KohaCon12: Ebsco’s EDS and Koha



Up this morning is Lee Miller from the Butte-Silver Bow Public Library. Lee has asked us to close our laptops for the start of her talk – but I am the exception so I can blog her talk! She wanted us to be left without a connection during her talk to show that there are people out there who are not as lucky as us to have broadband.

Discovery also addresses the issue of the digital divide. Lee gave us many stats from PEW Internet & Research Studies. I did not get all of the numbers down so please check their reports (Wireless Internet Users and Pew Internet: Mobile).

Some stats:

  • There are 82.2 million smart phone users with Android having 42% of the market.
  • The total cell phone ownership in the US is 4 our out 5 people.
  • The use of smart phones in the second and third world is also on the rise, because the barrier to entry is much lower.
  • 80% of Whites in the US own cell phones
  • 87% of African-Americans and English-speaking Latinos in the US own cell phones
    • They are 4x more likely to use their phones for internet actions than whites

Lee asked us to look at the internet on cell phones. And then encouraged the developers in the room to start thinking about making Koha more mobile friendly.

The above is why Lee is looking for an outside discovery service because she wants her patrons (who are using cell phones and mobile devices to get information) to be able to find things easily. The ILS is just one of the resources the library has. We also have subscriptions to databases, links to Facebook, downloadable ebooks and links to our Flickr collections. The problem is that to get to those resources you have to click a different link to get to them. On a mobile device clicking many times is a great way to send people away from the library and to Google (where it’s one click). So what we need is a way to show all of our holdings to our patrons in one interface that’s easy and friendly to use. The option that Lee is looking at is EDS from Ebsco.

Lee showed the the Montana Shared Catalog (which I can’t provide direct links to because of session IDs – a pet peeve of mine with many proprietary systems) to show how it links all that content together – here’s a screenshot:

Note on the left the ways to filter by content and on the right the inclusion of videos and images on the results.

What I get from this is that we need to come up with an open source tool that can do what this tool can because I only looked at it for a little bit and while it’s neat that it brings everything together there are many many things that make it not terribly accessible.

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KohaCon12: Offline Circulation



My colleague at ByWater, Kyle Hall, was up next talking about the Koha Offline Circulation Tool. Kyle wrote the first offline circulation tool in 2006 and within the last year rewrote the whole thing to make it work with latest releases of Koha. With 3.8 we also have another offline circulation tool to use – this one is a Firefox plugin.

Kyle started with a demo of the desktop application. If you’d like to see a demo you can view the video I did last year here (maybe Kyle will do a new one for us with more information).


  • Can load a file of patron and fines info in to the system
  • Great for book mobiles which are offline all of the time


  • If you have multiple computers and/or branches you have to upload all of those files.
  • If library A checks out a book in the AM and the patron returns it to library B in the PM you need to load library A’s file first or else the checkin on library B’s file will be ignored (because the book isn’t checked out yet)

Next up was the Firefox plugin (a video for this will be coming soon). Things to remember after installing the plugin:

  • Show the Add Ons bar in Firefox to see the Koha logo
  • After setting up your params close the plugin and reopen it

This tool lets you decide how you want to apply your changes, either by applying directly so that they’re recorded immediately or if you have multiple computers you can commit them to Koha so that they go in the right chronological order before getting added to Koha.


  • Has a way to keep things in order
  • Lives in your browser so it works on more operating systems


  • There is no way to load patron data in to it so you won’t see what the patron has checked out or what money they owe

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KohaCon12: My Presentations


For those who were unable to attend KohaCon (or those who were there and want to see them again) here are the slides from my two presentations at KohaCon this week.

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KohaCon12: Top Ten Data Migration Strategies


My colleague at ByWater Solutions, Joy Nelson, was up this morning. She started mentioning that migration is not as easy as moving information from point A to B. It’s about getting things to fit in the right spot and at the end of the day it’s not the data that tells you you’re done, it’s the people.

