Koha - Newbie Guide

B W Johnson


This guide is meant for people brand new to Koha. This guide is for people that aren't on any automated library system whatsoever. That's right kiddies, it's for folks that covet stamper, card catalogue, and typewriter. We are old school. You might be a small rural public librarian like me, or you might be someone that has a big private collection that you want to keep tabs on.

Koha basically has three big parts - a mysterious Linux part, an Intranet, and an Online Catalogue. When you first get Koha, the Intranet part is white, grey and purple and says Koha Intranet at the upper left of the page. The online catalogue or OPAC will vary heavily depending on what Library you visit. The default is white, gray and blue, with a little picture in the upper left.

You want to read this if you're going to be dealing with the Intranet part. The Intranet part is the part that lets you mess with the stuff that people see on the online catalogue. There's a lot to the Intranet, but it's not as mysterious to me as the Linux part of Koha.

Koha is friendly enough to deal with if you are not a techie. Honest. My husband was kind enough to set me up a long time ago on version 2.0.3r. After I selected all of my server's parts, I gave him a box of stuff which only ran me about $700, and he turned it in to a server. After that, he stuck Debian Linux on it, Apache, and of course Koha. Since then, he's only needed to upgrade us to Koha 2.0, which went swimmingly, and took only about 5 minutes, and then to 2.2, which took a few hours.

So, you can convince the local tech guru to set this up for you in a couple of hours for the initial installation of Koha, Apache, and Debian Linux. Then you'll need to call on them every now and then to run a rebuild of your records (which is not scary or terribly time consuming) or an upgrade. If you can get them to volunteer here and there, you're set.

I was at a small rural public library, so I couldn't afford to give money to the developers then. Hopefully when I'm someplace else, I'll be able to divert a little money to the project so that all may benefit. If you do have the money to spend, Koha is very valuable, and all of the developers are working hard. I can offer my thanks to all involved in my project, as well as a huge amount of gratitude. This manual is my way of helping, because I can't do much else. A hearty thanks to all of you developers. You are truly helping to make a difference in my small town of 1,811. A thanks in particular to Stephen Hedges who has put up with more than his fair share of pestering from me, Paul Poulain for developing all kinds of features that I wanted in a snap of his fingers, and Josh for doing the same as well as plugging me into the v3 community.

I've been messing around with Koha for a few years now. I've found in computer science there is generally more than one way to do things. My degree is in Library Science, though and not computer science. Also, I'm not yet circulating on Koha, so there are things I'm guessing at. We're pretty close to getting ready to go live now. I'll tell you when I'm not sure about how a feature works.

Unfortunately for you, there's a good chance I might be doing things the slow and stupid way. I know that what I've been doing works, but if you know a better way, please share it. In my dreams, this is a wiki where everyone can edit as things progress.

Stuff you've got

Got Koha

I'm operating on the presumption that you have a computer with Koha installed on it. It doesn't matter whether you got someone else to do that for you, or whether you did it yourself. If you did do it yourself, give yourself a pat on the back.

As of the time that I'm writing this, many people have decided to go with the Nelsonville Templates of Koha, so this will be geared to that set.

If you don't have the system running yet, or are trying to migrate data, please visit kohadocs.org for all sorts of stuff that will most likely be useful to you.

Got stuff to catalogue

This is the stuff that physically comprises your library. It could be books, it could be records, it could be DVDs. Koha doesn't care what kind of materials you catalogue.

As a further note, when I say hit, click, enter or submit, I want you to left click on an option with your mouse.

What Now?

If you're like me, you got all excited about having Koha, and you want to start adding stuff to the catalogue as soon as possible.

From the Welcome screen, pick


in the upper left hand corner and select


from the drop down menu.

Put on your thinking cap and remember the good ole days of library school. If you didn't go to library school, don't despair. It's still possible to deal with Koha. There are some Librarians on the Koha listserv that are willing to help out with Library related questions.

You'll only have to do this once, so don't despair!


A little time spent on this step will save A LOT of time later. So think first. Hard.

You're now at the home base of the Administrations pages.

You'll notice that Koha tells you

For best results, configure these parameters in the order they appear

Let that sink in. Okay. Take a deep breath and continue on.

Adding a New Branch

Your first step is to define Library Branches. Click on Libraries, branches and groups to get started.

Now click on the silver New Library button at the upper left of the page.

You will now arrive at the New Library page.

If you only have one branch like me, this is a cake walk. Just like if you are doing your collection at home, or just one collection of something, you'll only need one branch. If you expand later, Koha can deal with adding a new branch later on.

