Open source libraries to help schools

LibLime, the leader in open-source solutions for libraries, announced today the launch of the "Koha with Class" Initiative, offering free hosted Koha systems to library school classrooms. Building on the success of a pilot program at Texas Woman's University in 2006, Koha with Class provides library school classrooms with five hosted installations of Koha, free of charge. Koha is the first and most mature open-source Integrated Library System (ILS).

The project is designed to give future librarians hands-on experience with library automation software and open source. Any college or university offering a program in Library and Information Studies/ Technology can participate.

"Our goal is to expose Koha to as many library students as possible," says Joshua Ferraro, President of Technology for LibLime. "Proprietary ILS systems are black boxes. Next-generation librarians need to know what's inside the box in order to make sound technology decisions. Learning library technology on an open-source ILS gives library students a chance to not only understand the technology, but to change it to meet their needs."

By participating in the Koha with Class Initiative, library students and instructors get direct access to a worldwide community of Koha developers and users--and can meet libraries who are collaborating through open source to build better library technologies. Since Koha is open source, tech-savvy students can even explore the code that makes Koha run, gaining familiarity with LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/Perl) technologies.

Indiana University's School of Library and Information Science has just become the second university to join the project. William Helling, Adjunct Lecturer at Indiana University, will be using Koha in his Library Automation course. According to Helling, "Many (perhaps most) library students never get to work with a fully-functional ILS before graduating. Even when eventually employed in a library, these students rarely work with all the various components of a library's ILS. This is an opportunity for students to train for their library careers before having to do it on the job."

Helling thinks Koha--which he describes as a "mature and feature-laden ILS"-- is an excellent learning tool for the classroom. Using Koha, Helling's students will "be involved in all aspects of configuring an ILS, using all components, as they work in small teams. Although students will experience the entire ILS, each student will also develop a specialty according to his or her interests (e.g., cataloging, acquisitions, etc.) in order to better contribute to the team effort."

Helling says the concept of open source "is often new and almost always a bit frightening for students." He adds: "By experiencing success with an open-source software solution now, students can become more comfortable with these very viable alternatives."

Instructors and students interested in participating in Koha with Class can read more about the project as well as fill out an online application at LibLime's Koha with Class Initiative webpage: http://liblime.com/projects/koha-with-class/