Welcome Sharon Moreland, our most recent guest blogger! Sharon is the Director at the Tonganoxie Public Library in Kansas, and a contributor to the Cookbooks. Sharon will be a regular blogger for MaintainIT, telling the tale of her experiences with Koha as her library starts a new chapter with open source. Welcome, Sharon! (Oh, and I was the one who added the photo of Sharon to her post. I couldn't help myself!) :)
The big decision at the very first Board meeting I attended as the new wet-behind-the-ears director here in Tonganoxie, was whether we should join the new NExpress consortium, a sub-set of Kansas libraries joining the established Kansas City Library Consortium (KCLC). It was an easy decision: of course we wanted access to 2.5 million items and the state-of-the-art Sirsi ILS, so we started the long process of migrating. We weeded, inventoried, fixed call numbers, and cleaned up the shelf-list in preparation for re-barcoding the entire collection. (Unique item IDS... they'll get you every time!) We also had to prepare the public -- let them know a "new and improved" library card would be coming soon, because our library card numbers were only 4 digits and the existing patron records couldn't be uploaded into Sirsi. My library was lucky to be one of the first to join KCLC for two reasons:
- The consortium had an experienced system administrator and excellent Consortium librarian who was our liaison.
- I used to work there and knew these (somewhat quirky) people personally.
Unfortunately, libraries who joined later, after the system administrator left and the Consortium librarian left and the replacement personnel were new and, well, not very good, had a VERY different experience than we did. The timeline to join stretched and stretched and patience with the personnel grew thinner and thinner and after unsuccessful meetings with the KCLC Director and the Kansas City Public Library Director, our NExpress-Northeast Kansas Library System Director called us all together to make a decision... do we stay or do we go?
Jim Minges, the System Director, called together his board, the NExpress libraries, and the libraries waiting to join NExpress and an outside facilitator to help us work through our options. Koha rose to the top, so Jim invited Josh Ferraro, LibLime, to give us a presentation (in his suit and sandals...such a GenXer he is!). I was sold--we kept throwing out, "does it do this?" questions and Josh's face would light up at the thought of writing some new widget to do whatever it was we suggested, like linking the catalog to the New York Times bestseller list. New library cards? No need, LibLime can extract our patron records. The best part though, the thing that we audibly gasped at was when we heard it would only take 4-8 months to migrate ALL of our libraries to Koha...our experience with Sirsi was 18-24 months.
In the beginning, I had reservations about leaving KCLC because my little library was borrowing over 5,000 items a year from libraries outside our NExpress sub-set. Leaving KCLC meant losing access to those materials. But, being the cooperative and collaborative group of librarians that we are, we decided to analyze the data, see what exactly we were borrowing and then see if we could change our collection development habits to fill the need. The joke was that we'd seek grants for smut, slasher films, and Sex in the City (erotic fiction, adult graphic novels, horror films and TV series on DVD).
We're still hammering out the details for this, but cooperative collection development in itself is an exciting by-product of this whole process. I'm not exactly sure what the next step is. I think NEKLS staff is working to get us out of our existing contract and we’ve been assigned a project manager from LibLime to help steer us through the migration. Each of us need to decide when and how to share the news with our Boards and patrons - I let the cat out of the bag on MySpace and had to put something in the paper this week and I invited Jim to explain the situation to the Board in March. We'll wait and see what the response is!
As I'm writing this, I just got an email from the State Librarian, Christie Brandau, via Jim Minges, "You made the top story on the online LJ!! Congrats to you and NEKLS staff and libraries!!"
Director, Tonganoxie Public Library, Kansas