The Classroom Meets the Real World: A Student's Experience with Koha
By Ashley Parker, Director of the Malvern-Hot Spring County Library
During the summer semester of 2007, I enrolled in a track for Library Technology Systems at Texas Woman’s University. The foundation of the course was the introduction to and the subsequent use of Koha with Class. This program is the student version of the Koha open-source Integrated Library System (ILS). Koha with Class is a fairly new program designed to introduce students to real world issues in configuring an ILS system. The program allows students to participate in the entire process using real software and completing real tasks.
During this course, my classmates and I were divided into teams to configure an ILS for a fictitious library using the Koha with Class program. Students were divided into groups of five. Each group was asked to configure the ILS for a fictitious library described by the professor. Each student within a group was to be responsible for one department (System Administration, Access Services, Cataloging, Acquisitions, and Web Designer).
My role in this project was that of Web Designer. Prior to this course I had absolutely no experience with HTML or CSS, which are the foundation blocks for building the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC). In addition to my lack of web design skills, configuring an ILS was a concept I knew nothing about. In fact, I had only minimal experience operating an ILS at all!
I began by reading the user guides and available online resources for Koha, but I quickly discovered that there was limited information about web design for the Koha with Class program. The information I did find was often to complex for me to understand. So, I turned to the library for some books and a few good friends for advice. In the end, I succeeded far beyond my original hopes.
At the culmination of the Koha with Class project, I feel like I have a better understanding of the internal nature of an ILS system. While I worked primarily with HTML and web page development, I was able to explore other areas as well. I worked with my group to identify places within the intranet where the settings needed to be modified. I helped my team mates make decisions on how to develop our collection, as well as our circulation and library card policies. I was able to request books for the library to order and then see the results to the library’s budget and collection after the order had been placed.
I feel like this project has been one of the most meaningful projects completed during my MLS program. I think it was very important to have this hands-on experience, and I wish that I would have had more opportunities like this during my coursework.
For more information about Koha programs, including Koha with Class, visit www.koha.org.