KohaCon 2012: open source, community and the LMS

KohaCon 12 - It's all about the people
Photo Some rights reserved by nengard on Flickr

Koha is an increasingly popular open source Library Management System (or Integrated Library System if you prefer) and KohaCon 12 was held at the University of Edinburgh from the 05 – 07 June, with an additional 2 day hackfest immediately following. This was a great event, jam-packed with information for both seasoned Koha users and those just testing the open source waters and with  delegates from all over the world.

The event opened with Paul Poulain (release manager for Koha 3.8.) talking us through all the new features available in the latest version. This is a major release and includes such shiny new functionality as a new staff interface, improved acquisitions and  faster processing.

Nason Bimbe from the British Library for Development Studies talked about their experience in moving a specialist library to Koha from a bespoke system.

Next up (after Elevenses, of course) was Chris Cormack, one of the original Koha developers and most active contributors. Chris talked about the various support mechanisms in place within the Koha community to cultivate an active and diverse community with a low barrier to entry for participation. This is a very newbie-friendly community and help is always available for those interested in getting involved.

Fittingly, next up Paul Poulain gave a demonstration of sandboxes. Sandboxes provide a way for users to get involved in the development process by removing some of the cumbersome technical barriers. There’s more information about the sandboxes on the Koha wiki.

Robin Sheat, who has managed quite a few migrations as a developer at Catalyst IT, lead a discussion on best practices for migrating an existing LMS to Koha and some of the gotchas to watch out for.

Nicole Engard talked gave a big-picture overview of the benefits and barriers to open source, drawn from her experience running training sessions on Koha and FOSS. This gave a nice segue into the panel discussion which covered some of the various ways migration is handled and how the Koha community addresses the barriers to both open source adoption and community participation.

Day two of the conference kicked off with Dianna Roberts from Opus International talking about how they use Koha in a multi-national special library context. Joy Nelson then gave another perspective on migrating a library to Koha from a proprietary LMS. Rafael Antonio followed this by talking about Koha in Portugal and how this fits with the a broader shift towards shared library resources.

Paul Poulain spoke about BibLibre’s experiences of using Mirabel, France’s shared database of journals, reviews and serials, with Koha. Afterwards, Joy Nelson gave another perspective on Koha migrations, focusing on specific migration heuristics

Next it was Marijana Glavica and Dobrica Pavlinušić from Croatia who have developed a way to import approximately 6000 scans of book covers (and the associated metadata) into Koha using their own ‘scrape-cataloguing’ technique.

Nicole Engard spoke about training users new to the Koha software. If you are using or interested in using Koha, it’s worth checking out Nicole’s videos on the ByWater Solutions blog: http://bywatersolutions.com/section/tutorial-videos/

Jane Wagner (Liblime/PTFS), presenting remotely, talking about how to troubleshoot Koha user support and Bob Birchall from Calyx in Australia discussed the importance of governance in ensuring the long-term survival of an open source project. This includes ensuring the software is shared under a suitable licence and that the intellectual property is protected in a sustainable way.

The final presentation of the second day was Adrien Saurat (BibLibre) talking about styling the Koha OPAC, using the SciencesPo Grenoble catalogue as an example.

I wasn’t able to say for the final day of the main conference and so missed some great presentations, including MJ Ray (software.coop and one of the organisers of the conference) talking about the future of Koha and demoes of various new developments, such as SRU, Solr, using a Drupal front-end and the off-line circulation module.

You can find out more about the outcomes from the hackfest on the koha wiki at: http://wiki.koha-community.org/wiki/Kohacon12Hackfest or check out the scoreboard to see how many kittens were saved through collaborative bug squashing.

Links for presentations will be added as they become available.