Koha How-To

Preparing for an ILS Migration

Periodically, I get the question in Koha migrations, about how much cleanup a library needs to do on their end to prepare for an integrated library system migration.

The answer is usually: it depends, but not very much.

Our Koha migration process at ByWater is such that we have the opportunity to do a lot of data manipulation for you, systematically with scripts, rather than one-at-a-time manual processes you might have to use on your current ILS. Basically, anything you can do one at a time, we can do in bulk, faster, and more accurately, by writing a script, if there’s no human thought process or decision involved.

Let’s take an example I’ve seen happen more than once. Suppose, in the past, that your VHS tapes and DVDs circulated differently, but in your migration, you’ve decided to call both of those MEDIA, and circulate them the same–it’s time to merge the item types. This is a good idea in Koha, as it simplifies the circulation rules a good bit.

This is something that is very easy for an ILS vendor to do for you, during migration, so you don’t have to. If your current ILS has a mechanism for batch-modification that will let you do this, you’re welcome to, or we’ll do it for you–the important thing is to tell us!

More-complex things are also possible. “If the item type is DVD, and the call number starts with a letter, make it a MEDIA, but if it’s a Dewey-style call number, make it a MEDIANF.” The script can look at the call number very easily, and make these sorts of decisions.

We can even delete things, of course–that bookmobile that you sold years ago, and thought you’d removed all the items? We’ll spot any that are left, and can just dump them out for you.

Some things, though, aren’t as easy. If you have a bunch of things in storage, but there’s nothing on your current ILS to designate that, then we don’t have any way to set those items to a location of STORAGE; that’s something you’ll need to do, either before or after migration. Basically, if it involves touching the item, or a human decision, or represents information that isn’t in your current ILS, it’s going to need your attention.

The same sort of thinking applies to patron, acquisitions, or serials cleanup tasks that you might want to do. If the data’s in your current system, we can generally do the manipulations you want. If you want us to tell you how many patrons checked out books whilst wearing blue suede shoes, though, you’re probably out of luck, since that likely won’t be in your current data.

The important thing, though, is to talk to your vendor! Ask about that cleanup project you’ve been thinking of doing, and whether or not it can be included during your migration (or even afterward). Be detailed! Some questions you might want to ask would include:

  • Are you going to charge us extra for that? (At ByWater, the answer is generally no, we don’t, unless it is very complex.)
  • Can we see this on our test server first? (If you are in migration, the answer should be yes!)
  • Will you share your scripts with other libraries and programmers, so that someone else doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel? (For us here at ByWater, the answer is yes! We don’t write closed-source code, ever.)

You don’t need to get stressed about cleanup for a migration! It may look like a ton of work to move those 5000 items from one item type to another–but for us, it’s a line or two of code, and it won’t miss any of them. Talk to your migration specialist or trainer about cleanup projects you have in mind!

[Originally posted by D. Ruth Bavousett]

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