Tuesday, May 6, 2008

BUST OUT OF THE BOX ......KOHA

A slow paced speaker, but Koha enthusiast, Ms. Johnson talked about her decision to go with an Open Source system. When she originally had the need to automate, nothing else was available to her. She worked in a rural library with no system.

Unfortunately, compounded by the unenviable speaking spot, just before lunch, Ms. Johnson was not able to keep the talk focused on what I believe most people came to hear: Why would one
go with an Open Source System? And, for those libraries about to join the Koha System as MassCat members: Is this going to work for my library?

I was also a bit influenced by what happened earlier in the meetings.....Ms. Johnson was the only person who raised her hand when Marshall Breeding asked who wrote code. Instead of being
a reassuring source for the average librarian going with a new product, I didn't get a strong sense of mentoring for those about to take the plunge.

"Ms. Johnson said she started with an easy system, which became more complicated." Her catalog with approximately 10,000 records was able to adapt and change, as she redesigned her Koha OPAC. She showed several different examples, which other libraries could deploy, depending on where the library is wants to go. There are examples on the Internet.

Ms. Johnson gave some direction, saying that it is important not to confuse Koha with LibLime. LibLime is the small US based company offering support (More about LibLime was presented by their representative at the luncheon). Developers of Koha began in New Zealand, and now are all over the world. Anyone who has the skill can contribute to the development.

The most positive aspect of Open Source Software as seen by Ms. Johnson is ownership. The difference from using proprietary software is the ability to manipulate your own data. You don't need anyone's data. She presented her experience as director of a very small library, who was able to develop her own code for her small library.

1 comment:

con4ndalibrarian said...

I feel the need for a blow by blow here.

"A slow paced speaker"

Yup, I'm slow alright.

" but Koha enthusiast, Ms. Johnson talked about her decision to go with an Open Source system. When she originally had the need to automate, nothing else was available to her. She worked in a rural library with no system."

That's not quite right. We were an online affiliate with CWMars. We weren't *automated* or working with live circulation data yet, which is why I felt that it was an opportune time to look for an alternative. At the time, MassCat was working with AutoGraphics and that just wasn't good enough - I wanted a full ILS, even if that full ILS was simple.


"Unfortunately, compounded by the unenviable speaking spot, just before lunch, "


Yeah, that stunk, I assure you.


"Ms. Johnson was not able to keep the talk focused on what I believe most people came to hear: Why would one go with an Open Source System? "


I choose not to focus on that since I got to cheat. Folks sent in slides prior to conference, so I knew other people would be addressing what Open Source was and why one would choose it. Josh and Scot did great jobs in explaining that, and I've an extended metaphor up on my insomniaclibrarians.com site. Only a handful of hands went up in the room when I queried who there didn't know what the open source movement was.


"And, for those libraries about to join the Koha System as MassCat members: Is this going to work for my library?"


To me, they've taken that decision, and I've no place answering that question for them. I felt particularly out of sorts answering the inquiry which was worded in such a way as to make me easily construed as a speaker for MassCat, which I am not, or to convey my thoughts on the decision they took, which I did not enjoy a role in. I was worried that as WMRLS President at the time it could be a conflict, so I steered fully clear of that decision then to keep the waters clean. It was known that I could give my take on it, but I wasn't going to approach them first.

At the conference, I directed folks to speak directly to Nora Blake to see if MassCat were right for them; I think it's silly to field a question when there's a higher authority in the room. If it had been phrased differently -ie. "Do YOU personally think that MassCat with Koha is a reliable choice for the small rural Library?" it would have allowed me to give my take on it without stepping on toes. The answer for that question is a resounding yes. MassCat is the way to go for Small Rural Libraries in Massachusetts at this stage of the game from where I stand.


"I was also a bit influenced by what happened earlier in the meetings.....Ms. Johnson was the only person who raised her hand when Marshall Breeding asked who wrote code."

Who could read and edit in C to be more precise, which I think is a deprecated question. It should be noted that PERL is of higher relevance here, and that Python, Ruby, and others might bear fruit.


"Instead of being a reassuring source for the average librarian going with a new product, I didn't get a strong sense of mentoring for those about to take the plunge."


That's because the plunge is essentially into uncharted waters at the moment. I take pains to not reassure folks if I'm not certain of the conclusion. None of this is settled. Now, I can say that it worked at a single Library, and I did. MassCat is a huge, diverse consortium. It is quite frankly unique in comparison to the other Koha consortia at this point in time to my knowledge of users.

I was trying to be careful not to duplicate the talk that I gave at CCILA nor the article that I authored for C4LJ. That should read closer to what you wanted me to say, I think.

http://journal.code4lib.org/articles/28


"Ms. Johnson said she started with an easy system, which became more complicated."


I started with a few easy requirements. I started with an ILS that for all intents and purposes was not rich. It now very much is, which I do think ought to be a reassuring thing for those Libraries you mentioned. The difference between versions is quite a picture to my mind.


"Her catalog with approximately 10,000 records was able to adapt and change, as she redesigned her Koha OPAC."


No, I didn't, actually. I kept my OPAC as it was out of the box so that I could contribute documentation back to the project.


"She presented her experience as director of a very small library, who was able to develop her own code for her small library."

I'm no longer at that Library, it might be added. On top of that, again, I did not develop any code for Hinsdale - my product was pure out of the box goodness other than very minor bugfixing that my husband helped out on, which I think is very important in a test. You want the product to be close to what everyone else has when you're authoring documentation so that your information matches the screens someone sees. Not to mention a test of something is less relevant if substantial changes happened to a base level product.