Monday, March 23, 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 (, 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* (‡ and ‡ (‡, 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 ‡ is an open-data answer to OCLC's WorldCat. LibLime is too politic to state things so clearly, but together ‡Biblios and ‡ 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

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.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you like the double dagger, you should read Robin McKinley's blog. She footnotes her footnotes at great length, and often has to resort to the double dagger as well as other interesting items.

3/24/2009 10:54 PM  
Blogger Brenda Chawner said...

It's great to see LTFL being extended to Koha, and I agree that ‡Biblios is a project that gives people who think that library data should be freely available hope for the future. However, I'd like to point out that the Koha community is still global, and LibLime's work in the US is complemented by people in France, the UK, New Zealand, and India, among others, which gives the project its vibrancy. Without this global community, LibLime wouldn't have been able to achieve so much so fast.

3/26/2009 9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shouldn't you have used an obelisk before a diesis?

3/27/2009 3:11 PM  
Anonymous Jim Roberts said...

Oops, I didn't mean to be anon, must have mistyped.

3/27/2009 3:14 PM  
Anonymous cad_lib said...

Welcome to Chris! Lots of interesting things to consider in reading your CV. Looks like a good hire, Tim.

3/30/2009 6:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have made some modifications to the code to add the option to move the LTFL information into the Tabs, which should clean things up a bit.
for screenshots.

4/01/2009 1:27 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I have made some modifications to the code to add the option to move the LTFL information into the Tabs, which should clean things up a bit.
for screenshots.

4/01/2009 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Galen Charlton said...

Thanks to the efforts of Christoper Hyde at EBPL and Chris Catalfo, it's now possible to enable support for LTFL in the bleeding edge version of Koha by simply signing up for the service and setting a couple Koha system preferences. No need to edit templates directly any longer.

4/28/2009 9:06 AM  

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