You have to keep a good relationship with your client:

  • Manage expectations
  • Communicate
    • We provide a communication plan with our partners before we get started so that they know how to communicate with us, when we’ll be contacting them.
    • Maintain a schedule
    • Stay on topic!! Meetings that spiral off the agenda are hard to document, hard to follow up on and hard to keep track of
    • Clarify language. We all use different words for the same things. So make sure you’re all on the same page.
      • Watch your jargon. Not everyone understands the technical language we use. The same goes for the client. Have them clarify words that you maybe don’t know
    • Mind the body language. Don’t roll your eyes or scowl, be professional.
  • Listen
  • Empathize

Documentation is also central to a good migration! Make sure you document from the second they sign to the point that they go live. You want to know where they’re coming from and what order we’re going to do things in. Also a knowledge base can be very helpful – this is a great place to store all the manuals for the ILSes people are migrating from or canned scripts you have to clean up data from a specific system.

Become familiar with your client’s workflows and try to explain things using that workflow. This makes them more comfortable and makes it easier to communicate.

The next tip … be consistent!

Keep the process consistent regardless of which library you’re working with or which ILS they’re coming from. This makes it easier to jump from one migration to another and work on multiple processes at once because you know the process. Another level of consistency is to have consistent tools and methods. Finally, all programmers know this on, keep consistent naming conventions.

Next up the aesthetics. The appearance of the OPAC matters and working on that during the migration makes people happy.

Be flexible! Meet your libraries where they are in terms of technical skills. Be flexible to take the extra effort to maybe walk the through creating a CSV file for their data or running a specific report to get the data out of their old system. Sometimes finding tools to assist them will make it easier for everyone involved.

Anticipation – knowing what’s coming down the road will help with your migration. When the library says they need something it’s handy to know if it’s coming down the pike in Koha. We know what’s coming and it makes them feel better to know that it’s around the bend. You also need to give them the information to understand their decisions, they need to know that choosing this preference will effect the workflow in a specific way.

Finally – Transparency of Process is key. Make it clear that their data is theirs and you’re just there to get it in to the system the way they want. Let them know what you’re doing along the way. Engage them in the process so that they get a feel for what it’s like to be part of an open source community.

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KohaCon12: It’s all about the people!


Open source (and Koha) is about a lot more than the code and the programmers – it’s about the community. So with Koha, how does the community work? Chris Cormack broke it down for us in to some very simple steps!

  • People are always on IRC talking about Koha and our lives (Stats)
  • The Mailing Lists are very active (as the last speaker mentioned) and are a great way to see what’s being discussed and participating in that discussion.
  • The Wiki has pages like this one where people bid to host KohaCon
  • Bugzilla is where we report problems, request enhancements and keep track of developments/fixes. Always search first and if someone has reported it already comment so people know that you have the same problem (the squeaky wheel gets the grease).

It’s not always roses though – like with any community – things don’t always go smoothly. That said we don’t get the same kind of insane flame wars that other communities seem to get. (I like to think of it as a family – every family fights at some point). Usually we all get along.

To be a part of our community it’s really as easy as participating in the above sites in some way. You don’t have to be a programmer! To learn about some of the unsung heroes in the community check Chris’s blog.

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KohaCon12: Koha 3.8 What’s New?

Paul at KohaCon12

Paul was up first talking about Koha 3.8. He highlighted for us the features he thought were most important.

First some numbers!

  • 1087 changes were made to the source code! Some were small and some very large.
  • 71 different contributors
  • 26 organizations contributed (this uses the email domain – so it might be more)
  • The youngest contributor to Koha was 14!!

The most visible change in this version is the staff client! The old staff client was efficient, but not shiny – the new one is both shiny and efficient. We already had a shiny interface for the OPAC but now we gave the staff some eye candy as well.

A lot of attention has also been given to performance. Koha 1 and 2 were much faster than Koha 3, so it was time to speed things up in 3.8. One of the big changes in 3.8 is that the OPAC is now Plack compatible which will give 150% improved performance. Plack basically allows for the preloading of lots of data to save time. It is being used live on some French OPACs already!

Templates are now cached which gives us a 10% improvement in performance and memcache is now used for confirmation files giving another 10% improvement. Both of these do need to be activated first though – so that requires some setup.

