ABOUT THE RESOURCE
Prior to embarking on this pilot, the Library of the Faculty of Medicine, Pharmacy and Dentistry did not employ an integrated library system. The holdings were catalogued using CDS/ISIS for Windows and thus the database used an ISIS database format. Since there were no public access terminals providing access to the database, the primary access point to search the holdings for users was a printed card catalogue. When required, users requested that staff performed searches of the database. Exploring the possibility of a FOSS ILS was part of a concurrent effort within the library to modernise its offering to users. Other aspects of this modernisation included the development of a digital repository of theses deposited with the library, and, importantly, an effort to create a set of terminals to provide web access to the library’s catalogue including this repository of theses.
The Library of the Faculty of Medicine, Pharmacy and Dentistry opted to pilot Koha (https://www.koha.org/). This was a significant decision because it probably was the first installation of Koha at a university library in French-speaking West Africa. Many institutions in the region use the CDS/ISIS database. Many also employ PMB (sigb.net), an ILS in wide use in Frenchspeaking Africa. The decision therefore to opt for Koha might be seen as challenging the status quo. However, two significant points tell against such a conclusion. The first is that although Koha is not yet in widespread use in West Africa, it does have a robust and long-standing history of use in French speaking countries. Indeed there is a distinct French-language support network for Koha (http://koha-fr.org/). The second is that the technical lead for the pilot had significant Linux systems administration experience and especially familiarity with the MySQL database server.
Library of the Faculty of Medicine Pharmacy and Dentistry, University of Bamako, Mali, has not yet proceeded with full automation for two reasons. Both are infrastructure issues: - The server used was an old PIII. It was not powerful enough to support a large scale deployment. It was very slow even when only the technician was accessing Koha. - The library did not have Public access computers to allow users to access the OPAC, nor a network to interconnect the computers. Since last year some progress has been made regarding these issues. A more powerful "server" has been acquired (it is not actually server but a decent, recent PC (2,8GHz)and has Linux and Koha now installed on it). It should also be possible to now deploy public computers in the library since network cables have been laid and also Wi-Fi installed. There is still one problem in that sufficient staff are not skilled in cataloguing to proceed quickly with that task, and this is the final issue being addressed before full migration should theoretically be possible.
A case study of Koha Case Study from Library of the Faculty of Medicine Pharmacy and Dentistry, University of Bamako, Mali. 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.