Developing and Building Koha: an Open-Source ILS

Q&A between John Houser from PALINET and Joshua Ferraro from Liblime
Notes from June 28, 2008, program at the American Library Association Annual COnference.

The Open-Source Development Process
Product features are customer-driven. The community members can sponsor specific features that they need, and all other users benefit from that sponsorship. Example – Athens County Library sponsored the MARC 21 implementation for U.S. libraries.

Currently 25-30 active developers.

Current version is 2.2 Version 3.0 upcoming.

Q: Is there something about the open-source development module that results in better interfaces?
A: The sense is that since open-source development is so customer-driven, all components are built to do what the users want them to do the way they want to do them.

Q: Is open-source software quality code? The development process seems somewhat loose? Is it good? Is it secure?
A: Natural tendency is to assume that free things are not as good or not as secure as something that is purchased. For open-source, since there are a number of eyes watching the software, there are also many contributors pointing out needs for patches and areas for improvement.

Q: What about standards compliance?
A: Koha is already implementing a number of standards such as Z39.50. Dublin Core. MODS.
The whole open-source community is more interested in standards than in selling software. Since they’re focusing on the software, standards become very important.

Q: Can People expect to save money if they implement Koha?
A: Not necessarily. Instead of spending money on licensing fees to a vendor, that money can be redirected to other areas. Perhaps local development or possibly contributing to the Koha product by sponsoring modules.

Q: If I have a proprietary system, what are the most important things to think of if I want to implement Koha?
A: Do you have access to your data? This is very important for being able to extract and migrate data.

With Koha, you can actually try out a live system with no monetary investment.

Staff modules are run in a web browser rather than through a client application.

Product has a very granular permissions scheme.

Koha is built upon a number of standard open-source technologies: Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl, etc.

Currently over 300 libraries using Koha.

Koha uses a number of APIs: LDAP, PatronAPI, Z39.50, OpenSearch, Cataloging