Koha

 The Koha library catalogue at the Library of the National Botanic Garden of Wales

The Library at the National Botanic Garden of Wales is a small reference library of donated books, pamphlets and papers and is run entirely by volunteers.

It is a very new library – the Garden itself opened in 2000 and the development of a Library began in 2008. We opted for the Koha open-source software for our first library catalogue;  not only were we able to download and install it free of charge, but it is user-friendly and does not require professional or specialist IT expertise.  The fact that it was developed by librarians attracted us, as well as its open-source, evolving nature and the existence of an online support community of users.   Two of our volunteers, neither of whom have a professional Library or IT background, have been able to establish and use Koha with very minimal training;  they have gone on to configure and tailor it to meet our specific needs, produce our own ‘tutorial’ booklet and cascade their knowledge to an additional 7 or 8 volunteers.

Since installing Koha in the Spring of 2010, we have catalogued the bulk of our ‘main’ collection of books (around 4000 items) although few of our pamphlets and journals to date.

Books are kept in a number of locations around the Garden, and Koha allows us to identify these and label the location of each book.   Because our collection is entirely made up of donated books, our records identify the donor and/or any special collections – for example, the books included in a significant bequest from Ann Conolly and in major donations from David Mabberley and Charles Stirton, are identified as part of distinct collections.  Koha also enables us to develop special interest lists (reading lists), to produce statistical reports on our collection and, where there is a need, to create enhanced records with detailed ‘contents’ lists, local subject headings etc.

We have been greatly aided in the work of cataloguing our collection by an agreement with the Library at Kew for us to be able to download their records, which accounts for well over half our collection;  the Kew records gave us an initial format which guided us in the configuration of our catalogue – which MARC fields to use, etc.  Where there is no Kew record, we have where possible located a record via other Libraries’ catalogues online (notably the Natural History Museum, the National Library of Wales and the Lindley Library of the RHS) to support our own manual cataloguing.  We also acknowledge the support of the online Koha user community in assisting with resolving technical issues we have encountered, especially in our first few months of using the system.

Our OPAC (webcat) is available, using internet browsers, currently on all office computers and laptops within the Garden’s own network and its public WiFi hotspots, thus making it accessible to Garden staff, volunteers and placement students, as well to any visiting researchers or to the Garden’s Members on request.  Our eventual intention is that it should be accessible more widely via the Garden’s internet website, which will enable potential donors to view our existing collection, as well as making our library more accessible to the Garden’s members, other Botanic Gardens and interested institutions and individuals.

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