Review Process of ILS Selection

Last updated September 27, 2014.

One of our principles in Crawford County is that every member library had to agree which means trying to gain consensus of over 100 people (nine library Boards times ten members each plus the librarians). The skepticism about using OSS meant that we had to consider both proprietary and OSS options. After some negotiations, a process was developed by the CCFLS Board to select a new ILS, with the two contenders being Koha and Sagebrush. The first part of the selection process was demonstrations.

Sagebrush demonstrated first, and it was fantastic. The Sagebrush ILS had a staff interface that was colorful, useful and very easy on the eyes. All of the librarians loved it. Seeing the results from the Sagebrush meeting, the OSS camp realized that the Koha staff interface was clunky and difficult to use in comparison.

Realizing we had to do a fast revision of Koha, our newly hired full-time software developer, Kyle Hall completely redesigned the Koha staff interface to streamline it and make the work processes easier to understand. At the same time, Cindy Ames, our IT Director, loaded our data into a demo installation of Koha so we could show the librarians how it looked in Koha. It also demonstrated that we could easily migrate from Winnebago to Koha and were capable of altering and managing the software in-house.

Admittedly the Koha demo was not as slick as the Sagebrush demo, but the member libraries were impressed to see actual local data in the system and the fact that we could change the program to fit our needs. We also pitched the idea of allowing the libraries to change Koha in any way that the member libraries saw fit.

The CCFLS librarians embraced the idea that they could customize the software to their preferences. The IT Department made a number of promises to modify Koha. Some of these promises would cause us issues in the future as CCFLS began working as a more unified system rather than as individual libraries. However, considering the environment of the time in 2005, these promises were critical for securing the selection of Koha as our ILS.

So after years of discussion, field trips and demonstrations, it came time to make the decision at a joint Board/librarian’s meeting in October 2005. Most of the libraries were willing to go with Koha, though there was some concern that we were being too ambitious. In the end, all of the libraries agreed, though one library had serious reservations. So, all the IT Department had to do was follow through on the promises that were made.