I have been asked many times why many Libraries especially, academic and public, are moving to Koha Integrated Library System. It is difficult to give a clear answer because different libraries have different needs and requirements. However from a general perspective, Koha has many capabilities that make it rock.
Originally created in New Zealand by Katipo Communications Ltd in partnership with Horowhenua Library Trust, Koha ILS It is currently developed and maintained by a team of volunteers from around the globe. Support companies and communities are also widely spread out across the world. Koha system is a full catalogue, OPAC, circulation and acquisitions system. Koha is a full integrated library system – managing your catalogue, circulation, patrons, acquisitions and providing public access to your library via the internet.
Koha is regarded as the first true open-source Integrated Library System (ILS). In use worldwide, its development is steered by a growing community of libraries collaborating to achieve their technology goals. Koha’s impressive features set continues to evolve and expand to meet the needs of its user base.
Full-featured ILS: In use worldwide in libraries of all sizes, Koha is a true enterprise class ILS with comprehensive functionality including basic or advanced options. Koha includes modules for circulation, cataloging, acquisitions, serials, reserves, patron management, branch relationships, and more. For a comprehensive overview of features see the Koha feature map below … koha ILS
Dual Database Design: Koha uses a dual database design that utilizes the strengths of the two major Industry standard database types (text-based and RDBMS). This design feature ensures that Koha is scalable enough to meet the transaction load of any library, no matter what the size. Koha ILS is based on MYSQL database a complete open-source Relational DBMS that is fully SQL compliant and can be manipulated and controlled using standard SQL syntax and system routine-calls.
Library Standards Compliant: Koha is built using library standards and protocols that ensure interoperability between Koha and other systems and technologies, while supporting existing work-flows and tools.
No Vendor Lock-in: It is an important part of the open-source promise that there is no vendor lock-in …Libraries are free to install and use Koha themselves if they have the in-house expertise or to purchase support or development services from the best available source.
A full featured modern integrated library system (ILS) – Koha is made with the modern library in mind. It thus integrates all the modules running various sections of the library into one stream-lined process, making management of the library professional, easy and effective.
Award winning and open source no license fee, ever: Koha is distributed under the open-source General Public License (GPL). Thus Libraries do not pay for annual licenses, usage licenses or any other fee howsoever, save for technical support fee in-case they have outsourced for this support. Koha has won may international awards for innovation and changing peoples’ lives.
Linux, Unix, Windows and MacOS platform: Although Koha ILS can comfortably run on any Operating system including Windows server 2008 (via virtualization), the bidder proposes to install the system on a Debian Linux operating system which is more powerful, scalable and secure. Because the Debian operating system is also available under GNU License, and is open-source, the Library SHALL NOT incur any cost or licenses restrictions. Furthermore, the bidder proposes to install API applications that will ensure the system can be comfortably managed via Windows Server 2008. Koha is installed and run on multiple operating system platforms including Windows, Linux, Windows and MacOS. The support for Windows version is however deprecated. Stable latest version of Koha is installed on any flavor of Linux, but Debian is recommended.
Web Based: Since Koha is web-based, it can full be integrated into any website. It can also be indexed by Internet Search Engine, thus providing maximum visibility of an institution and its resources world-wide. Being Web-based, the system can also be accessed from any web-enabled device that uses TCP/IP protocols including access from the Internet using Mobile phone devices, PDAs and tablets.
Copy cataloging and Z39.50: Koha utilizes ZOOM and the Z3950 protocol to enable libraries to download / harvest metadata and biblios from external servers such as Library of Congress Z3950 server and thus allow fast copy-cataloguing and on-the-fly bibliographic data downloading and editing, thus simplifying and standardizing cataloguing practices in modern libraries.
MARC21 and UNIMARC for professional catalogers: Latest versions of Koha support various MARC standards such as MARC, UNIMARC, USMARC among others. This is essential for back-ward compatibility for migrating libraries because data can be converted across the MARC frameworks without data loss. It also means that libraries using older systems that want to move to Koha do not necessarily have to change the MARC framework because Koha will support either.
Tailored catalog module for special libraries: Koha Cataloguing module places control on the hands of librarians to customize their cataloguing platform and MARC framework to suit their local conditions, This makes Koha suitable for any size and type of library that wants to implement specific local requirements.
Manage on-line and off line resources with the same tool: If you want to manage both on-line and off-line resources, Koha is the perfect answer. Koha provides a mechanism of adding persistent links and urls to item descriptions. This allows users to view / download the item itself if that link is provided. In addition, Koha can behave as Digital Records Repository with a little bit of customization and tweaking.
RSS feed of new acquisitions: Koha supports Really Simple Syndication whereby users can subscribe to receive updates on a page, item or search result. If a user subscribes to get information on a search result, they will receive an email every-time an item is added to the catalogue that matches their search criteria.
E-mail and/or text (sms) patron’s overdues and other notices: Koha has mechanism to send messages to patrons and staff user that includes the ability to use message templates and send emails.
