Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Koha Support / Introducing Chris Catalfo

LibraryThing for Libraries, our innovative project to put tags, recommendation, reviews and other great enhancements inside the library catalog, now supports Koha.

You can see a quick demo of LibraryThing for Libraries/Koha integration.

The “library” has only seven books and is not as “pretty” as it could be. And there’s some question whether to integrate our tags into Koha’s tags–sometimes worse, sometimes better. But anyway, the beauty is all underneath—our code brings LibraryThing content into Koha seamlessly and rapidly.

Koha (www.koha.org), is the first and most popular open-source ILS (Integrated Library System). Started in New Zealand, Koha development is a community affair, but it’s spearheaded by LibLime in the US. LibLime also provides support services for Koha, and develops other open-source products.

Koha (and LibLime) are emblematic of the positive changes that have been dawning over libraryland. It’s hard for technical people outside the library “industry” to imagine how backward library tech generally is—a layered mess of proprietary, stone-age solutions maintained by a dysfunctional relationship between vendors and libraries. Koha stands at the head of efforts to change that.

LibLime’s most audacious and hopeful project is not Koha, but ‡Biblios* (‡Biblios.org) and ‡Biblios.net (‡Biblios.net), respectively an open-source cataloging application and an open-data repository of bibliographic records. ‡Biblios was started by Chris Catalfo for the 2007 Google Summer of Code.

In essense, ‡Biblios is an open-source answer to OCLC Connexion, and ‡Biblios.net is an open-data answer to OCLC’s WorldCat. LibLime is too politic to state things so clearly, but together ‡Biblios and ‡Biblios.net are a serious challenge to that dysfunctional monopoly. (For background see my OCLC posts; for more on ‡Biblios see this blog post or this LJ article.)

Introducing Chris Catalfo! The Koha integration was done by LibraryThing’s newest employee, the aforementioned Chris Catalfo (member: ccatalfo), of ‡Biblios fame.

Chris joins LibraryThing from LibLime. (The two companies are still friends, we promise.) Before LibLime, Chris worked at the Johns Hopkins and UNCW libraries, and got his MLS at North Carolina Central University.** He also has a masters in Italian Literature, and lived in Florence, Italy. (He fits right in at LibraryThing; his favorite book is Historical Linguistics and Language Change!) He now lives in western Connecticut.

Chris is going to be working on LibraryThing for Libraries and on library data issues generally. He’s a library-technology nerd par excellence. As he put it to me, “I like library technology so much I put up a Z39.50 server to search my blog.” (Try it at chriscatalfo.com:2100/blog.)

The goal in hiring Casey, our first library developer, was to ramp up the library data generally. We did add more sources, and our MARC parsing got better, but we never took full advantage of the data. Casey is working on a number of projects to do just that.


*‡Biblios presents me, a typography nerd, with a rare opportunity—even necessity—of using the double dagger, or diesis. It gives me real pleasure. Should LibraryThing change its name to ‡LibraryThing?
**Chris is our third full-time MLS-card-carrying librarian; Abby and Sonya also have their MLSs. Abby and Chris both have two masters degrees, the bastards. Giovanni and Chris both speak Italian.

Labels: biblios, chris catalfo, koha, liblime, librarything for libraries

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