Alison J. Harris



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.

July 14, 2014 Comment

WiFi Hotspots for Checkout?

NYPL and Chicago Public Library just recently started a Wi-Fi hotspot checkout service for customers. An article from Library Journal gives a lot more detail about the program and it’s impact on the community.

So many people mistakenly think that with the plethora of electronics available most people are regularly connected in some way to the online community. In actuality, Census statistics show that 25% of the American population don’t have regular home Internet access.

The Digital Divide is growing smaller with increased use of mobile devices, but cost as well as anxiety about learning new technology prevents a large percentage of adults from going online. Libraries are one of the many places that Internet access is available for all.

The next logical step is to provide Internet connectivity to library customers outside of the physical library.

NYPL will loan out Wi-Fi hotspot devices for two months each, but is considering the possibility of extending the checkout period to up to six months or maybe an entire year. Interestingly, a library patron must be enrolled in an online educational program, such as NYPL’s Library’s Out of School Time (OST), English for Speakers of Other Languages, and Technology Training programs to check out a device.

According to Tony Marx, president and CEO of NYPL, this requirement serves several purposes:

“This allows us to make sure that people can use this access for educational work or homework that they need to do, and it means that people who are getting the lend have ongoing interactions with us. We see them several times a week, generally. And it also is a way of making sure that the people who most need access are getting it”.

I believe that the additional learning component is very important, though I do wonder if this commitment is difficult for customers who, for instance, may spend significant amounts of time job searching due to unemployment.

June 28, 2014 , Comment

FLA Conference 2014

With the exception of completely losing my voice, I really enjoyed this year’s FLA Conference. It’s always exciting to see what other professionals all across the state are trying now in their own area. I also enjoyed both the opening and closing keynote speakers for this conference.

Creating Social Media Customer Service Excellence, presented by Andrew Sanderbeck, agreed with a lot of techniques I encountered in my Social Media for Information Professionals course. In particular, the importance of collecting and responding to customer complaints through social media. Services like Facebook and Twitter really open an avenue of communication with the community that should never be just one-sided.

The USF Alumni Reception also featured Distinguished Alumna Angie Drobnic Holan, editor of Politifact, so it was interesting to see an information professional not in the traditional role of librarian.

May 10, 2014 , Comment

Archiving & Preservation in Social Media

Nearly a year ago, I started researching my family’s history. Anyone who has done this will know that it can be a challenging task. Sometimes there are so few resources and original documents available that fellow genealogists have to painstakingly piece together parts of their tree over a span of years. I have often imagined what genealogy will be like for future generations, with so much information available online.

I’m certain I am not the only one to envision the incredible potential of social media for future genealogists. Instead of digging online or through attics to find (with any luck) old journals, records, letters, and photographs of past ancestors, researchers can use search archived Facebook and Twitter accounts to gain information about what a person enjoys, thinks, and cares about throughout their life. Contemplating this week’s readings, I realize that social media is definitely heading towards this idea, but there are some potential concerns.

For instance, Catherine C. Marshall discusses public reaction to social media archiving in her article “Attitudes about Institutional Archiving of Social Media“, including attitudes towards privacy. The results suggest that institutional archiving (in this case, by the Library of Congress) is more acceptable if the content is off-limits to the public for at least 50 years.  I deem this opinion valid, considering similar restrictions on public records as well as privacy protection.

Also, archiving does not just extend to the individual, but to organizations as well. For instance, the Obama administration plan to extract and store information posted by employees in the Executive Office of the President on publicly accessible Web sites, including social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. This would give historians a plethora of information to analyze and gives the administration a level of transparency that is important to maintaining public relations.

Robin Hicks, author of the article “Should govts archive social media posts?“, illustrates that governments around the world are constructing similar plans to fully archive their presence online. Another issue is finding the tools necessary to archive all this information. offers an excellent selection of Twitter archiving tools, but different tools are needed to archive other services. Perhaps in time all SNSs will automatically archive posts or make it very simple for others to do so, but any ethical dilemmas concerning personal information will need to be resolved before this can be accomplished.

April 23, 2014 , Comment

Social Media in Education

It’s common for educators to use new technologies for instruction and social media is no exception. Using a blogging platform to discuss class material each week is even a great example of this. There are many advantages to using SNSs in the classroom, including the ability to collaborate and create a sense of community. Ercan Top discusses this in the article “Blogging as a social medium in undergraduate courses: Sense of community best predictor of perceived learning” and brings up a good point regarding technology skills. SNSs in the classroom have the added benefit of teaching digital literacy in addition to course related concepts. It would be interesting to see the results of a study focusing on the use of SNSs in other subjects, such as English literature or mathematics.

Another article published in The Internet in Higher Education surprised me by stating that teachers are reluctant to adopt new technology. In my experiences, many teachers are eager to try new tools available more often than not. I can perceive how teachers belonging to older generations may be hesitant, however this typecast is commonly flipped around or non-existent.

Blogging in the 21st-Century Classroom discusses the advantages of blogging for high school students. Reading the article really makes me wish I had teachers in high school that used blogs in their assignments.  I hadn’t even considered quieter students having the ability to really voice their opinions using a blogging platform. Also, the informal nature of blogging lessens the stress of writing for many students (my self included). Perhaps one day I will have the ability to utilize blogging for instruction in my position.

April 12, 2014 , Comment