Print your own barcodes: Koha integrates fully with Barcode readers and scanners and also provides a customizable mechanism for printing barcodes directly from the catalogue. Koha ILS supports most hardware used in Libraries such as barcode readers / scanners and RFID devices (Radio Frequency Identification)
Serials management module : Koha’s serial management module enables management of subscriptions, routing lists, serial inventory, searching and claims. Recording of serials is among the very important functions of a serials department. It helps in controlling the in-coming serials, claiming the not-received and missing issues, and answering inquiries regarding the current holdings of the library. Koha ILS Serials module completely eliminates the need for a manual Kardex. Koha ILS Serials module manages everything required of serial processing that traditionally required a Kardex: date stamp, call number, plastic indicators, missing issue slips, duplicates, titles on display, removal from the reading area, reprints, separately cataloged items, titles not in the Kardex, invoicing, withdrawal of cards, filing, back issues, damaged journals, errata and information sheets, and notes. RIP ‘Kardex’
Full catalog, circulation and acquisitions system for library stock management: Koha has powerful real-time inventory synchronization. Koha’s Inventory Tool can be used in one of two ways, the first is by printing out a shelf list that you can then mark items off on, or by uploading a text files of barcodes gathered by a portable scanner. By using a Koha ILS generated shelving list to compare against items ‘seen’ on shelves, you can automatically generate a report of missing items
Works on any standard Network: Koha ILS runs on standard TCP/IP network and therefore supports Transmission Control Protocols including Domain Names and Virtual Name resolutions. The bidder proposes to also install a Bind DNS Application on the Koha host system to provide name resolution for LAN and Internet visitors.
Simple, clear search interface for all users: Koha ILS OPAC is integrated with entire database, and allows patrons to log-in with their individual passwords to their accounts and perform permitted tasks such as on-line renewal of materials, on-line reservations and edit personal details including password and much more. Since Koha ILS if completely web-based, the user is able to navigate to and fro using the forward and back browser arrows without the possibility of getting lost.
All searching is case-insensitive and automatically exempts Non-filing characters such as articles: A, AN, The and so on. Koha also provides a powerful combination of Boolean search expressions and relevance-ranked free-text queries.
Koha ILS allows patrons to search the system by using any keyword or terminology. Knowledge of cataloguing and subject descriptors is not a prerequisite to successful searching. Koha uses the Common Command Language (CCL) (ISO 8777) as its internal search protocol. Searches initiated in the graphical interface use this protocol as well, although the searcher doesn’t know which indexes, operators and limiters are available and being used to conduct their search.
Simple and comprehensive acquisition options : Koha enables management and automation of acquisitions with capabilities to manage Budgets, Collections, Vendors and collection development process including on-line purchase suggestions.
Koha is multi-tasking and enables updates of circulation, cataloging and issues to occur simultaneously.
Multi-Lingual Support : Koha ILS default language is English, however the system has been translated in several other languages including French. These languages can be activated by running a translating script in scheduled jobs. Koha currently supports over 20 Languages including: Italian, Maori, German, French and English
Powerful Import / Export Tools: Koha ILS wide range of tools enable administrators to import bibliographic holdings from other libraries or other systems, export their collection, import patrons and patron data, export reports and statistical analysis and so on.
Powerful SQL & Guided Reports : Arguably, the most powerful feature of Koha ILS is the ability to generate almost any kind of a report & statistics using pre-defined scripts or personalized SQL queries. Once a report is customized and generated, it can be exported into CSV, Excel or any other format for further manipulation and a graphical representation can be drawn.
Granular Security Features : The Administration module enables the systems administrator to set basic parameters for the system and also customize operational environment for Koha ILS and the library in general. Koha ILS has a powerful granular security settings mechanism that allows the administrator to specify who accesses what module and how. This is important in limiting the privileges on sensitive modules. Only a super-librarian can change everything on the system. Other settings can only be changed by the librarian specifically given permission to do so.
Koha utilizes multi-level security measures. At Koha Level users can only access what they are allowed to access. At the system level only allowed client-machines / work-stations may access the Librarian interfaces. At the machine level, a firewall ensures that only the two ports for services are open: 8080 and 80. All requests from outside are filtered and requests not sent to these two ports are dropped.
Easy and Automated Backup System :Cronjobs can be setup to run scheduled automatic backups using crontab, for the entire database. Biblios can also be backed up by exporting holdings from the administration module. Complete MYSQL back-ups allow full recovery of system in case of critical failure. Regular backup files can also be copied to remote machines using Perl scripts, and backup files can easily be restored using MySQL terminal commands or GUI applications like phpmyadmin or MySQL-admin.
Using a RAID enabled system will also ensure that hardware failure does not lead to loss of data or termination of critical services.
Support : The many support options for Koha demonstrate the strength of the open-source development model. Because Koha is a distributed open-source product, support options are not limited to what is provided by a single vendor. In fact, an important part of the open-source promise is that there is no vendor lock-in. Libraries are free to support the product in-house or obtain help from a support company.