importing marc records

I’m writing this post after a couple weeks of misadventures; it’s not that I want to put you off at all but certainly while I was doing all the things I’m outlining below we had to completely reinstall Koha from scratch twice! At least, as the IT tech says, everytime I have to set up the admin preferences it happens faster, and everytime he installs the server it goes easier. The lesson from this is, everytime you do a significant piece of work, back up your database. Significant in this case means “would make you sad if you had to repeat it”.

The procedure goes a little like this: export marc records from Athena by format, so that you have a list of files like “fiction-dec-2011.mrc”. Pass them all to the IT tech who found a script to run, and ran it when I had no idea what that meant. Produce a list of files like “fiction-dec-2011-done.mrc”. Stage for import through Koha, import, and check that the holdings data made it through correctly. Breathe deeply.

In more detail: the marc records that Athena exports don’t work so well with Koha. Essentially, holdings data – the data that describes the physical item specifically a part of your library – is formatted slightly differently for the two systems. Step by step instructions are written out in VOKAL’s user guide, or a script that does it for you (if you are moving from Athena to Koha) is available here. Unfortunately the script inexplicably failed to work for one batch – the videorecordings – but fortunately the step by step instructions are easy to understand.

Running the marc exports by format means that the koha itemtype code can be applied to each record in the batch; it also means that you have to do the same steps over and over again for each format, and somehow I seem to have created 16 different formats! The IT tech kindly logged into the server from my desktop so that I could take a snapshot and back up the database as many times as I wanted, and this afternoon I went in, staged and imported each of the sixteen files, and took a snapshot after each one. Of course, now that I have as many backups as I could want, and the chance to recover my work simply, nothing at all went wrong, and this afternoon I finally managed to get every marc record and catalogued item in the catalog!

Now I am going home, and actually having holidays for a few days like January is for.

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