Customising your Koha catalogue

by Aleisha Amohia

Koha librarians have the power to completely customise their public catalogue (OPAC). Koha provides a range of functionality to style the OPAC’s theme so it will align with the library’s organisational branding. Here are some ways you can customise your Koha catalogue. After redesigning your OPAC, you may be interested in increasing clicks to your Koha.

Put custom content on the homepage

The OPAC is divided into sections which can hold custom content or be edited.

In Koha 21.05 and earlier, the tools to edit these sections can all be found in the staff client, under ‘Tools’ > ‘News’.

In Koha 21.11, the tools to edit these sections can still be found in the staff client, however most sections have been separated out to ‘Tools’ > ‘HTML customisations’. You may also use the tools ‘Tools’ > ‘News’ and ‘Tools’ > ‘Quote editor’.

The ‘HTML customisations’ and ‘News’ tools provide a WYSIWYG editor so tables and images can be simply inserted or text can be easily formatted, and a text editor for those who are more comfortable with writing HTML.

The editable regions on the OPAC are commonly utilised by Koha libraries for different reasons.

The header

One of the regions available for HTML customisation is opacheader. The header appears between the top navigation bar (where the Cart and Lists menu live) and the catalogue search bar. This section is typically used to show a company banner or logo. Any opacheader customisations will show across the whole OPAC, not just the homepage.

The custom search

OpacCustomSearch is the region to work with if your library would like to make changes to the catalogue search bar. These changes will be applied to every page where the catalogue search bar shows. We often develop HTML customisations in OpacCustomSearch when changing how patrons can conduct searches, such as implementing a a way to search EBSCO’s Discovery Service without integrating a plugin.

Navigation

There are three different sections that can be treated as navigation menus – OpacNav, OpacNavBottom, and OpacNavRight.

OpacNav and OpacNavBottom make up the left sidebar of the homepage. Unfortunately these sections can still only be edited in system preferences, which means there is only a text editor available, and they are not easily translatable. However, plenty of Koha libraries use these sections to link to other useful websites and resources, such as instructional user guides or information about other services that the library’s wider organisation provides.

OpacNavRight sits on the right sidebar of the homepage. This section can be edited in the ‘HTML customisations’ tool. OpacNavRight is another great area to supply helpful links, or display useful information such as the library’s contact information or library tips.

The main user block

OpacMainUserBlock holds the key creative content your library may use to grab the attention of patrons. This section can be edited in the ‘HTML customisations’ tool, and plenty of libraries have multiple OpacMainUserBlocks!

Koha libraries utilise OpacMainUserBlock in a range of ways. Many start with a welcome message, and a blurb about the library and what it offers. OpacMainUserBlock has also been used to showcase interesting articles, reviews, and blog posts written by the library.

Some libraries choose to display interactive, catalogue-centred content, such as sliders or carousels. Sliders can display book covers from lists and reports made within Koha, so the library has full flexibility and power to include whichever records they’d like. Titles which have been recently added to the catalogue, or titles by New Zealand authors, or even simply images of the library, are some examples of slider themes we’ve seen on Koha homepages.

The footer

The footer on all pages of your library’s OPAC can be edited using the opaccredits region. This is a great place to include information or links that your patrons might like to access easily at any point. Many Koha libraries use the footer to display their opening hours, contact information, and social media links.

Login instructions

The OpacLoginInstructions section is useful to provide further detail to patrons about how to access the library’s catalogue and their library information. This section has been used to describe how to log in to the OPAC, use the library’s single sign-on service, or access the library’s self-checkout platform.

News

Koha provides an awesome feature for libraries to post news items, found under ‘Tools’ > ‘News’. News items are best utilised for announcements that only need to appear for a specified amount of time, for example, notices about how a library will operate during a lockdown.

These news items can be configured to display on the staff client, or the OPAC, or both. They can also have date settings, so they can be scheduled to publish on a chosen date, or expired and hidden from a chosen date.

Quote of the day

If the library is interested in displaying quotes, there is a cool feature that can be enabled using the QuoteOfTheDay system preference. The ‘Quote editor’ tool in the staff client can be used to add and edit quotes for Koha to display on the staff client, or the OPAC, or both!

Reach your patrons in their language

Custom OPAC content that can be edited under ‘Tools’ > ‘HTML customisations’ and ‘Tools’ > ‘News’ can be uploaded in any language installed for your Koha. The languages available to view the OPAC are set using the OPACLanguages system preference. The ‘HTML customisations’ and ‘News’ tools will allow you to create custom content in any of the languages checked in OPACLanguages.

This feature makes your Koha more accessible to your patrons. Your library can display your welcome message in English, and Spanish, and Korean, and any other language you would have installed.

A tip: even if you don’t have it translated, you should still create sections in all of your installed languages to hold your custom content. If there is no content set in one of the available languages, then when the OPAC is switched to display that language, no content will show.

OPAC system preferences

Additional to the OPAC editable regions for putting custom content on the homepage, preferences can be set to further configure the way the OPAC looks and behaves, and how patrons might interact with it. These global system preferences can be found in the ‘Koha administration’ module in the staff client. There are plenty of preferences specifically for the OPAC, but there are a few that are commonly used and worth highlighting.

Colours, fonts, and other display properties

There are a few ways for libraries to control the styles applied across the OPAC. This means libraries can make changes to the way everything looks – colours, fonts, font sizes, images, backgrounds, or completely hide elements. Style properties can also be applied when an element is hovered over, or clicked.

The best way to apply styles across many different elements is to link an external stylesheet in the OpacAdditionalStylesheet system preference. It makes it easier to modify things again as all of the applied changes are in one place.

If the library can’t link to an external stylesheet, the OpacUserCSS system preference can be used for style fixes.

There is also an OpacUserJS system preference that can be used to apply Javascript to the OPAC. Javascript is useful for a huge range of things – we often use OpacUserJS to add new HTML elements to the pages such as dropdown menus, buttons, and links. We also use Javascript to hide and show elements that patrons shouldn’t see or have access to, and to animate features such as sliders.

Other system preferences

  • OPACUserSummary – Show a summary of a patron’s checkouts, overdues, holds and charges on the OPAC homepage
  • OPACReportProblem – Allow patrons to submit problems found in the OPAC interface to KohaAdminEmailAddress
  • OPACHiddenItems – Define rules to hide items from OPAC
  • OPACHiddenItemsExceptions – Allow specified patron categories to see otherwise hidden items
  • OPACAdvSearchOptions – Hide options from the OPAC advanced search page
  • OPACSuggestionsUnwantedFields – Hide fields from OPAC suggestion page
  • hidelostitems – Hide lost items from search and detail pages
  • HighlightOwnItemsOnOPAC & HighlightOwnItemsOnOPACWhich – Move items to the front and increase font size from patron’s home library
  • OPACHighlightedWords – Choose if patrons search terms are highlighted in result and detail pages
  • NotHighlightedWords – Define stopwords that should never be highlighted
  • OPACMySummaryHTML – Add a column in the tables on the 'My summary' and 'My checkout history' pages for logged in OPAC users
  • OPACNoResultsFound – Add HTML to be displayed when no results are found for an OPAC search

If your Koha library would like assistance implementing any of these ideas, or if you’re wondering if another idea can be done with Koha, feel free to contact our New Zealand or Australian Koha teams.