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KohaCon 2023 Day Three Highlights


KohaCon 2023 Day Three Highlights

Alex Buckley, Catalyst Koha Developer, is back to bring you a final update of day three - the last day of talks - at KohaCon 2023 held in Helsinki. Missed the highlights from day two? Check it out here.

KohaCon 2023: Day Three Highlights

1.Manage pages in Koha OPAC - Gladys Cathelain - BibLibre

BibLibre is a French Koha support vendor. Gladys explained how BibLibre discovered libraries can add custom content to their OPAC’s using HTML customisations and the Pages tool. The combination of HTML customisations and the Pages tool empowers libraries to craft tailored experiences, share crucial information, and present resources efficiently – without running another website.

Gladys kindly gave a shout-out to Aleisha Amohia, the Catalyst Koha Technical Lead. The reason was that Aleisha, with sponsorship from Region Halland, Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand and Horowhenua District Libraries, wrote the Pages tool.

Gladys Cathelain (BibLibre) giving a shoutout to our team for upstreaming the Pages feature

Koha HTML:

The Tools module in the Koha staff client enables libraries to enhance the OPAC by adding custom content to specific regions, like the OpacMainUserBlock on the home page. Additionally, the module includes the Pages tool, allowing librarians to create new editable pages for the OPAC and staff client. Links to these pages can be seamlessly integrated into HTML customisations, offering patrons direct navigation.

The Pages tool is particularly useful for creating dedicated pages, facilitating the transfer of custom content from OPAC HTML customisations to organised, separate pages. This streamlines the OPAC home page, providing a cleaner user experience while ensuring easy access to personalised content.

Koha HTML customisation ideas:

  • OpacCustomSearch system preference: Libraries favoring a discovery layer over the Koha OPAC search can use the OpacCustomSearch system preference. By embedding HTML code into this preference, the default search box transforms into a tailored search box that leads to the chosen discovery layer. Patrons retain access the Koha account management features while seamlessly transitioning to the preferred discovery interface for searching. This approach optimizes user experience by merging the strengths of both systems.
  • OpacLibraryInfo system preference: Libraries can showcase third-party service opening hours through the OpacLibraryInfo system preference. By incorporating a widget—a tool for presenting external HTML code—libraries can effectively present accurate opening times. This information becomes visible in the OPAC, enabling patrons to access essential service details. Then that content will be displayed on the OPAC.
  • OpacMoreSearches system preferences: This can be useful to increase the number of links visible beneath the OPAC search box. Many libraries utilise this preference to include links to custom content webpages generated using the Pages tool, as described earlier. This enhances accessibility of tailored information and optimises the userexperience by providing direct access to pertinent resources from the OPAC search interface.

The Koha Pages Tool:

This feature facilitates the creation of custom content pages not only in the staff client but also in the OPAC. Examples include dedicated pages for accessing library documentation or displaying librarians' work schedules. This tool maximises communication and accessibility by tailoring information to users across different languages and interfaces.

Because Koha has always been a translatable software, the Pages tool is set up so libraries can translate content for each language used within their Koha instance.

It was wonderful to see libraries picking up this feature and running with it, so soon after release last November. Thank you Gladys!

For those looking for some “how to” instructions for setting up Pages, try this blogpost.

2. Koha Cypress: Automated Screenshots For The Manual, Jonathan Druart

Documentation plays an important role in software projects. That’s why the Koha community produces an updated manual with each 6-monthly major release. The manual incorporates around 1635 screenshots from Koha user interfaces (UI). When significant UI changes occur, such as the case with bug 30952, updating numerous screenshots becomes essential. A dedicated team of volunteers oversees the Koha manual publication and maintenance.

Jonathan's presentation highlighted the potential of Cypress, a tool capable of automating screenshot capture for the manual. The Koha community could leverage Cypress to achieve two main objectives:

  1. Regression Tests: By scripting an inspection of web page elements, tests can identify missing elements, indicating potential bugs that need investigation. This technique enhances quality assurance by alerting the community to deviations from expected UI elements.
  2. Automated Screenshots: Cypress can simulate user inputs, interacting with the browser to capture screenshots of specified elements on a page. This streamlines the process of generating updated screenshots for the manual, particularly useful when UI changes necessitate multiple updates.

