Building and supporting Koha

Building and Support Koha, an open-source ILS
Saturday June 28th, 2008, 10:30-12:00
Hyatt Regency Orange County

John Houser, Senior Technology Consultant for PALINET, and Johsua Ferraro, CEO of Liblime, set out to answer common questions about open-source ILS systems with a focus on Liblime’s support for Koha. The format was an interview, and the resulting questions and answers were recorded. Watch for a link to the podcast version here.

Representative questions and answers follow, but these are only samples of an extremely rich discussion of general and very specific technical details.

Don’t necessarily plan to save lots of money on an open-source ILS, as planning to contribute to development efforts has many advantages–primarily that you get to set the priorities for new features in the ILS. A representative of a Koha library in the audience pointedly disagreed, stressing that in his case there were significant cost savings.

How does Liblime makes money if the software is free?
By supplying services related to installation, migration, and ongoing support of Koha and Evergreen systems.

How hard is migration?
Migration is hard from any ILS to any other ILS, and Koha is not an exception. But it’s not necessary to have your own staff to do the hard parts.

How does support for an open-source ILS differ from commercial ILS support?

There is no vendor lock-in. Libraries could contract with any vendor to support the system, which is based on widely used web technologies like MySQL and PHP.

How supportive of new users is the Koha community?
Open-source software communities can sometimes be hard for new users to approach, but Koha’s tends to be fairly friendly and helpful, and Liblime staff contribute to it.

The session was lively, and included a lot of audience participation. There were about twenty questions and comments from the audience.

How does custom work for a particularly library get accepted into the project as a whole?
Koha is a smaller project than something like Firefox, and is fairly open to outside input. New code is reviewed and tested.

Will there be support for Vufind?
PALINET will support Vufind from version 1.0

Why should I join the WALDO consortium in migrating to Koha?
Your library peers are setting the specifications and helping to build the system you’ll be using.

What support is there for reporting and statistics?
There are built-in reporting modules, but because the software is built on MySQL almost any report-writing software will work with Koha. And direct access to library data is never a problem.

There were also questions about the cataloging and acquisitions modules, system requirements, API’s for scripting, ERM, digital library software, and many other topics.