Monday, October 31, 2011

Notes from day 1 of KohaCon11 in Thane, India.

I am in India !
India has long been on my bucket list of places to see before I die - and here I am! The Koha community has gathered in Thane, Mumbai as guests of VPN Thane. There are around 120-150 of us and from a number of different countries.

Opening session:
Dr VJ Bedekar

What an amazing man! Clearly has a deep understanding and commitment to open source. Dr Bedekar has extended every hospitality to us; even making his personal car available to collect us each day from the hotel. Really, there is nothing more that could have been done to make us feel welcome and our stay here successful.

I delivered the keynote address next, slides and text of my presentation here. It went quite well I think. I wanted to stress the importance of vendors and libraries and end users and developers all working together to make good software and the simple rules to keep the community working together well: trust, share, grow (and don't be a dick).

The Principal, Dr (Mrs) Shakuntala Singh is so warm and gracious and intelligent and talented. We have been told that she was a champion badminton player, an accomplished musician and has a PhD in Philosophy. She has spoken with conference attendees several times and is clearly held in high regard by her staff.

Paul Poulain (the only person to have attended every KohaCon) reminded us all of the history of the Koha project. What I have noticed is that the Koha Community has stopped pretending to care about LibLime: "They are on their island and we are on ours". This is a healthy step and allows us to continue developing great software without the distraction of a LibLime circus on the sidelines.

Vijay Rahene presented a paper which reminded me of the important role librarians have in teaching new technologies so that our library members can access information - which now increasingly resides online and not on paper.

I love good orators and Awoyemi Akinade is such a man. Terrific message delivered in a passionate and engaging manner. Talked about how African scientists need open access in order to join the global scientific community. Copyright and access is part of problem: "the big business of copyright." Costs money to access this stuff - too much money but you also have to pay and its impossible to pay if can't access creditcards.

Access was one strand of his talk, but also publishing. We need to redress the imbalance of Nigerian / third world publishing particularly scientific research and findings. Indexing was the 3rd aspect he covered. Lots of stuff is published in Nigeria, paper and pixels, but is not indexed and findable via online methods. The internet is overwhelmingly US, English-speaking and western-focused. My takeaway from Akinade: Africa's scientists have much to offer, but the problem is access to western data and places to publish their work. We need an open source, open access repository for scientfic publication.

Next up was Brooke Johnson, looking stunning in a heavily embroidered sari. She talked about introducing lots of gaming tricks and devices into Koha to make it more 'friendly' and rewarding ... much like a computer game. Very stimulating session and lots of great ideas. Slides here.

Sadhir Badhe delivered a paper on Koha in Indian Public Libraries and talked off the challanges to automation: people are actually your biggest problem and their aversion to change. This relates directly to commenst made by 2 very concerned librarians at the end of 2 days of solid education. They asked 'but how do we print out the book cards". They couldn't quite understand that you don't run a manual system when you have an automated one. Marijana from Croatia had the same experience there, and Koustubha gave up saying no and just printed out cards for his library... so interesting.

Robin Sheat
gave a very good talk on the importance of 'keeping up' as in on the main development trunk of Koha. His graphical illustration of the forks and trunks etc made it so clear. We really must get up to 3.6 asap. His slides are here.

Dr Bedekar rounded off the day with good summary. Full Unicode support is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL in an international context. Sometimes, in the US, we forget that. I couldn't agree more.

One final thing: KohaCon11 was written up in the local newspaper.

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