Malawi Koha ILS Pilot

The case study explores how Mzuzu University Library opted to pilot Koha

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Case Study
Majawa, Felix
January 2011

For the library it was well understood that in the long run there would need to be a move to a FOSS ILS. The licence fees for proprietary systems may be manageable by libraries for a time, at least if there is external funding to cover them. But eventually the libraries in Malawi will need to stand on their own and to do that at least one practical measure is to take control of the costs surrounding the ILS. Since there was no up front cost to download and install Koha, and naturally no recurring licence fee, this FOSS ILS met the initial criteria for sustainability. At the time when MALICO was first investigating FOSS ILSs, Koha stood out as the frontrunner for small to mid-size libraries. 

2010 Update

Mzuzu University, Malawi, has become a popular training ground for Koha, and the lessons learned from the project have been integrated into the University's Bachelor's Degree programme in Library and Information Science. Most institutions in the MALICO network have now used at least the cataloguing module, with some having extended further to the circulations, OPAC, acquisitions and reports modules. 


A case study of Koha Case Study from Mzuzu University, Malawi. Please click Download below the text.

What is Koha?

Koha is an Integrated Library System with a range of features including: 

  • Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC) module which provides a simple and clear interface for library users to perform tasks such as searching for and reserving items and suggesting new items.
  • Full catalogue module which enables library staff to capture details of all library items. It is MARC compliant, and also z39.50 compliant, meaning data entry and exchange will be greatly simplified. 
  • Circulation module which fully automates borrowing and item management, integrating with the OPAC so users can see which items they have outstanding, for example.
  • Acquisitions module which assists librarians with both acquisitions and more generally with budget management. Serials management and reporting modules perform functions that their names would suggest.

Koha is designed to work on Linux, but will work on Windows with the installation of a series of additional modules. It is operable in English. Spanish, Arabic and French, with other languages being developed and translated by the community members. It is released under a GNU General Public License (GPL) 

Koha is  is a well-established FOSS ILS and perhaps one of the most successful library FOSS tools currently, and as such the case for FOSS advocacy around Koha is stronger than it may be for software that is less well known. 

What are the benefits of Koha?

  • Easy access to information for library staff and users due to effective searching and issuing of items.
  • Automation of alerts to remind patrons and staff about, for example, overdue items or arrival of new items.
  • Reduced time of processing of library items, due to MARC and z39.50 compatibility. 
  • Online supervision becomes possible, reducing the line management responsibilities of senior staff.
  • Library management becomes easier through automated collection of data.
  • Through the acquisition module budgets can be more effectively managed.
  • Koha brings together library users and staff, as both can see various aspects of the system and can work together more effectively to achieve each user's goals.

Useful information about Koha