One of the key characteristics of the current phase of library automation involves an unprecedented willingness for libraries to implement open source software for their core automation environment. We are seeing libraries of many types and sizes moving to open source ILS products, especially Koha and Evergreen. Both of these products, while offered as open source, also have options for support services through commercial companies, including LibLime, Care Affiliates, Index Data, and Equinox. Recently two major library organizations selected Koha as their next automation system.
Howard County Library headquartered in Columbia, Maryland selected Koha ZOOM to replace its existing SirsiDynix Horizon system. Howard County stands among the middle tier of public libraries, with six branches, combined collections of about a million items, with annual circulation of about 4.7 million transactions. This library is one of the largest to date to select Koha. One of the concerns of these open source systems involves their ability to scale to the demands of large libraries, both in terms of performance and robustness of features. A successful implementation at the Howard County Library will strengthen the position of Koha as an automation system capable of serving libraries of this size.
The following table shows how Howard County compares to some of the other U.S. public libraries that currently use Koha. Apart from this group, the Near East University in Cyprus has implemented Koha for its collection of about 1.5 million items.
|Library||Service Population||Collection size||Annual Circulation|
|Howard County Library||266,300||998,613||4,787,081|
|Nelsonville Public Library||62,062||254,987||597,121|
|Crawford County System||88,696||246,616||518,382|
|Barberton Public Library||28,191||105,211||165,672|
|West Liberty Public||4,316||17,784||30,571|
The Howard County Library has earned a reputation for delivering exceptional service to it is patrons. According to Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings (HAPLR), in 2006 Howard County Library ranked second in the country among libraries serving populations up to 250,000.
The selection of Koha comes after a rocky experience with its current automation vendor. Howard County migrated to SirsiDynix Horizon on August 31, 2005 from a Dynix Classic system in place since 1993. The library experienced considerable difficulties in the transition from Dynix Classic to Horizon. According to a newspaper report in the Howard County Times (Leslie, Katie, Howard County Times, September 29, 2005), the Horizon software failed to perform as expected when it was placed into production use, resulting in patrons not being able to access many features to which they were accustomed with the previous Dynix system. The issues were largely resolved by the end of September 2005.
The Howard County Library has supplemented its Horizon integrated library system with automation products from other vendors, especially The Library Corporation (TLC). In January 2006 TLC announced that Howard County had selected the AquaBrowser interface along with its AuthorityWorks service to derive authority records for the library’s bibliographic database. In February 2007, the library took its involvement with TLC a step further through the implementation of its Online Selection and Acquisitions (OSA) product. OSA allows the library to do much of its selection and ordering of materials and other acquisitions activities through a remotelyhosted service rather than through a traditional ILS acquisitions module.
After only two years on Horizon, the library has decided to take quite a different turn. Earlier this year, SirsiDynix withdrew Horizon from the market, choosing to focus their future development on Unicorn. This move paved the way for the Howard County Library to adopt a strategy to implement the Koha open source automation system through the services of LibLime, a commercial service company providing open source solutions to libraries.
We Are in Central Kansas
LibLime also announced in September that The Central Kansas Library System (CKLS) has committed to Koha for a centralized automation system for its 33 libraries spread across seventeen counties. All of the libraries within this regional serve small communities. Of these libraries, 21 will migrate from existing automation systems and 12 will be automating for the first time. One library, the Smith Center Public Library, recently implemented Koha as its stand-alone system and plans to join the regional system.
CKLS will implement Koha through LibLime’s “Software as a Service” option, accessing the software on servers hosted by LibLime. The implementation project will occur in three phases. Phase one involves the migration of the 21 libraries currently running other automation systems, Phase two brings in the 12 libraries not currently automated, and the final phase involves the migration of the existing library running Koha.
Documents on the CKLS Website describe a process that initially narrowed the potential candidates to three, including Atriuum from Book Systems, Safari from Surpass, and Koha supported by LibLime. The final selection of Koha was made based on survey responses by the member libraries. Financial terms for the contract with LibLime include $77,000 for initial setup and data preparation and $17,000 annually for hosting services and maintenance.
Howard County and the Central Kansas Library System join other U.S. public library systems running Koha including the Nelsonville Public Library serving Athens County in Ohio, Barberton Public Library in Ohio, the Crawford County Federated Library System in Pennsylvania, the Heartland Public Library in Maine, and the West Liberty Public Library in Iowa.