Dazzling Dashboards Display Data
This year at KohaCon 2019 in Dublin, Ireland there were two
presentations on dashboards that can be used with Koha, Coral and other open source products. The first was a presentation by Nick
Phipps of PTFS Europe on the Metabase dashboard, and a second
presentation was given by Paul Poulain, of Biblibre (France) on the
report dashboard, Urungi. Both dashboard tools offered enticing options for users that want to avoid the complexity of writing SQL, and who desire an easily accessible and beautiful way to visualize, display, and share the data trends of their libraries.
Metabase is an open source business analysis product. It can be installed several ways including via Docker and Kubernettes, and requires Java. Metabase has a pleasing and easy to use interface. You can combine multiple databases from different programs onto one dashboard. For instance, you could display Coral and Koha reports on the same dashboard for a full picture of your collection.
Once this is set-up, Metabase seems to be very user-friendly and provides granular levels of access for different users. Access can be restricted by database and even table. Reports are succinctly called questions in Metabase, as in "what question are you answering?" An interesting feature was the ability to schedule and e-mail reports after setting up a smtp server with Metabase. Slack integration are also a standard feature of Metabase. A knowledge of SQL syntax is not required to be a master of Metabase, questions can be created, filtered, and added to dashboard though the GUI interface. One limitation to Metabase is that table joins are only possible when choosing to create questions/queries with SQL instead of through the interface, but with the reports library available to Koha users at https://wiki.koha-community.org/wiki/SQL_Reports_Library this does not have to be an insurmountable obstacle.
Urungi, is another open source business analysis product, and has been developed to be easy to install and use. Urungi, as developed primarily by Biblibre, is a fork from the first version of Urungi, because the original developer had moved on to other projects. This fork of Urungi is designed with librarians in mind. Paul described the guiding theme of their development process as wanting a tool that would "make librarians happy to work and create a dashboard without entering any technical thing [SQL]."
Databases views in Urungi are called layers and multiple layers can be created from different systems. It is compatible with MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, and Google Big Query databases. To create and filter queries a user drags and drops fields from the layer list with the GUI. Joins are easy to visualize and set up with the GUI, but the option to copy/paste SQL is not currently available for reports, but would be a nice addition. Permissions are very granular for users in Urungi like Metabase, and they can be limited to view only, and to specific database. A nice feature is that dashboards can be shared publicly via a generated url or require authorization depending on a user's needs.
In the near future of Urungi, Paul hinted that the ability to share layers by importing/exporting between
separate instances would be developed. If you are interested in seeing a demo, a test instance for Urungi can be found
at https://demo-urungi.biblibre.com and the username/password is test/test. (Titles are in French.)
You can watch a recording of the live feed of these two presentations below:
Metabase presentation starts at 1:56
Urungi presentation starts at 2:21
Both of these dashboards offer Koha, Coral and other users a great opportunity for access to their systems databases by lowering the technical skills necessary to illustrate, for our patrons, our stakeholders, and ourselves the data trends of our organizations. With these improved visualizations of their data, users can make better and more informed decisions, and persuade and dazzle the masses with our bar, pie, and scatter graphs. Combined with these tools, Koha continues to become a viable hub system in the larger library ecosystem of technology products.
Read more by Danielle Elder