In September, I attended KohaCon 2018, an international conference for the user group of Valnet's integrated library system. A little bit of background: Koha is an open source ILS, basically a giant database that stores information about all of our library materials, including books, CD audiobooks, magazines, DVDs and music CDs. In other words, Koha is an online catalog used by many libraries, including the Valnet consortium to which we belong. The word "Koha" is a Maori term that means "a gift given with obligation." In this case, the obligation is to pass along the gift of Koha by mentoring new Koha users and to contribute to Koha's development by reporting bugs, and testing and writing patches for bugs. Each year, the conference is on a different continent. It has been five years since it was last in North America.

KohaCon 2018's tagline was "Together Towards Tomorrow." The conference in Portland hit the ground running with a keynote by Stephanie Chase, director of the Hillsboro, Ore., library. Her keynote was about how they are changing their organizational structure to be more collaborative both with staff and patrons. As the day moved forward, we talked a lot about the future of libraries, Koha, and the internet as a whole as well as how we as a community could move forward with it. We had more than 200 people attend the conference from all over the world in person. Additionally, the conference sessions were broadcast live to Koha users and developers worldwide.

On Day Two, it became clear how much diversity we have in the Koha community as we had presenters from France, Germany, Turkey and all over the United States. We continued to have conversations about how we can use circulation data to best serve our patrons. Questions such as: How can we achieve higher circulation? Which items are patrons not checking out? With this data, we can replace books that don't circulate with newer items that are more likely to circulate. Our presenter from Turkey told us about the Public Library National System in Turkey, which has over 1,000 branches on the same Koha system. Anyone who has a library card in the system can check out from any of the branches and return to any of the branches (just like Valnet).

Day Three continued the great sharing of information I have found is the norm in the library world, including a library that built a bike-library which takes a small collection of items out into the community for events such as farmer's markets, as well as making regular stops two times a month to help get items out into the community.

The last part of the conference was the most "together" part. We came together in groups and worked on learning more about the way Koha works, how to change it, and how to fix it when things go wrong.

We were mostly in groups of 5-6, changing around every few hours to do something a little different and learn something new.

Users of the product got to sit with the people who develop the program and show them exactly what was a problem or what features were great and could be expanded on.

Overall the theme "Together Towards Tomorrow" was not only a tagline to bring the conference together but also a real sense of community and togetherness within both the Koha and library communities.

Members of both communities work together to share program ideas, policy implementations, and general support that will let libraries keep moving forward in an ever changing landscape.


Lisette Scheer is the system administrator for the Latah County Library District.

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