution which was the ability to edit the system preferences in the browser instead of directly in the database.

As the community grew, they needed to organize the community by adding roles. Kaitiaki is the guardian, Release Manager, Release Maintainer, and Documentation Manager. Chris told us that: “I like writing code, but even more, I like the community that has grown up around Koha” :)

By 2005 the pay for support options spread to the US with LibLime. This is also when Henri Damien Laurent and Paul formed a partnership to work on Koha together.

In 2008 we saw the release of Koha 3.0 and the best manual ever written (okay – Chris didn’t say that – but come on – you all agree don’t you?? :) ). 2008 and probably 2009 seems like the year of India for Koha. There is a large growth spurt going on right now with Indian librarians switching to Koha.

2009 saw the release of K’s Helping Hand, KohaCon 2009 and (this is almost finished) the release of Koha integrated with SOPAC – two awesome open source projects integrated into one!!

You can find the entire history online at: http://git.koha.org/cgi-bin/gitweb.cgi?p=Koha;a=blob_plain;f=docs/history.txt and Chris will finish it soon and then put it in git so that we can all add to it – in particular libraries adding themselves when they go live so we can start keeping track of that more efficiently.

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  1. [...] and has a longstanding, active community in New Zealand and Europe; reading its well documented history and learning about its unsung heroes are good ways way to learn how open source projects evolve). [...]


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