Koha - reflecting on the name

by Kris Wehipeihana

We're probably all familiar with the legend of Koha (that it is a web-based library system created in response to the Y2K bug, still going strong 21 years later) but do we know why 'Koha'?

The Catalyst Koha team have been thinking about this during September. It's a month that focuses on the use of te reo Māori (the Māori language) which is the Indigenous language of Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Koha is a Māori word and is most often translated  as 'gift'. It was chosen as the name for the new library system "because it's our gift to the library community" said Rosalie Blake in 2000, as the then-head librarian of Horowhenua Library Trust. It also has a deeper meaning which suits both libraries and the open source environment - reciprocity and social relationships.

A koha is a gift that comes with or fulfils an obligation. It implies that there is an ongoing relationship between the gift giver and the gift receiver and that this will be an exchange at various stages during the relationship. As a community we accept responsibility to nurture and care for the  code. We collaborate with each other to fix bugs or create enhancements or update documentation.

'Koha' may be a Māori word but the values and philosophy behind it translate to an international community.

You can hear how the New Zealand team pronounce 'koha' via the Māori Dictionary.

Catalyst Koha

If you have any questions or comments about this News item, or would like some support with your Koha instance, you are welcome to email us at [email protected] (New Zealand) or [email protected] (Australia).

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