Reporting from KohaCon 2018

The last presentation of KohaCon18 has ended and the assembled community is catching its breath with a cultural day before the hackfest kicks off tomorrow. The more energetic among us have set off on an early morning 5K fun run, but I'm taking the morning for some reflection on the three days of presentation and conversation that made up my first KohaCon. I won't give a full recap here, but want to point to a few bits that I'll be thinking of on my flight home.

The scheduling of this cultural day, a block of time fully devoted to exploring the city and being with other Koha users, nicely mirrors the ethos of the convention and of the community as a whole. Presentations moved from straightforward discussions of workflows and customizations that any library could use to more technical discussions of development projects and coding infrastructure. Throughout the conference, these two branches were connected by a sturdy trunk of community -- dedication to a shared goal, appreciation of each other's contributions, and a celebration of all the Koha community has built and continues to build. I can only hope to strike such an effortless balance here between the technical and the philosophical.

Ideas You Can Use Tomorrow

As a public services librarian and a trainer, I'm naturally drawn to the presentations with more end-user application. I'll leave it to others to explore the more technical ideas.

Ed Veal from the McKinney Public Library demonstrated a clean and simple method for repurpose the course reserves module to track displays in the library. I could see all the public librarians in the audience making excited notes during his presentation and I look forward to scheduling some Zoom sessions to help folks set this up. Ed's already got the javascript that accomplishes this feat up in the Koha wiki.

Jason Robb from the Southeast Kansas Library System explained how he created an extensive browsing menu for his patrons using Koha's static search links and a bit of html. You can see his menu live here, and you should absolutely give it a look. Before Jason even finished I was thinking of other libraries I knew would love to use his idea. Jason's made his html available here, though it will take some tweaking to apply to another library.

This may be a bit harder to replicate, but I have to mention my hometown library, Carnegie-Stout Public Library in Dubuque, IA, who presented about how they established their new traveling bike library to deliver books around town. It's a really fun idea that they've gotten a great response on.

Ideas You Can Ponder

I'd be hard-pressed to find a presentation among this bunch that didn't contain some wise or inspiring words about the Koha community and how the open source ethos informs and reinforces the core values of librarianship, but I'm going to rein myself in and focus on the keynote by Stephanie Chase of the Hillsboro Public Library. Stephanie's not on Koha now (and the non-Koha folks who came the conference and still found it useful are a whole other blog post!), but has been in the past and had great things to say about the fundamental principles of community and collaboration. She's made a strong push in her library toward decentralized leadership, increased collaboration, and exploration. It's really exciting and interesting and sent me down a wiki-hole reading about holacracy. One of her statements that got picked up by many later presenters was the idea library tools should focus on assisting the patron rather than assisting the librarian and that since we're paid to be at the library we should be prepared to shoulder some work in order to ease the path of the patron. I can already tell that idea will be bubbling up regularly as I get back to my day-to-day work.

“Remember that code is only important because of the community it serves”

Chris is one of the original developers of Koha and surely could have presented a brilliant and illuminating talk about some arcane corner of the administration module. Instead, he chose to present a brilliant and illuminating talk about friends, memories, and community -- the social implications of open source software and its use in libraries. It's great to see a software conference at which one of the key players chooses to use his presentation time to talk about feelings and relationships and the whole audience goes with him happily. Tomorrow I'll fly back home, prepare for my next training, and work some support tickets. I'm sure I'll use the technical things I learned this week in that work. But I'll also use the ideals and aspirations I've absorbed, and that feels like a greater takeaway.

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