Now for some “real” features (many are listed here already):

  • Cataloging
    • Possible to upload your own cover images
    • Bulk delete bibliographic records when deleting the last item
    • Materials specified is now displayed at checkout and checkin
    • Authority matching and linking improvements
    • In cataloging if you got the material via acquisitions you will now see a link to that
  • OPAC
    • Custom XSLT Stylesheets – you can now say: yes/no or link to a URL for custom stylesheet
    • Patrons can add star ratings
    • There is a way to show library information in the OPAC about the library when patrons mouse over the library name in the holdings table
      • This field takes HTML so you can even embed a map if you want
    • You can also turn on a bar of social network share buttons on each bib record in the OPAC
  • Acquisitions
    • You can now see cancelled orders
    • It is possible to modify notes/comments on an order line even after the order is received
    • Cloning budgets allows for creating a duplicate budget
    • Improved claiming letters
    • You can now enter shipping estimates on the vendor page to help determine when orders should arrive
    • Purchase suggestions now automatically filters to show only suggestions from your patrons (this is important to note in case you’re used to seeing all the suggestions at once)
  • Patrons
    • You can now group attributes
    • You can search for patron phones and emails
    • Fields on the patron add form can now be hidden using a system preference instead of jquery
    • From the checkout history there is a way to export a list of barcodes of items checked out
  • Circulation
    • Hourly loans
    • Offline circulation improvements with a new Firefox plugin
    • Floating collections
    • Suspending holds
    • Checkout slips are now customizable

There are many more new features, but Paul ran out of time :) Read the release notes for more info (and links to related manual pages).

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KohaCon10: Additional Posts

In addition to my posts on KohaCon10 others posted information they learned and shared at the conference – I thought I should share that here so that you all can keep up with everything Koha and KohaCon related.

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KohaCon10: Ideas for Koha 4.0

Up next our own Ian Walls to talk about his awesome visions for where we can go with Koha 4.0! Ian warned us that the following could all be ideological and naive and we have to remember that they are all just his ideas and nothing concrete.

First (and Ian rants about this alot) we need to rebuild some of the modules like holds, notices, accounts (a big problem for us) and borrowers. In addition we want some features that we have been talking about forever like hourly loans, electronic resources management, biblio relationships (aka analytics), enhanced circulation preferences. It would also be nice if we have tools for ILL and a way to connect to OCLC connexion so that you can catalog there and push a button to send to Koha. So let’s go into more detail.


Right now the holds table is missing a primary key (Paul chimed in to say that BibLibre has fixed this!). One known bug we should fix is the ability to place multiple holds on a title. Also for holds (and I love this idea), Ian suggests a Netflix-style queue (for the non-US attendees this was somewhat confusing, but for those of us who use Netflix, it means patrons can place unlimited holds, but can only have X out at once).


Notices need to be rebuilt (a loud WOO HOO from Liz Rea on this one). Ian wants to bring printed slips under notices so that they can be customized like notices. It would also be nice if we had a priority order for notification method, so email is priority if no email send it via print. In addition it would be nice to have on-demand messages – meaning the librarian could click and generate a notice or a copy of a notice. Right now patrons can opt-out of advanced notices – Ian thinks we should allow the librarians to control these as well if they want to and say which ones they can change and which they can’t. Finally, better SMS/IM support for notices – maybe using Jabber is a way to go for this – also it means that we’d need some kind of limits on characters that the notices print out.


Ian hates dealing with fines because the accountlines table bothers him. He feels we need two tables, one for accounts and the accountlines table is for atomic transactions (I’m not sure I know what that is…). Each account would be something like fines, lost items, etc and then have a sys pref to group these together by account type or item. We all know that partial payment of fines is a bit missing part in the account management. Finally, Ian mentioned something I asked about a while ago – real time currency exchange rates (the example that Ian used was the ‘food for fines’ program we see in libraries in the US). Paul added to this to say that there should be a family account – a way to allow parents to pay children accounts – I love it!!


No library uses all of the fields available via the add patron form – so we might be able to cut this down to something more like the extended attributes to save space in the big borrowers table. Then we keep only core library data in the borrowers table. It would also be nice to have hierarchical borrower types. A cool idea would be to have borrower preferences – like many social sites out there – let the borrower decide what they want their defaults to be – like I never want to see lost items, even if the librarian chooses to show them. You could also extend this to the staff client to let the staff decide what they want to see and where.