Enter a short branch code. I'm pretty sure Koha will only take 10 characters here. It doesn't really matter, since you'll get to add something longer later to a different thing that you and your Patrons will actually see. I entered "MAIN" for my library.

Name is the name of your library. I entered "Hinsdale Public Library."

For Address I entered the street and mailing address for my library.

Fill in your Phone, Fax, and Email using the text boxes next to the fields.

Select a Library printer to use from the dropdown adjacent to that label.

Click Submit and that will ensure that the data you've worked hard on will be saved.

If stuff changes, or you mess up, you can go back to

Welcome Page
Libraries, branches and groups

click the dark blue Edit link on the right side of the table in the row you wish to change, change stuff and hit Submit to save your changes.

If you would like to annihilate an entire Branch FOREVER click the dark blue Delete link. Koha will only let you do this if there are no items in that branch.

You'll be sent to a confirmation screen. If you really, really, have your heart set on blowing things up, click the silver Delete Library Button.

Accounts and Budgets

You don't actually need to do anything for this. It is a neat feature if you want to keep track of your budget, but I'm not actually using it to its full capacity yet.

If you want to add your stuff, click on

Accounts and Budgets.

This will take you to Funds and Budgets Administration.

Click on

New Fund

I entered "MAIN" for bookfund, and "Hinsdale Public Library" for Name and selected Main as my Library from the dropdown. As always click on


to save your changes.

Now your new fund will appear in the Funds and Budgets Administration screen, in the form of a line on the grey table.

Click on the blue add budget link under actions to tell Koha a little more about your budget.

Fill in the information for your fiscal year as well as the amount of your fund.

Do not use commas or currency symbols when specifying amounts.

The little icon next to the text boxes allows you to select the date from a calendar. It's your preference which to use.

Then click on


To save your work.

The system will ask for confirmation. Just click on the button with the check mark and carry on.

Currencies and Exchange Rates

As far as I can tell, you don't actually need to do anything for this either, UNLESS you just did your book fund.

If you want click Currencies and Exchange rates, then New currency. Mine is set to US DOLLARS at a rate of 1. If you need more than 1 currency, enter the rate, calculated from your "main" currency.

USD = 1 and EURO = 1.3785 if you're in the States.

Handily, Koha will also show how recent a change was made so that you know how up to date that rate is.

Item Types and circulation codes.

This is super dooper important. Really. But don't panic. The database can handle many, many different types of materials; I got all of mine in without busting anything. I've got 28 item types, but I can only see the first 10 on the Item Types screen.

Don't worry, the other 18 are in there. If you click on the numbers at the bottom beneath the grey table, you'll be able to get to your other item types.

So, what the heck are item types, anyway?

Well, I like to have an item type for each sort of thing that has it's own shelving location in my library.

If you have a different spine label prefix, that's a great indicator that whatever it is your trying to shelve will need its own itemtype. For example


Tells me that I have a kid's book written by Eric Carle. The J is letting me know that I need a category for Children's since


Would be an adult fiction title.

The more categories you create here, the more detailed your reports and statistics can be later.

On the other hand, if you create too many, your processing Staff might get frustrated.

If you forget a group, or start acquiring a new material type, you can come back to this screen and add the new category.

You might need more or less than the 28 that I have. For ease of understanding, the first 20 of my item types are:

Adult Audio Book Fiction
Adult Audio Book Non Fiction
Adult Audio Book on CD Fiction
Adult Audio Book on CD Non Fiction
Adult Fiction
Adult Magazine
Adult Non Fiction
Board Book
Caldecott Award Book
Comic Book
Musical CD
Kid's Easy Reader
Graphic Novel
Kid's Audio Book Fiction
Kid's Audio Non Fiction
Kid's CD
Kid's Fiction
Kid's Magazine
Kid's Non Fiction (Interfiled with Adult).

Adding Item Types

From the Item Types Administration page, click on the silver

New Item Type

button in the upper left.

Input up to a 10 letter code for your item. For example, the code for "Adult Audio Book Fiction" in my library is "AAF". You won't really see this code anywhere else again, it's just there for the computer to mess with.

What you and Patrons *will* see is the description. When I listed the first group of my item types, those were what I chose as all of my descriptions. A good description gives the Patron and the Staff a general idea of where the item is found and what the item is. This is NOT where your Dewey goes or where the precise location goes. It's just general.

Next, select an icon to give Patrons a picture to go with your item type. These let OPAC visitors see what something is at a glance, and it makes your catalogue friendlier to children.

The remote image option is a radio button that allows you to link to your own icon. Neat, huh? You need to give a path to the picture you wish to link to in the text box next to remote image.

