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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KohaCon10: Open Library and Koha

George Oates from the Open Library project was up next to tell us how we can use Koha with the Open Library.

The Open Library started with records from something like 30 libraries and now anyone can add books by filling in just a few required fields (but I highly recommend adding more than that first form asks for – just so that the library has more valuable info). I don’t know how to share (until there is a video) the cool visualization that George showed us regarding how Open Library takes library data and makes it human readable – but I can try. Basically they take the MARC subjects, break out all the MARC gunk and then hyperlink the terms so you can browse collections. One example of this would be this page: http://openlibrary.org/subjects/libraries.

A lot of what George covered was how to use Open Library and all the cool features. The one that I wanted to point out here is a new feature you may not have known about – Search Inside. This allows you to search inside the texts that Open Library has digitized.

It’s also important (given the conference we’re at) to mention that the Open Library is open source (github.com/openlibrary) which means that projects like Koha could benefit (maybe) from some of the code that has already been written. Also important to note that Open Library has several APIs available.

Some things that George wants to see between Koha & Open Library would be the sharing of records from Koha libraries to the Open Library. Other ways to integrate would be to pull cover images from their database, pull subjects data and maybe even a ‘send to Koha’ button.

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KohaCon10: Promoting Free Software in Libraries

Donald Christie from Catalyst was up first after lunch to talk to us about celebrating, promoting and supporting free software in libraries.

First up – Freedom. With free software we have the freedom to have new ideas, learn, share, remove arbitrary controls, collaborate, form communities and spread knowledge.

Donald also brought up the anti-features that Fran├žois mentioned and pointed us to a site where you can find a list of anti-features. He also talked about why open source software doesn’t have anti-features – and it’s basically that open source developers are lazy and don’t want to take the time to put in things that they aren’t asked for.

Donald talked to us more about freedom by saying that “freedom is a competitive landscape offering real choice of systems and suppliers.” One freedom that I always mention is the freedom from vendor lock it and vendor capture. Most importantly of course is having control over the software – along with the ability to share our experiences and adapt the software accordingly.

I mentioned yesterday that we have to get over our culture of ‘learned helplessness’ and Donald pointed us to an article on Wikipedia that included a clinical trial that showed what this looks like. When you read that you start to see how silly it is that libraries are using the system they’re using (dealing with the crap support that they’ve been dealing with) when they have so many options.

When Catalyst decided to offer MyKoha as software as service they needed to think about the possible freedom losses with hosting data in “the cloud.” If everything is stored in the cloud, then who owns your data? You also have to think about the fact that you don’t know what’s happening to your data because there are applications running on the server that you don’t have control over or access to. And the most popular example is Facebook and their ever changing terms of service. To get around these possible issues, Catalyst have built in tools to give the customers complete access to their data.

Another reason for offering this service was that upon looking at the Koha map it was quite obvious that Koha is used worldwide, but not many libraries in NZ actually use it. This was a way to try and get more NZ libraries to realize the power of the application that was born here.

Another step in this direction is the creation of Open Network Libraries. From the website:

Open Network Libraries is an initiative created to enable libraries to collaborate on the shared goal of serving their communities better. We advocate the use of free and open source tools so that libraries can spend money on books, not on licence fees. By joining Open Network Libraries, you’ll be joining an active and diverse community of librarians and technologists who are dedicated to openly sharing knowledge, information, and ideas to facilitate cost effective solutions.

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KohaCon10: From LAMP to Koha

Farasat Shafi-Ullah from SCME National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad, Pakistan was the first up this morning and we all gave him a huge round of applause for taking a 5 day journey to get here! I have to add yet again that this conference is an awesome way to see how much we all love Koha and how strong the community really is.

Now on to Farasat’s talk. First and most importantly LAMP in this talk does not stand for what we’re used to – instead it stands for “Library Automation and Management Project.” LAMP was in charge of developing the country’s first library automation system in the 1990s. It wasn’t until 2007 that Koha was looked at in Pakistan.

The transition from LAMP to Koha took a lot of exporting and importing (but it didn’t really take that long):

  • from LAMP (a DOS system) to Windows using Winisis
  • from Winisis to ISO format data
  • from ISO to MS Access by using PakLAG data converter
  • from MS Access to MARC21 with MarcEdit
  • the new data was imported direct from LOC and CHOPAC

With all of these steps why move from LAMP to Koha? First was the fact that it was based in MARC21 (a standard), next it was open source, and finally there were many updates and support via the public mailing lists. Also, the fact that there was no local support was a big advantage.

