Learning Koha 01: A new project…

I go back to uni in a week.

I’m also knee-deep at work both learning our products and teaching them to new staff.

So now is obviously the perfect time for me to pick up a new personal project. Like… teaching myself how to install, configure and use Koha from scratch.


What is Koha?

Koha is an open-source library management system.

Library management software means it’s a software program that helps libraries do things like catalogue their books, track loans and returns, and record patron information.

Open source means it’s free to use because it’s built by a community of volunteers rather than a commercial company.

Here, have a video:

Why learn Koha?

My career goal is to use information technology to help libraries better serve their community.

I’m still very much in the Apprenticeship phase of my career: studying my Masters in library science, attending conferences and meetups, and trying cram as much knowledge about libraries into my skull as possible.

I currently work for a library software vendor, and that’s giving me knowledge of one library management system. But it doesn’t hurt to learn others.

It’s a good opportunity to refresh some of my actual tech skills – I’ve mostly been working in management roles for the last decade or so, and it’s good to get me hand dirty on a command line now and again.

And finally, it’s chance for me to build my own practice library. I’ve not actually worked in a library yet, so it will be helpful to have my own private library to practice the skills I’m learning.

What are the steps?

The Koha website has detailed instructions on how to install Koha on Debian or Ubuntu.

From reading over them, I can see 4 main steps to getting my Kohan library up and running:

  1. Set up a server to install the software on
  2. Install a web server and a database system
  3. Install the Koha software itself
  4. Configure my library in Koha

Steps 1 and 2 involve making some decisions, so I might save them for the next blog post on this topic.

Other news

Marshall Breeding

On Wednesday, I joined a webinar by Marshall Breeding, an independant consultant in library technologies, about his annual international survey of library perceptions. You can find summaries of his surveys on his site.

He also runs the libraries.org site, which compiles the results of his surveys into a searchable database. You can use this to look up which library management system a library uses, for example.

OCLC Research

On Friday, I sat in on a presentation by Lynn Connoway on OCLC’s Research department.¬†There are a lot of research reports available for free on their website. I haven’t had time to read any yet, but these ones caugh my eye:

Fun: Tales from the Loop

I also finished up a three-sesion game of the Tales from the Loop tabletop roleplaying game.

It’s a game about schoolkids solving weird science mysteries in the 1980s. The official game is set in Sweden. But i grew up in the 80s on Doctor Who, Blakes 7, the Day of the Triffids and Edge of Darkness. So of course I set my game in a Yorkshire mining town.

If my game was a TV show, this would be the blurb: An afternoon in detention ends with four misfit students battling robots and a tyrannical computer as an alternative reality superimposes itself over their hometown.

This was the first game I’ve GMed in several years. I was nervous, but it all went well, and the players enjoyed themselves enough that we might run some more one-shot sessions later in the year.

The biggest hurdle to roleplaying in middle age is not energy or imagination, it’s scheduling.

You can read my writeups of our game, if you’re interested:


About davidwitteveen

IT person. Zine Maker. Level 0 Library Nerd. Doctor Who fan.
This entry was posted in library nerding, studying information management and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s