I only ever met Jim in person once, at ALA in New Orleans a few years ago but his reputation well and truly preceded him. For those who don’t know Jim is retiring from his role as Director of NEKLS (Northeast Kansas Library System). But in his time as Director, NEKLS have embraced not only Koha but Open Source in general. Here is just a small part of that story, from facts I have gleaned by asking around. Please if anyone has any corrections, don’t hesitate to let me know.
Back in the day, NEKLS had a shared regional catalogue (I’m going with NZ english spelling before someone corrects that:)) called NExpress. They joined another consortium that was running a Sirsi system. Due to a variety of reasons including the desire to be in control of the system, to be able to mold it to their needs and to be in control of the implementation, they decided to move to another ILS. Due to those same reasons it really could only be an Open Source system, other systems simply can not be modified to anywhere near the same extent. Of course when choosing Koha, the monetary cost came into consideration, buying licenses for the 13 libraries that were part of the shared system at that time was a decent chunk of money.
Being the Director, the buck stopped with Jim, and he made the decision (trusting in the skills and knowledge of his staff) to go with Koha. As NExpress is all about resource sharing, the value of a project where sharing is the core became pretty evident. From what I can tell from reading and talking with people who worked with Jim, the values resonated with him personally as well. Under Jim’s leadership NEKLS began to cooperate and share on a world stage, developments paid for by NEKLS are being used by libraries in every corner of the world.
However this certainly wasn’t the only hard Koha related decision Jim had to make, when Liblime moved away from the community, and began to offer support only for their fork of Koha, NEKLS had to decide what it would do. So despite it being a very hard decision to make and that it would most certainly involve ramifications, Jim took the bold choice to move from Liblime before the contract had ended and back to Koha (supported by ByWater Solutions).
The takeaway from me is that Jim is the kind of leader any organisation deserves, but so few get. Someone who can make the tough choices, but who trusts the knowledge and expertise of his people to guide those choices.
So thanks Jim, Koha and it’s community would be a poorer place without you.
A few years ago, and I’m sure that everyone would know of Rachel, however over time as new people join the community it’s important to refresh the collective memory. Without Rachel Koha wouldn’t exist, it’s as simple as that. Not many people would be game to agree to have their company write a library system in 3.5 months, even less would be able to make it happen. Rachel did both those things. She managed the project, provided lots of testing, did all the design including UI and UX, as well as making sure all the other clients of Katipo continued to be looked after.
Even though Rachel isn’t very active in the community anymore, Katipo still provide the hosting of the main mailing list, and Rachel helps to look after maintenance of the list. After 15 years (we started in August 1999) I am sure neither Rachel or I thought Koha would be as popular as it is now, and without Rachel it most definitely would not have been.
Inspired by something I read this morning, I thought I would make a mention of the Koha developers who are employed by a library. Off the top of my head (and if I have missed some please let me know in comments) I can think of.
Owen, Marcel, Dobrica, Mirko, Tomas, Mathieu, and the Koha Lyon team. All of these developers have committed numerous patches to Koha, and not just bug fixes but a lot of new features too. I think this is quite remarkable and a good example of doing it right, take some of the money you save in licensing fees and take control of your own future.
Oh, I have just remembered Steve Tonnesen who wrote the first web based circulation, and was an employee of the Coastal Mountain School district. Also as Paul pointed out in the comments I forgot Arnaud, Hélène and Bruno from SAN-Ouest Provence.
Darla has been using Koha from 2006, for the Bering Strait School District in Alaska. This is pretty neat in itself, what is cooler is that as far as I know, they have never had a ‘Support Contract’. Doing things either by themselves or with the help of IT personnel as needed. One of Darla’s first blogposts that I read was about her struggles trying to install Debian on an Emac. I totally respect anyone who is trying to reclaim hardware from the darkside
Darla has presented on Koha at conferences, and maintains a blog that has useful information, including sections of what she would do differently. As well as some nice feel good bits like this, from April 2007
I know I had an entry titled this before, but I do love OSS programs. Yesterday I mentioned that I would look at Pines because I like the tool it has to merge MARC records. Today a Koha developer emailed me to let me know that he is working on this for Koha and it should be available soon. I can’t imagine getting that kind of service from a vendor.
Hopefully she will be able to make it Kohacon13 in Reno, NV. It would be great to put a face to the email address
The Butte-Silver Bow Public library is special for a few reasons. They have sent people to attend Kohacon09, Kohacon10, and now not only attending Kohacon12 but co-hosting even though the event is in Edinburgh!. The presentation they gave at Kohacon10, with librarians saying what they enjoyed about Koha, was definitely one of the highlights of the conference, and I am sure Lee’s presentation will be great again this year.
Yet another reason they are heroes, is that when things started going wrong with a former Koha support company they decided to stick with Koha and go it alone. Something Koha allows you to do, but still a big decision.
So Lee and the team, hats off to you all!
Owen is not so much an unsung hero, but definitely one that could be sung about more. With a massive 1701 commits to Koha, the first one being in March of 2003, Owen is one of the oldest and most prolific developers.
Owen specialises in UI and UX work and writes a blog that is invaluable to anyone working on Koha look and feel. What makes it even cooler is that Owen works for a library, not one of the many Koha support companies. That not only makes Owen cool, but it makes his library super cool for understanding the more you put into Koha, the more you get out.
So thank you Owen, thank you to your family, and to Athens County Public Libraries.
Most people will never have heard of him, but Frère Sébastien Marie has been helping out with security in Koha. He has spotted AND fixed a number of security issues and can always be relied upon to offer good advice.
I think it’s another example of how lucky we are in the Koha community to have people with a very diverse range of backgrounds, from people in Monasteries fixing security issues to Scouts installing Koha for a merit badge. The community is a great place to be.