An Open Source ILS Ryan D. WindleEmporia State University
Koha is a web-based open source Integrated Library System. Provides all the important ILS elements including OPAC, cataloguing modules, acquisitions and serial modules, and a circulation model. In a study conducted by Yang & Hoffman (2010), examining the OPAC systems used in academic libraries and the ways in which they resemble the next generation catalog, it was concluded that ―the Koha OPAC comes closest to the next generation catalog [among open source products] with six features [characteristic of the NGC]‖ (p. 268), ahead of Evergreen and Voyager, its open source counterparts. Features include : ―Single point of entry for all library resources, state-of-the-art web interface, enriched content, faceted navigation [in some instances], simple key word search box with a link to advanced search on every page, user interaction, and persistent URL links‖ (Yang & Hoffman, 2010, pp. 269-271).
Koha’s evolution as an open source ILS has been overseen primarily by Liblime and ByWater Solutions (two competing companies offering services and development for the same ILS platform. ―The development of Liblime Koha is steered by a growing number of libraries throughout the world. These libraries, either on their own, or collaborating in groups, sponsor the development of new features to support their work flows‖ (Liblime, 2011). As such, Liblime Koha is a mutable, evolving, and ever expanding entity, capable of being customized to meet the specific needs of any library— school, special, public, or academic.
Green represents Academic Libraries Blue represents Other Libraries Red represents Public Libraries
A frequently cited concern in any implementation of open source software is the lack of tech support. Liblime, however, claims support that ―couples the concept of open source with the security of outstanding customer service relieving libraries of the need to have expensive technical resources on staff‖(Why Liblime, 2011). ―In keeping with open source tradition, library- sponsored enhancements to Liblime Koha are made available for others to use‖ (Liblime What Do We Do, 2011). Liblime provides set up, ―administrative and modular configuration‖, migration, training, and ―branding‖ or customization of the OPAC in color schemes representative of the library (Liblime FAQs, 2011).
While Liblime Koha makes bold statements regarding its role as facilitator of open source advancements, such claims have not been, in more recent history, entirely corroborated by its actions. In 2009, Liblime , taking a ―free speech‖ approach to OSS began to make certain improvements available only to those libraries who paid for Liblime’s purchasable version of the system; those libraries relying on Liblime Koha as a truly open source ILS (i.e.: ―free beer‖) were not allowed access to such improvements, signifying a ―fork‖ in the road for Liblime Koha communities (Ojala, 2010). In 2010, Liblime was purchased by Progressive Technology Federal Systems Inc., sparking ―cautious optimism‖ among librarians that the new ownership would mark the return of Liblime Koha to its pure, authentic open source tradition (Ojala, 2010).
Providing an alternative to Liblime Koha, those looking to implement an ILS may consider the platform supported by ByWater Solutions. The basic interface and features are the same, and, to date, ByWater Solutions has remained true to the earliest conceptions of open source software in making any user improvements available, free of charge, to libraries utilizing a Koha integrated library system.
Walls, Ian. 2010. ―Migrating from Innovative Interfaces’ Millennium to Koha: the NYU health sciences libraries’ experiences.‖ OCLC, 27(1), 51-56. Migration, as described by Walls, appeared to be a relatively smooth endeavor. ―It was easy for anyone interested in demoing the system to do so, without needing to install anything on their local machines‖ (Walls, p. 52). Why did NYU select Koha? ―Any open source ILS platform chose would need to have a robust community of users surrounding it, so chances of the software becoming unsupported and stagnant were minimized‖ (Walls, p. 52). One of the great difficulties encountered in the NYU transition was Koha’s inadequacies as a course reserve circulator. Walls indicated that because Koha’s circulation systems were based on periods of days rather than hours–most course reserve items are circulated in hourly increments—systemic problems were encountered. Walls did not indicate if such problems had yet been resolved by the NYU Health Sciences Libraries team or another member of the academic Koha community. For the interested, the above article appeared in an issue of OCLC dedicated in entirety to open source ILS technologies. It can be accessed at http://elearning.emporia.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1& url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3 D_36417_1%26url%3D.
A Koha ILS is an affordable and adequate option for any library seeking to provide user access to an OPAC. Support concerns often associated with open source implementation are mitigated by the services provided by ByWater Solutions and Liblime, though one must remember that, as is too often the case, such options come at a price; libraries not willing to pay for Liblime’s services must recognize that certain developments may be furnished only to those willing to assume cliental role as signified by financial commitment. Those libraries with a competent IT staff retain the right to manipulate Koha to suit their needs; the product’s malleability is one of its greatest attributes.
Author(s) unknown. (2011). ByWater solutions. Retrieved from http://bywatersolutions.com/. Author(s) unknown. (2011). Liblime: Premier open source library support. Retrieved fromhttp://www.liblime.com/. Lib-web-cats (Cartogrpaher). (2011). Map of Libraries: Koha ILS Sites. Retrieved from http://www.librarytechnology.org/map.pl?ILS=Koha. Ojala, M. (2010, January 21). PTFS acquires Liblime, expands its open source capabilities. Information Today, Inc. Retrieved from http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/NewsBreaks/PTFS-Acquires- LibLime-Expands-Its-Open-Source-Capabilities-60726.asp. Walls, Ian. 2010. ―Migrating from Innovative Interfaces’ Millennium to Koha: the NYU health sciences libraries’ experiences.‖ OCLC, 27(1), 51-56. Yang, S.Q., & Hofmann, M. (2010). Next generation or current generation? A study of the OPACs of 260 academic libraries in the United States and Canada. Library Hi Tech, 29(2), 266-300.