Koha ILS

Inventory in Koha

Today seems to be the day of Inventory related tickets and phone calls at ByWater so I thought I should share what we learned (and what we taught our partners) with you all.

First off, Koha has an inventory tool … did you know that? Have you tried it out? It’s great getting to show the tool to our new partners in training because it’s so easy to use. I’ve even urged libraries who have never done inventory (yes I said ‘never’) to do inventory once they switch to Koha because it’s such an easy task. If you want to see the inventory tool in action you can check out my tutorial video.

Now, for what we learned/taught today:

Inventory might timeout. There is a bug in the inventory tool that has been fixed and will be released soon that makes it timeout for large libraries. From the bug report:

When you upload a file of barcodes, and do not specify any filters on the rest of the form, it effectively runs GetItemsForInventory() such that *every* item in the database is returned. On a large enough database, this takes so long that the script times out.

The current documentation in the manual implies that if you upload a file of barcodes, the *only* thing it does is set the date-last-seen field. This is not entirely true; it also tries to compare the list of scanned items to what is expected to be seen in the list of items.

The work-around for libraries with a large number of item records is to, when uploading a file of barcodes, to also set the filters (e.g., library, shelving location, call number range, etc.) to specify the range of items that the file of barcodes corresponds to.

Inventory will check items in. Have you ever gone out to your favorite store and been disappointed to see that they closed early because they had to do inventory? There’s a reason for this. If you’re doing inventory while your customers/patrons are touching your inventory then your inventory report will be incorrect – or you’d never stop doing inventory. This is no different in the library. Inventory should be done in small batches or when the library is closed and your patrons aren’t touching things. When you do inventory in Koha you scan a shelf or two of barcodes and then load them in to Koha telling it to update the ‘date last seen’. Well the assumption (and rightfully so) is that the items you’re marking ‘seen’ have actually been ‘seen’ and touched by you on the shelf in your library. So when you load that file of barcodes in to Koha and set the date Koha not only updates the ‘date last seen’ it also checks the items in if they are checked out. As we all know things move quickly in our libraries and sometimes we think we scanned an item to check it in, but didn’t. We also have patrons who like to put books on the shelf themselves and bypass the circulation desk. These scenarios are all resolved when doing inventory.My recommendation (and what I tell all our partners in training) is to do inventory in small spurts. So, scan a shelf or two and then load the file in to the inventory tool in Koha. Rinse and Repeat until inventory is done. Or do inventory over a weekend when you’re closed or during the evening only (loading the file in every morning before the library reopens).

For those of you who think inventory should offer other options, there is an enhancement request out there with the community that you can look at that suggests a checkbox (or some mechanism) to not have Koha check in materials. There is also a bug report that says that Koha should remind/warn you that you’re about to check items in by doing inventory, but in my opinion this warning will come too late because you have already done all the work of the inventory.

Inventory is setting the date last seen to zero. This one I found today while testing the inventory tool. We are still waiting for more info on what’s causing it and how it can be fixed. For now, if you need to run inventory go right ahead. After running inventory either you or your support provider can update the database manually to put the right inventory date in. If you have access to your database you simple need to run:

update items set datelastseen=’2014-05-28′ where datelastseen=’0000-00-00′;

Where the date you enter is the date you entered when doing inventory.

If you don’t have access to your database then you can ask your support provider to run the above code for you.

Finding missing items after inventory. After you’ve run the inventory tool how do you find the items that are missing? Well you run a report to show you everything that hasn’t been seen since a specific date. I have written such a report and shared it on the Koha wiki.

What’s coming next? Since we’re talking inventory you might be interested in this big enhancement to the inventory tool that is looking for testers. It adds the following functionality to the inventory tool:

  • Have the tool warn of items possibly shelved out of order for scanned lists of barcodes (by comparing to previous and next items).
  • Ability to skip items with waiting holds (in the same manners as items on issue are skipped).
  • The ability to choose locations to not flag as “Item should have been scanned” if not scanned (e.g. On Shelving Cart, On Display, etc)

Read more by Nicole C.

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