Case Studies

Penticton Public Library - Thriving in Open Source: A Case Study

Library Location: Penticton, British Columbia

Library Information: Municipal public library

Library URL:

Discovery URL:

Library Background

The Penticton Public Library is a municipal library located in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada, a community of 33,000 people. The city is situated in the south Okanagan Valley nestled between Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake. The Okanagan Valley is part of the interior plateau known as the Okanagan Highland, surrounded by the Cascade Mountains in the west and the Monashee Mountains to the east. Library Service in Penticton began on Sept. 18, 1909, when the Penticton Public Library Reading Room and Library was opened.

When did you make the decision to switch to Open Source?

We chose to explore new ILS options in the Fall of 2020. Our major considerations were essential features, ease of use, and high value for the cost. As we learned more about the products in the marketplace it became evident that the open-source technologies functioned at a very high level. When conducting our evaluations, one advantage with open source was how easy it was for us to learn about these tools without having to wait for a library vendor to provide a full demonstration, or relying on the word of another library with different use cases than our own.

Why did you decide to move to Koha ILS?

Of the software products we learned about through live demonstrations, testing, and interviews, Koha ILS had the most intuitive interface, and the highest number of highly sought-out features. For example, it was very important to us that the ILS be accessible through a web browser: there is no desktop software to install, staff can have multiple tabs open to perform different types of work, and we can share URLs between staff for training and other purposes. Koha has some very significant features, such as batch modification tools and staged marc records management. There are also some smaller, quality of life tools that end up making a big difference, such as checkout receipt templating, and being able to keyword search system preferences.

How has the cost-savings helped your library?

We completed our migration this past summer. Over the life of our contract, we expect to experience significant cost savings as well as efficiency. This will free-up valuable resources to dedicate to enhanced patron experience.

How has this provided new ways of working for staff?

Our technical services department in particular has benefited tremendously from switching to Koha. For example, when we load vendor records we now have the ability to automatically add holdings information. The system will also do copy-adds when an ISBN match is found in the system. It’s also frighteningly simple to add Z39.50 indexes, meaning it’s easy to find marc records when we don’t have a suitable one available. Print on demand spine labels has also saved us valuable time.

We also have a homebound delivery service. Using a custom SQL report along with Koha’s housebound module we are able to create custom homebound delivery slips.

Quotes from Library Staff

OMG this is so much better!"

- Library page performing circ tasks in Koha for the first time!

This while you wait feature is dangerous!"

- Heather Buzzell, Chief Librarian with way too many books on the holds list!

What challenge(s) was your library addressing by adding a discovery layer?

There have been a number of challenges we were looking to solve by switching to Aspen Discovery, but overall our goal was to better curate our collection and services via an online catalogue.

What integrations have you tied into Aspen Discovery?

Overdrive and Sydentics Unbound. We are also looking at making Aspen become our new website. Stay tuned!

Lessons learned from the migration?

Getting dirty manipulating library data is a lot of fun, and very important, but ultimately your job as the client is to be a good coordinator. Know when every meeting is well in advance (make a schedule!), know which topics are being covered and which team members you need to work with. Make sure you really listen to the needs of the other staff. Never make decisions in a vacuum. All of this will ensure your data gets migrated properly, that you have the settings configured beforehand, and that each team member has the proper training to do their job. Also, migration day is all about triage. If circ is working and patrons can access the catalogue, you’re 75% of the way there. We decided to stay closed for the first 4 hours of our go-live date and that ended up being a lifesaver.

Quotes from Patrons

I love that I can now review my reading history."

Being able to place a purchase request and get immediate feedback on my request is very helpful."