If you don't want an icon that used to be next to your itemtype, or you change your mind during the process, you can select remove image to negate your selection.

If your library genrifies fiction, you need to create a new item type for each genre. I.E. an Adventure item type for adventure books, a mystery item type for mystery books. Luckily for you, Koha comes with many different images to go along with your genres.

Don't panic if you accidentally forget something. I forgot my DVDs when I first set up the item types. Since we don't have an old database, it's not a big deal. All you have to do is add the new item type, and you're set.

Just like if you decide to start collecting something new, like music, at your library you can go back and add an item type for music.

Some Librarians have chosen to use itemtypes to differentiate between special circumstances or subjects at their Library. For instance, rotating collections would have their own itemtype. Different departments at a school library might warrant their own itemtype if they occupy a range of shelves.

If this is not totally clear to you, keep struggling with it until it is. It is super dooper important. If you've got questions about it, feel free to email me at , and I'll try to help you understand it.

Not for loan

This is essentially your "building use only" box.

I don't use not for loan, because we don't have much that doesn't circulate at my library. The stuff at my library that doesn't circulate is local history, so I didn't want to ruin the old maps and books by barcoding them.

You would check or tick off this box if you had a collection, like reference, that you wanted to keep track of, but you didn't want to let leave your building.


This text box will let your lucky Patrons renew whatever item type you are working on. For instance, to let my Adult Fiction have 3 go rounds, I put a 2 in the box. This will let your item go out the initial time plus 2 renewals before you have to override it.

Koha will renew your item for the amount of days that you put in the loan length box in the Issuing Rules section.

Because you're setting an item type up for each type of material you circulate, you can choose to let items be renewed or no for each item type. So, theoretically, you could disallow users from renewing their magazines, but allow them to renew their fiction.

You can actually set the renewals to however many you want, up to 999.

Rental charge

Rental charge is where you would assign a fee if you want to rent your patrons stuff. Some libraries charge money to rent a video instead of just lending it out. If this is the case for materials in your library, you would put that fee in this box.

DON'T mess around with this box if you want to charge an overdue fee on an item.


Koha lets you attach a summary to each itemtype. So, suppose something came from your downtown branch. If you stick an anchor in there to your downtown branch's website, it will show beneath the title in the catalogue.

Click Save Changes

After all that work, it would stink to not save it. So make sure you click

Save Changes

after you've puzzled it all out.

Patron types and categories

To the database, there are types of people as well as types of items.

To have you better understand what impact the borrower types have, I'll go through what I put into patron types and categories in Koha.

Just as defining item types was super dooper important, so is defining your borrower categories.

I've set up 9 borrower categories. They are:
Non Resident Borrower
Non Resident Youth
Out Of State
Out of State Youth
and Out of Country

I didn't want to lump in Non Residents with the rest of these fine folks because in Massachusetts, we get funding to offset non resident borrowing. That doesn't count if the person's from out of State, so I needed new categories to keep my data clean for reporting.

You also might later want to know how many residents of your town use your library. You might want to charge an annual fee for non residents. Having a separate category lets you do all of that.

I didn't want to charge my trustees, my staff, or my library kids fines. I also wanted my staff to know when they were waiting on a trustee. So there's the rationale behind those categories.

Notice that I didn't set up male / female categories. You'll see that option when you go to actually add a borrower, which happens later.

Again, it's crucial to understand how this works, or you'll have a big headache later. You can always change things, but you have a choice between assigning a category now, or changing a bajillion patron records later. So if you still don't get it, feel free to email me at .

Add Category

Click on

New category on the

Patron Category Administration page when you're ready to start.

Category code

This field will take 10 characters. This code is primarily around so that the database can manipulate things.


Just like in itemtypes, it's the description field that will show later on, so it's worth the extra time to put a good description in that field.

I just used A,Y,T,S,N et cetera for my borrower codes.

Enrollment period

This is the number of months that the person's record will last. Suppose you wanted to charge non residents an annual fee. When you set up a non resident record, you would set this slot to 12 and the enrollment fee to whatever you wanted to charge.

If you want to keep close tabs on how active your Patrons are, set the number lower.

Age Required

This is what tells Koha the minimum age someone can be for a given category. For my Adults, I set this to 18.

Upperage limit

This is what tells Koha the maximum age someone can be for a given category.

This is what you would mess with if you want a separate category for children.

I set mine for my children's category to 18

Enrollment fee

This would be what you charge people to use your library patrons per annum.

Overdue notice required

This is a yes or no dropdown menu. It helps keep track of overdues for a borrower category. It's used when creating overdue reports.

