It's great having a lot of books in your library, right? Of course it is! However, there is a downside. Somebody, somewhere, must figure out how to manage the collection. This is a lesson I've learned very recently. When we first began the NELP program, we started with a few hundred books. One of our high school reading teachers, a very, very great teacher named Mr. Yamada, organized the initial library. Last winter, we got a box of new books, and we were all very excited. Again, Mr. Yamada entered the information into the computer and tagged the books. Had I known he was doing all the work himself, I would have helped, regardless of my busy schedule, but I was led to believe that others were helping him. Such was not the case. However, Mr. Yamada came through brilliantly and did all the work himself.
However, this April, we got a surprise that was both wonderful and yet quite daunting: EIGHT boxes of books ... and not small boxes either! Great, big boxes! There are big books, small books, thick books and thin ones of all levels. It was amazing, but it also presented us with a problem: it would be no small task to enter these into the computer.
I suggested that we should ask Maruzen or the publishers to send us software and maybe a barcode scanner, but nothing came of that suggestion. I guess we're all pretty busy these days.
So I took it upon myself to study the problem. Turns out there is A LOT of software ... FREE software ... for libraries that has been released under open content licenses. Well, I did a lot of digging and research. Some of them are good, some are still in development, some are finished and some will never get out of beta. I chose a New Zealand open source software called Koha.
The problem isn't as simple, however, as installing a program. I had to learn to install and configure all kinds of things: MySql, Apache, and ActivePerl. Some software I had looked at required Php, so I installed that for good measure. ActivePerl and PhP were pretty simple ... I'm not sure what they do, but they were simple to install. With Apache and MySql, I found it better to install Apache first and then MySql ... or was it the other way around? I installed, uninstalled, reinstalled and threw temper tantrums multiple times over the course of a hair-pulling evening and morning. The end, though, was quite simple: Check online, follow the directions, don't skip ANY steps, and make sure your passwords are correct. It took a few tries, but the end result is very satisfying. Wanna see?
Now all I have to do is figure out how to retrieve Marc data and see if z39.50 really works on Koha ... and if you don't know was Marc21 or z39.50 are, don't worry. Last week, I didn't know what those were either.
Also, now that I have installed Apache and MySql, knowing nothing about them, I'm curious to know if I can network my laptops to my desktop and have an in-class network. That would be super-cool!