I am no librarian but today I got to put on my glasses and tell everyone to be quiet because I was investigating open source library systems. The first one I had to look at is
Koha is the world’s first free Open Source Library System. Made in New Zealand by the Horowhenua Library Trust and Katipo Communications Ltd, the Koha system is a full catalogue, opac, circulation, member management and acquisitions package. To our knowledge Koha is used by public libraries, private collectors, university faculties, not for profit organizations, churches, schools and corporates. People from as far afield as Australia, USA, Canada, Estonia, India, Nigeria and Poland have installed Koha.
This is apparently used by a lot of people and does MARC records searches etc etc.
The install was very swish (my idea of swish is not some flash GUI, a simple command line install is fine for me) which gave me the warm and fuzzies. It also came with some sample data which was nice. Different ports are used for different things which was a bit confusing because I initially went to the admin screen and was wondering where all the library data was meant to go when I discovered I needed to go to a different port number to actually use the library system.
I can’t say I was too impressed with the interface. First off, its not very intuitive. This might be because I am not a librarian and don’t really understand what all these funny numbers are for but I still couldn’t get used to the look and feel of it. I suppose this could be customized with a little css.
The other thing I tried was to load a Z39.50 MARC record into the database from one of the online servers. This failed miserably and gave some very cryptic pop up boxes telling me I had not filled in some mandatory fields. It took me 40 minutes to realize that there are some mandatory fields that are not marked as mandatory on another screen. On filling in this it still refused to work. On hunting around the logs I noticed that when you carried out a Z39.50 search the log would be hit every second or two until you closed the search window. I can only assume this is a bug because I cannot think why you would want to do it otherwise.
One thing in its favor is that its written in Perl so if we do decide to run with it I should be able to patch or add things to it that don’t work or that don’t suit our install. Tomorrow I am going to be looking at phpmylibrary which from what I have read of it is quite nice.
This is an extended entry made on the 22 Nov 2004
I finally managed to get Koha working to a degree but we are still not happy with it. We were unable to get the search functions working correctly and documentation is very limited so it looks like it is out the window.