Reserve fee

This is the amount you wish to charge a patron for placing a hold. We don't charge, so I kept it $0.00.

Category Type

This is the sort of demographic your Patron falls into. If it's an agency card, you'll want to switch this to Organisation. If it's a teacher, you would pick Professional.

Cities and Towns

Defining cities and towns will allow you to save Staff time by entering information for common Patron neighbourhoods. You'll be able to select the City or Town that you enter in this part later on in a drop down menu when you issue a card to a borrower. So very little effort here will save you a lot of effort later.

Click on

Cities and Towns

To get to the Cities management page.

Add a new location by clicking the silver

New city


Type in the city name and zipcode in the two textboxes and hit the Submit button to save.

Your location should now appear in the cities management page.

Road Types

Road types works in a similar fashion to Cities and Towns. Entering Street, Boulevard, Avenue, et cetera into this section will save you from typing these by hand later in the Add Borrowers screen.

Click on

Road Types

To arrive at the Road Type screen.

Click on the silver

New road type button

To define a new thoroughfare.
Simply enter the designation and hit

Submit to save.

Your road type should now appear in the table on the Road Type screen.

Issuing Rules

Click on Circulation rules to reach the

Defining issuing rules for * table.

The good news is that Koha is very granular, which makes for a lot of flexibility so that your policies can be any way you want them to be. More good news is that you've already dealt with setting up Patron and Item types and are now ready to decide what goes out to whom and for how long.

The bad news is that this information appears in a super long seemingly confusing table. It is one of a few screens that garbles if you look at it using IE, too.

However, there is hope. Just persevere. You shall come to love the table. Be one with it.

The most important row of boxes in this whole enchilada is at the very end of the grey table on the right. It is marked simply


This is a wildcard, which means that if you leave a value someplace else blank, these are the numbers that will take over.

It also means that if you keep things simple like I do at my Library, this is the only column you needs fill in. This is because everything at my Library goes out for two weeks and there is no charge associated with taking anything out of my Library.

So for the



I've filled in


That 14 means that the items circulate for 2 weeks or 14 days.

The 999 means that a person can check out 999 items if they so chose. (Don't think this is silly! I had a Patron at one of my Libraries that loved being able to check out a tonne of materials. He regularly had and brought back about 350 items on a daily basis.)

The 0 means that there is no fee associated with this item.

You needs define things for each branch if you have branches, so please do pay attention to that drop down menu at the top of the page to ensure that the Branch you are working on corresponds to the one you wish to change.

This is a crucial table to fill out, so take your time. If you need help, feel free to email me.

mhelman at illinoisalumni.org

Further note that the drop down menu in the middle of the page allows you to set different rules for different branches. So do make sure that you're setting the rules for the applicable branch.

MARC Record Entry

How to Get A Ruddy Record into the Sodding Computer Enyway Warning: This page looks formidable by virtue of it's length, but once you've copped onto the hows, wheres, and whats of it, you'll be just grand. That, and you'll have the ability to get a bibliographic record into your machine in a minute or so.

An overview of what you're actually doing, no matter what catalogue you're using.

Essentially, there are two parts to any copy cataloguing operation, which is what you're on about now.

The first part involves finding that wily creature the MARC record.

(A fine example of said beast http://photoswest.org/marc.htm )

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Take your time when you search to ensure you get a record that's as in depth as you want, since there are like to be many acceptable alternatives. When you're satisfied at long last, you'll take an electronic copy of the one you want.

The second part involves sticking your local junk (or perhaps taking someone else's erroneous local junk away) so that the record takes the shape you want it to for your evil purposes.

That is again: Step 1 Find and Copy, Step 2 Import and Edit. Got it? I've been perpetually amazed at how many folks have no idea that they can get their very own MARC records for free from a reliable source. We generate these dealies, so it only follows we ought be able to easily share em. This forces me to start from the very beginning and walk you through how to export someone else's MARC record for one of your items.

Let's say that you've a copy of Bleak House in your hands. It's a widely held awful title, so there's a good chance you've sullied your hands with it at some point. You have no idea where to begin.

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Right. Why don't you boot on over to AMICUS, the National Library of Canada? As you can see, there's a big blue button smack in the middle of the page that reads Search AMICUS click it.

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Using the Dropdown Menu on the left, I've selected a Title Browse. In the Text Box on the right, type in "Bleak House". When you're done, click Submit.

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Oh look, stuff! Miraculous, eh? Most of us have seen this sort of menu a million times when we go through our own catalogues, so this is like to be routine for you. If it's not, that's not a big deal, because it will be soon.