Koha alone however did not meet all of the needs of libraries in Pakistan so the Pakistan Library Automation Group (PakLAG) made some customizations to Koha to help their local libraries perform services with Koha. Learn more about PakLAG Koha on the official site.

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KohaCon10: Koha in Malaysia

Amzari Abu Bakar came up after me to talk about the Koha experience in Malaysia.

Amzari started by telling us about the systems that libraries in Malaysia are using – they run the gambit from home grown to large proprietary systems. From 2005 to 2008 only three libraries (one special, one school and one small academic) in Malaysia were known to be using Koha (as said earlier there is no way to know for sure how many libraries are using it since it can be downloaded and installed by anyone). Those libraries that weren’t choosing Koha were not exposed to open source and didn’t have confidence in the available support.

In 2008 things changed though. There was now a reference site and word of improved service and support. More importantly (in my eyes) they were able to promote open source awareness in libraries. With these changes the use of Koha grew! There are 8 installations in academic libraries with more than 41 branches, 88 in school libraries (I missed the other numbers – but it all added up to more than 100 libraries which is an awesome improvement over the 3 they knew about before!)

In addition to the added education and support, this spread was because of many of the awesome Koha features and the lower costs for these libraries. This adoption has led to the formation of a Malaysia Users Group and a lot of attention from academics and researchers.

Amzari has some recommendations for further improvements including local vendors cooperating with international (more experienced) vendors to provide better services in Malaysia. They also want a certified Koha training program that is aimed at making money that can be put into Koha developments. Given the right promotion and collaboration Amzari feels that Koha will be come even more prosperous in Malaysia!

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KohaCon10: How to Participate

I obviously couldn’t blog myself so Ian Walls wrote up my session on the ByWater Solutions blog and I’m going to share it with you here (with his permission).


A presentation by our very own Nicole Engard.

As Nicole was writing her last book, Practical Open Source Software for Libraries, she did a word cloud on the first few chapters. After “open”, “source” and “software”, the next largest word is “community”. What is the role of the community in Koha? We look out for the best interest of the software, deciding how to move forward with the governance of the project and with the management of the code itself (and related community tools). I say ‘we’, because if you choose to be a part of the community, you are (and I do).

So how do you participate? Just jump in. Everyone has a skill set that can be of use; you don’t have to be a hacker or a power user for your contributions to be valid. Several ways to participate:

  1. Test the System: Install it, try to break it, and share your results. Even if you’re trying to do something that Koha isn’t designed to do, we’ll all now know that someone out there wants to do it, and the community perspective is increased.
  2. Ask Questions: There are no stupid questions, and there are no “mean” people in Koha. We’re all here to help, and the worst response you’ll get is a link to the portion of the manual that answers your query.
  3. Answer Questions: If you have experienced a problem, and found a solution, help the next person to come along and ask. Let others learn from your experience.
  4. Add to the Wiki: Put your SQL reports, JQuery customizations or tutorials on the wiki, even if you think they’d never be of use to anyone outside your library. Chances are, someone else is looking for just that bit of info.
  5. Write Documentation: We manage the manual in the same way we do the code, so EVERYONE can submit and translate. You don’t have to use this tool, you can just email Nicole or the list, whatever your comfort level.
  6. Write Code: you don’t have to be a super-hacker to fix a minor bug or a typo, but Koha needs those things fixed, too. You can become a committer for fixing a single incorrect line!
  7. Attend Meetings: Log into IRC at the agreed upon time and speak your mind. If you don’t speak up, you don’t get to complain that you haven’t been heard.
  8. Educate Others: Share your experiences with those around you, and help to dissipate the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) that is floating around out there about open source in general, or Koha in specific.
  9. Be a Mentor: If you see someone trying to be a part of the community, but running into obstacles, offer to give them the tools to overcome those obstacles. This doesn’t have to be a “sink or swim” experience as one dives into the community.

Nicole also brings up a couple of general practices that apply to all of the above:

  1. Be Honest: Speak the truth as you see it. No, not everyone will agree with you all the time, but withholding the truth will impair the open source process. I would argue this is a good principle for life in general, not just participation in Koha.
  2. Be Transparent: Share what you’re doing, so things don’t fall through the cracks. Publicly comment on what others put out there, so they know whether it’ll meet everyone’s needs. We code openly, so we should discuss openly.

The presentation wraps with the important links:

  • Code & Documentation
  • Bug Reports
  • Mailing list
  • IRC channel
  • Koha on Social Networks

Nicole’s slides for this presentation are available here (PDF format).

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