making a start

It’s become very clear that my workflow needs to change. The short version is because it relies on software that’s older than all of our students. The long version, I think, includes backstory.

I’m the librarian in a small secondary college in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. It’s small, which means we don’t have much funding, but it also means I know all the students and staff very well. I’m the only librarian — the only staff member in the library at all this year — so I have to do everything. It also means that if I want to change something I’m the one who needs convincing: the teaching staff and the principal trust me to run the library in the way I find it best. We’ve got about 320 students, and 50 staff; and we’ve got about 20 000 items in the collection — but the average age of the collection is more than 10 years old.

This is the workflow that’s just not working: download a batch of marc records from SCIS; add holdings data in Marigold; import these to Athena. Athena works okay for basic circulation tasks, and for the little amount of original cataloging I need to do. It’s pretty irritating for any circulation more than just checking in and out, to be honest, and the interface is very early nineties and not intuitive, but it’s using Marigold that’s totally broken in Windows 7.

It’s the future though! There are so many more things we can do in library management software nowadays. So rather than try and find another workaround for adding holdings data, I want to start using something better all round.

There’s a couple options, but I honestly was only looking closely at Koha. Philosophically I’m going to like the open source solution better; my housemate set up a library on Koha a few years back and could give me advice; all the information I’ve found makes me happier with Koha. I did look at demos running some of the more common systems in school library software and talked to librarians running all the different systems I could, but every time I went back to Koha. I read through the manual; played on the sandbox; talked to the IT tech, some friendly librarians and some friendly open source people and made a decision.

I’m going to spend the rest of the school year tidying up the collection – a really thorough weed, now that I have been here long enough to see what parts of the collection get well-used, is first on the list. Then a stocktake, to make sure the collection and the database match. Then moving over – hopefully before the summer holidays start on 22/12. And taking notes the whole way through, so I remember what happened and I can write it up here! I’m really excited about doing something big, here, doing something that is both noticeable and useful. Plus I’m a nerd, and the idea of finding out about open source software and better library software is no end intriguing.

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