Thursday, June 21, 2012

Behind the scenes in Tech Services: setting up Koha

(by Heather Hernandez, Technical Services Librarian) 

In the Technical Services area of the Library we do a variety of things including cataloging, serials management, book repair and preservation, and library catalog administration.  Recently our catalog administration got really fun.

When we first saw the test version of our new catalog, it looked like this:

Screenshot of Koha out of the box

Making it look like this was a blast:

Screenshot of current Keys Catalog appearance

Now, I love tweaking.  If I see a button, I click it.  If I see a menu option, I select it.  In my opinion, one of the most fun things about Koha is that we can change it and tweak it to suit our needs.  With frequent visits to the Koha Community Documentation site, and with the help of our hosting and support company, ByWater Solutions, I did a lot of this myself.  I didn't have to--they would have done it all for me--but I wanted to.  I wanted to get under the hood and click and tweak myself so that, well, I could click and tweak it whenever we wanted to click or tweak.

We didn't have to stay with the structure--we didn't have to keep that blue Koha bar, with areas below and above, but we chose to keep it that way.  We like it.  Other Koha catalogs have many other designs, and if you'd like to see more of them, check out Koha Users Worldwide on the Koha Community wiki.

In the white area, the column of links on the left and the whole central area is simple HTML that I keyed into appropriate boxes in the OPAC preferences of the Administration area of the staff client.  Whenever the reference staff have asked if they can have something changed on the Catalog, it's been so fun to say, "Sure!"  I can also use the News Tool to put a news alert in the middle of the page, or can even get fancy with book covers.  Lots of other areas are just as easily set up or changed.

I have to admit, it's been tempting to make the overdue notices say, "Return your late books or be keelhauled!"  I have wanted the date due reminder notices to say, "Your books will be due in the next three days--set sail for the Library, or it's the lash for you!"  Since only our staff can check out books...well...we'll see...

But as for the rest of the layout, great fun was had playing with the css to get the color and layout that we wanted.  The blue of the Koha bar was pretty, but we wanted a blue that suggested a deep, ocean blue.  Many blues were tried; only one blue won.  Once we had that, it was pretty simple putting in the rest.  ByWater helped me with the margins and the text size, and we came up with the current look.

Hope you like it!