Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why Koha, Why Now?

We have been interested in open source integrated library systems (ILS) for a couple of years now. Cathi and I attended the Open Source workshop held at Fullerton Public Library on August 13, 2009. Lori Ayre and Cheryl Gould presented the topic covering an overview of Open Source software... what was available and who is using it. One handout was particularly interesting. "Compare Your ILS Costs to an Open Source Library System (OSLS)." We were blown away with what would be "Free" with an OSLS. This included the initial purchase, additional modules, upgrades, test environment license, SIP licenses, and more. We left excited and decided to pursue our study of both the Koha and Evergreen ILS.

We signed up for Open Source - Open Libraries, and continued to watch the literature. We attended several webinars that Lori Ayre presented. It was at a couple of these webinars that I first heard of ByWater Solutions, our new consultant for the project. Nicole Engard from ByWater Solutions gave a video demo of the OPAC & Circulation, then a demo on Cataloging. The functionality seemed complete.

After learning about each system, we thought that Koha would be a better fit for a library our size. It's primarily for smaller libraries. It went live in 2000, so it's not a "new" product". There are over 1000 libraries running on Koha internationally. The only nerve wracking thing is that there aren't any other public libraries in Southern California using Koha. We aren't used to being trail blazers.

We were definitely concerned about the time it would take for us to be up and running. While Cathi is a seasoned IT professional, she only works at our Library 20 hours a week. We had been warned during workshops that while Open Source software and operating systems might be "free"; first-year costs of migration, conversion, configuration, adaptation, and installation, as well as support in the first year and beyond were not "free" and that we would need to cover these costs.

Cathi and I planned on migrating in the Fall of 2011 but then when our ILS costs continued to rise, we thought "why wait?" We started making plans to migrate in 2010-11. We contacted Nate Curulla at ByWater Solutions and set up a conference call with him and Ian Wells, to allow Cathi, Jackie, and a support tech from City of Arcadia IT staff to ask questions and air our concerns. We were amazed on what would be covered by the maintenance/support contract and at a fraction of the cost. ByWater Solutions would be doing the upgrades, which Cathi has been handling up to this point. We received a quote for migration/installation, training, and maintenance. At that time we merely needed cost estimates so we could add this new project to the City's Budget Proposal for approval by the City Council.

Nate mentioned that there "might" be a grant available with Open Source-Open Libraries to cover some of the costs. I quickly contacted our Library Director, Carolyn Garner-Reagan, at PLA in Oregon. She checked around and made some connections. It turned out that Lori Ayres was looking for a public library in Southern California that was ready to go with an Open Source ILS software....and that was us!



  1. As one of the original developers of Koha, I'm watching your journey with great interest and I wish you all the best.

  2. Thanks Chris. We appreciate your interest.