As a fully functioning ILS, Koha provides all of the traditional modules that commercial vendors do such as circulation, cataloging, OPAC, patron management, serials management, acquisitions, reports, reserves, and branch relationships. It offers several features that make it a viable option for both staff members and patrons alike


From a technical standpoint, there are several reasons to recommend Koha. Koha is web-based. It uses the RDBMS search function, specifically, MySQL (also open source), which stores data in the form of relational tables making searching more powerful (Pajewski, 2010). It also uses Zebra for its bibliographic databases (Breeding, 2008). Zebra is a text based indexing and retrieval engine that is capable of supporting large databases. Koha also relies on current standards (i.e. XHTML, CSS, Javascript) which ensures interoperability between other systems (Pajewski, 2010). Because of this, it allows for a smooth transition from other systems.

Although not all of Koha's features can be described here, there are a few important ones to discuss. For cataloging, Koha utilizes Z39.50 making cataloging more efficient (Breeding, 2008). In addition, the use of Z39.50 for ordering materials (added in the latest version) increases acquisitions efficiency. It also relies on MARC21 and UNIMARC records. For patron management and circulation there are some nice features. Patrons can automatically be e mailed or texted about overdue reminders or holds, etc. In addition, there are various reports that can be run to give libraries a grasp on circulation statistics (Pajewski, 2010). The reports can be run on a few different systems such as Microsoft Access. Another important feature of Koha is the reserves module. Staff can adjust circulation statistics and checkout rules for reserved items (2010). For instance, staff could enable the system to only allow a checkout period for a few hours if items need to be used by multiple patrons such as for a class. The latest version of Koha, 3.2, has also added some features. Staff can batch modify or delete items, and add more types of patron permissions. In addition, Koha has been integrated with SOPAC, which allows users to tag, rate, and review materials (2010).

Also extremely important for library staff is the type of support that is available for the product. There are options for libraries who want free support. Koha provides tutorials and training materials on its website. Libraries can also subscribe to their mailing list and participate in their IRC (their real time chat). There is also a growing Koha community and a growing number of libraries around the world that are using Koha. For those who need increased support, there are several commercial options available. Various companies offer different levels of support such as installation, migration assistance, data integrity testing, staff training, software maintenance, and development of new features (Pajewski, 2010).


Of course, the most important part of the ILS for patrons is the OPAC. Research done by Yang and Hoffman (2010) looked at the OPACs of Koha, Evergreen and one commercial vendor to see how they measured up to the "next generation" library catalog. They defined "next generation" based on 10 different criteria. Although the study concluded that ILS OPACs have a long way to go before meeting all of these criteria, Koha had the highest score when comparing all three. Koha scored six full points and two half-points (for partially fulfilling two criteria) compared with 4 points for Evergreen. One criteria Koha received credit for was for having a simple user interface (Google-like) that was customizable. Another was "enriched content" such as book covers, tags, descriptions, reviews, and comments. In addition, library users can add this same type of content (subject to library approval). Koha also offers keyword searching (with a link to advanced searching) and faceted searching. In addition, Koha provides RSS feeds for users. Koha received partial credit for having a "Did you mean " feature, because it just normalizes the search term rather than giving users the opportunity to choose this option or choose a different term. Koha also received partial credit for "single point of entry for all library information." Koha is able to link journal titles from its catalog to ProQuest's Serials Solutions, which leads users directly to journals in the electronic databases.

Example of Koha OPAC from NEKLS http://www.nekls.org/

Who Should Use Koha?