or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk



NELA-ITS Spring Program 2007 – Joshua Ferraro

   June 6th, 2007

Joshua Ferraro speakingJoshua Ferraro, LibLime
Although representing a support service company, Joshua was really here to talk about the Koha ILS. I didn't know much about Koha before this, but during Josh's sixty-minute talk, it became my favorite library tool.

It originated in New Zealand, but has since been implemented in American libraries, too. The beauty of its open sourceness is that libraries are not tied to a single vendor for support and developments - we can do things ourselves, or benefit from the contributions of others in the community, or pay companies like LibLime to do the development for us.

And of course, this is all to our specifications and on our timetable, rather than that of a vendor who is more interested in profiting off of us than in serving our patrons.

Here's a few things I really liked about Koha (using the Nelsonville (OH) Public Library's catalog as an example):

  • Intelligent ("field-weighted") searching works like patrons expect: searching for "it" returns relevant matches, rather than junk. Also, searching for "Stephen King" returns different matches than "King, Stephen," because the catalog presumes the latter is a search for books by King, rather than information about and by him
  • Facetted search results show on the left, to let patrons easily and quickly refine their search
  • Native rss feeds available for every search (allows people to keep up to date with new acquisitions)
  • Multiple sort options, including currently available items only (and that's live data, not based off an indexed file)
  • Extensive and powerful advanced search options
  • Records and editions grouped via FRBR and xisbn
  • Book jacket images, reviews, description, and more right where patron can find it, from Amazon (for free) or companies like Syndetics (for a fee)
  • "Virtual Shelves" for both award winners, best sellers, staff-generated lists, etc., and patron-generated lists (once they've logged into their account)
  • Patrons can also submit purchase suggestions
  • Supports multiple data formats, not just MARC - even websites
  • Offers built-in federated searching with something LibLime calls MasterKey

Obviously, I took good notes on this section. My library has been reviewing another open source ILS, Evergreen PINES, and since LibLime supports both, it was interesting to hear Josh's comparison of them. It basically broke down like this:

  • Evergreen: 1.5 years old, used by 1 library system, and is designed for top-down control (a single decision is made by the administrators for the entire system)
  • Koha: 8 years old, used by 500+ libraries, and is designed for local control (each libraries can make custom interface changes independent of the others in the consortium, while still sharing data)

Koha also offered some other cool features, like a page translation option, varied interfaces for adults, kids, etc., and much more.

Speakers

evergreen, ils, joshua ferraro, koha, liblime, libraries, library, nela, nela-its, open source




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3 Responses to “NELA-ITS Spring Program 2007 – Joshua Ferraro”

  1. Jason Etheridge Says:

    Hi guys, friendly Evergreen developer here. :) I just wanted to point out that the “1 library system” running Evergreen in production today is actually a consortium of 265 libraries, and that we designed the software to scale from the very beginning without kludges and that we push control to whatever level in the organization hierarchy is desired (for example, for a consortium like PINES, no central agency wants to manage the closed dates and hours of operation for hundreds of libraries, not to mention copy locations, statistical categories, surveys, etc. ;) However, with PINES, some things are _configured_ to be uniform in order to cater to a common patron experience).

    Cheers!

    — Jason

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    Jason, thank you for this information. I think the best way for librarians to break through the mysteries of open source software is to hear from actual developers. If you are ever in Massachusetts, I’d love to have you into the library to talk to us.

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