Go ahead and pick one of the records, so that you can take a closer look. I ended up selecting this one, since it was closest to what I wanted.

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We'll see that the full record shows up rather briefly in this display, which is just peachy. You can always add things that don't appear later on.

Click the Save button to continue on.

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Once you save a record, it goes into a list. You can populate this with more than one record if you like, but for our purposes, I just stuck Bleak house in me cart and bolted for the door.

Despite the fact that the catalogue highlights all of the stuff to either Display and Print or E Mail, you want to hit the Download button on the lower left or upper left. Either will do the trick. If you've a long list, you might only be able to see the lower or upper button, so it's an interface thing designed to save you time.

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Pressing that will take you to this screen.

Here, I've confirmation that the computer did in fact get me list, and that it is in fact in MARC format, and that yes, at long last, that particular record shall be yours.

Redundantly, hit Download again.

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Now things are going to get a little sideways, since your particular computer will prompt you for where you want to put this file. It will show up in your downloads folder, which may be called downloads like mine, or it might show up on your desktop, or wherever else you tell it to go. Just remember that this one is called outputs-1.

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Because I'm super thorough, I like to check and make sure that what I just downloaded actually has some sort of information in it. Sometimes wonky catalogues will give you cheap tawdry data that you don't want anywhere near your nice silck Koha DB. If you open your file and see gobbledee gook like this, you're good to go.

Cheer up! You're halfway there! Now that you've found your record, you need to import it into Koha.

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So trek on over to the login screen.

Input your username and password in the text boxes and then hit Login>> just beneath them to access Koha's Staff Client.

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From here, select Tools on the right hand lower side of the page.

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Select Stage MARC Records For Import the first option of the Centre column of the page, which is hiding under the search box.

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This will bring you to the Stage MARC Records For Import screen.

You've to do a bunch of stuff here.

First, you've to find the file that has your data. In our case, it's that outputs-1 file. You'll find that certain catalogues tend to name files in a certain fashion. Over time, you can become acquainted with which catalogues an item comes from just by the title of this file.

So, click on Choose File select outputs-1

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and click on Upload file.

You'll be able to see if you were successful right away.

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You can add a note, but that is optional.

Be sure to have your MARC flavour the way you want it. If multiple people are working with you, you might want to have the system check for more records like the one you just uploaded. The next drop down will enable you to either look or not bother. I switched mine to check against the ISBN field, though that won't work well for older materials.

The one after that allows you to select what will happen if you did care about finding a match. One of the choices is to overwrite the previous bibliographic record with the one you just fetched, which isn't the best decision, so I've selected Ignore incoming record (its items may still be processed) instead.

The third dropdown is what will happen if there aren't any records in the reservoir, and is set to Add incoming record by default.

When you're all through, hit Stage for import to get on with it.

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You'll find yourself at another confirmation page. This tells you that yes There's only 1 record There's no error in it's MARC diction 1 record was processed Naught matched in the database And there weren't any miscellaneous orphans running about.

Click the tiny blue Manage staged records to get on with it.

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This screen will laboriously tell you what you already know. Just hit Complete import to continue.

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This page is your last chance to not load items into Koha, but why would you want to deny them at this stage?

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You'll need to head over to Cataloguing >> Add books to actually work on your record.

At the very bottom, you'll see our wayward Bleak house is in fact in the reservoir. Click on Add biblio to the right of the title to move on.

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I like to flip on over to the tab containing the Title fields to ensure that the thing I'm working on is actually what the computer thinks I'm working on.

Note that blue hyperlinked elipsis to the right of Charles' name. That's an authorised heading link. It's a neat way to check that things are up to snuff and that you don't have Charles Dickens Dickens, Charles and Dickens, Charles. lurking in your catalogue. Uniformity where it's warranted will help your catalogue stay neat and easy for your patrons to use. After you're done adding fields that might be missing by clicking the + sign next to a field, hit Save at the upper left under Add MARC Record.

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That will bring you to the end of the road for this MARC Record! Hooray! This used to be a lot simpler to deal with. Really, you needs ensure that the p for Piece designation (barcode) is filled in with the item's barcode. that it's on the c - shelving location that you want it to be on and that y Koha Itemtype reflects what it is you're holding in your hand as well as the call number is there so you know where to find it next. The dropdowns for branch are important to multibranch systems so stuff gets back to the right location.

Clicking Add item will put this record into your catalogue. You can then access the OPAC to ensure that everything you thought you put in there shows up the way you want it to.

That's it! If you need help feel free to contact me at mhelman@illinoisalumni.org

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