Alison J. Harris

Librarian

blog

Learning Koha ILS

Initially released over ten years ago, Koha is an open source Integrated Library System (ILS) currently used world-wide by public, school and special libraries and distributed under the Free Software General Public License (GPL). For my course in Information Management Systems, I completed a project that focused on gaining a familiarization of the web-based client and customer interface of Koha.

On first examination, it is easy to see that Koha is truly a fully scalable ILS. Compared to my experience with Polaris and Horizon, Koha offers a multitude of unique features with zero cost. Particularly important to libraries is the ability to distribute Koha under the GPL, drastically cutting costs typically associated with acquiring multiple software licenses. In comparison, Polaris is a robust ILS that is commonly used by libraries around the world, however most libraries cannot afford all of the features available to Polaris users.

Koha removes that barrier by offering similar features at no cost. The comment and tagging system in Koha, for example, is an extremely useful feature that allows customers to provide input and content regarding library collections and materials. These features would require an organizational guideline or policy, which I suggest should be an open model where patrons would be able to add data to materials, but contributed content would still be managed by library staff. The guidelines used to monitor patron created content would be based on the existing Code of Conduct rules and Social Media Policy created by library administration.

I also examined common operational tasks using the typical user experience of searching and manipulating customer records. This was chosen, because though I felt it is important to tailor an ILS’s unique features to the library system and the basic tasks of circulation and cataloging are the foundation of a good ILS. Without a well-designed and efficient system for the most frequent of tasks, staff and patrons both suffer.

Using a web based ILS client portal was a new experience, and after some analysis the text-heavy interface does seem somewhat cumbersome. To streamline workflow and better manage staff training, a more image-based user interface would be easier for staff to navigate. However, it is still very straightforward to create new customers, particularly juvenile records, and search for items using the online client system. The OPAC is well-designed visually, but the fully capabilities of the online catalog were not able to be studied in this instance.

Critical features for the future library management system must involve total integration of electronic content. For instance, this includes the ability for patrons to be able to search for, locate, and checkout e-content without ever leaving the library’s catalog. As of now, several ILS and eBook platforms, such as OverDrive, are currently developing technology to make this available, but there is a long way to go before complete integration is a default part of the design and not a potentially costly extra.

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July 14, 2014 Comment

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