Koha is a Maori word meaning (if memory serves) “gift.” It is also the name of an open source library card catalog system developed in New Zealand. We used this at the school in Vienna when we lived in Virginia, but I found it pretty difficult to get it set up. It wants to run under Debian Linux, and I have always run Redhat Linux (or one of its variants). They are just different enough to make getting Koha to run on Redhat is a herculean feat. Back then I gave up. I decided to run it on a dedecated PC, got hold of one, and handed it over to a friend who was a Debian master. He installed Debian and then got Koha going on it. Then Va keyed in the data (something like 9000 books which took about six months).

Now Beth’s school needs a card catalog for their library. The Conference has recommended a commerical software package, but there are three major problems with that. First, it is certain to be Windows-only, and we do not have a single WIndows server on the network (and I REALLY don’t want one either). Second, it costs over $900, which is a lot of money when Koha works so wonderfully (once installed) and costs nothing. Third, $900 is probbly the cheapest commercial card catalog money can buy, and if it’s anything like the rest of the software recommended by the Conference, it is going to be just awful. I don’t know WHY they aren’t on the open source wagon train, but they sure ought to be.

Open source software is developed by people who have a passion for software. They write the code in their own free time, and they release it when it is ready to be released. It is not written by someone who would rather be doing something else, and released when the schedule says it should be released. In my experience, the open source methodology provides a far superior solution, and in many cases far outstrips even the highest priced commercial offerings.

But as I said earlier, Koha doesn’t want to run on Redhat. I spent some time at the school tonight after work trying to get the latest version of Koha to run on my Redhat server there, but it put up a good fight. So I’m not going to resist. Instead I am going to get my hands on an old PC, install Debian on it, and use it as a dedicated card catalog server.