As a side note, wouldn’t it be nice to link borrowers to authorities – if you have an author who lives in your town you could link their patron record to their authority record.

Crossing Borrowers/Acq

Why not put the vendors and vendor contacts into the borrowers table – these tables hold similar data. Along those lines also merging accounts with the acquisition money system. It would be nice to allow patrons to place holds on items that they have suggested and follow the process a bit more from suggestion to cataloging.

Crossing Serials/Acq

We should manage subscriptions/renewals in Acquisition (Paul says this should come in the next month). Also EDI support (which ByWater and Software Coop are working on together).

Crossing Serials/Cataloging

We need support for the MARC Format for Holdings Data! UNIMARC has a format similar, but it’s very new.

Hourly Circ/Course Reserves

We need to update circulation to allow for a base period of one minute because this will allow us to go out from there to days (Hourly loans RFC). We should be able to connect that to the calendar and notices – and of course integration with SMS messages so you get a text message right before it’s due. Course reserves can be used by all libraries if you think of it like a group of items that are pulled from where they usually reside for a different purpose.

Electronic Resources Module

A new concept for Koha. Allow Koha to import holdings from data sources, have a built in link resolves and connect to SUSHI for statistics. This is a big topic that was condensed down to one slide.

Biblio Relationships

This is what Ian called “analytics+” This is beyond analytics because it’s just a way to handle relationships between biblios – so not just analytics, but also FRBR. There is an RFC for this that can be added to.

Arbitrary Metadata Schemas

We want to be able to put in not just MARC, but DC, METS, MODS, etc.

Widgetized Staff Client

Another cheer from Liz next to me! It would be nice to let the staff pull in widgets and drag and drop them on to the page so taht they can cusotmize things. Of course we’d also want this in the OPAC as well – but I personally feel like the staff client has been ignored from a design standpoint in favor of the OPAC – which is necessary – but I’d like the staff to get some prettiness.

Enhanced Circ Preferences

Would be nice if many of the global prefs were pulled out and granular (global due date was an example – allow that for each branch to be different). If we pull this out to a new table it would be easier to integrate these changes.

Mobile Interfaces

We need to get the staff client and the OPAC to look better on our smart phones. Might also be nice if we could connect to the camera and use it as a barcode scanner.

Other Little Ideas

  • Recalls
  • ILL – like suggestions but asking to get from another library
  • More barcode encodings
  • Multiple LDAPs/Shibboleth Support
  • Cron scheduling interface in the staff client
  • OCLC Connexion Gateway

Wow!! My hands are way tired and I’m sure Ian will share his slides with us so we can read them to get all that I missed.

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KohaCon10: Intro to Git

Andrew Ruthven was up first this morning at the hackfest to tell us about using Git. For those who don’t know Git is what we use to keep track of changes to Koha files.

With git we can track changes to software and files and come back and view a history. Using Git you can look back and find when bugs were introduced (often referred to as ‘blame’) and then you can roll back changes if they caused problems. One thing Andrew mentioned that I need to learn how to do is to apply kudos – this means you can show who sponsored a development (or maybe this just goes in the comments – I’ll have to look into it).

KohaCon10 Hackfest

That said there are some reasons why people don’t like Git. One is that there are sooo many commands (but you can ignore most of the commands in your day-to-day use of Git). Among these commands include sending email, importing patches from your mailbox, etc.

On the other side of things, Git has a lot of reasons why we should use it. First (and most importantly) the cool kids are using it.

So let’s get into the nitty gritty – the commands.

The first thing you need to do is clone the repository:

git clone <URL> <filename>

More tips on using Git can be found on the Koha wiki.

When you’re ready to add a file to the Git repository you need to add it. To do that you simply type:

git add <filename>

When you next do:

git status

you see that there is a new file to add. The next step is to commit your change:

git commit

You commit your changes so that they can be tracked. To make your life easier you can commit all of your changes by simply adding a -a at the end of your command:

git commit -a

One cool tool that Andrew showed that I didn’t know about was GITK – a GUI for viewing Git logs.

I don’t have Andrew’s slides yet, but someone on Twitter linked to these slides from Scott Chacon saying that they were also very helpful.

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