Cypress offers the Koha community efficient solutions for both quality assurance and streamlined documentation maintenance, contributing to a more robust and user-friendly software experience.

Jonathan proposed a possible approach for implementing Cypress:

  1. List screenshots that need to be taken (dev).
  2. Group by how difficult to capture using Cypress (anyone).
  3. Add info on does the screenshot take the page, and element/ID.

You can track how this important automation work is progressing on bug 34076 .

3. Making The Most Of Koha Features To Protect Citizens, Aude Charillon – PTFS Europe

As we all know, user privacy is an important concern. Aude from PTFS Europe delivered an insightful talk emphasising the Koha system preferences for:

  • Safeguarding user privacy.
  • Providing transparency regarding stored user data.

Aude's presentation discussed how libraries are accountable for collected patron data. Koha tools facilitate responsible data management, cultivating a culture of data stewardship that ensures user privacy, and compliance with best practices.

Aude Charillon (PTFS Europe) speaking on how retaining patron data that is no longer used is not something libraries should be doing due to their responsibilities towards their patron’s privacy

Here are a few steps your library may find beneficial to follow:

  1. Review Collected Personal Data: Assess the personal data collected and make fields optional or hidden in the borrower editor form if unnecessary for your library's operation.
  2. Implement AnonymousPatron Preference: Decouple historical circulation data from borrower information by configuring the AnonymousPatron preference. Automate data anonymisation by setting up the cronjob, which replaces the borrower information with a 'fake' anonymous patron's identifier after a set period.
  3. Consider Pseudonymization: If libraries enable the Pseudonymization preference Koha will retain historical circulation history data for reporting purposes, while detaching it from data specific patrons. This replaces borrowernumbers with hashed values, permitting reporting on patron activity without direct identification.
  4. Strengthen Password Practices: Enable password-related system preferences like FailedLoginAttempts, NotifyPasswordChange, minPasswordLength, and RequireStrongPassword. These practices enforce stronger password security, inform users of changes to their accounts, and encourage prompt response if unauthorised changes occur.

Community Driving Further Security and Privacy Improvements In Koha

Aude finished with a suggestion for enhancement the Koha community could support: the introduction of varying anonymisation periods for distinct borrower categories.

This feature would allow libraries to maintain circulation history for specific patron types for longer durations as required. For instance, maintaining the circulation history is more critical for housebound patrons, for whom the libraries make a reading selection, and can do a better job of that by checking the item hasn’t been selected before. Aude hopes to see this features supported for a future release of Koha.

You can join Aude on the discussion about this enhancement on bug 34534.

4. Five Years And One Feature Later, Alex Buckley – Catalyst IT

Then, I had the pleasure of presenting my second conference talk. It covered the journey of integrating the recalls feature into Koha. This was a process spanning over five years, which was led by Aleisha. We expressed our gratitude for the community's collaborative efforts and contributions during this period, and shared the challenges we encountered.

For those interested in how to use the recalls feature, this blogpost will give you a start.

While I am here, thank you so much to everyone who had kind feedback for me, especially Arthur Suzuki from BibLibre who recommend my Day 2 talk 'Tip Top Training Tips' during his lightning talk. The exchange of ideas and support within the community throughout Kohacon made the experience truly rewarding.

5. Libraries And Indigenous Data Sovereignty, Chris Cormack – Catalyst IT

Chris Cormack gave a talk on Indigenous data sovereignty for libraries from a Māori perspective. His presentation underlined the critical impact of data storage location on its usage. Storing Māori data within Aotearoa New Zealand subjects it to local law, while overseas storage is governed by foreign regulations. This usage has tangible consequences, particularly for indigenous communities facing discrimination through data misuse.

For example:

  • New Zealand's data on higher Māori incarceration rates perpetuates discriminatory legal systems.
  • Predictive models for "potential criminal behavior" could misuse library data, revealing resources accessed.
  • In repressive regimes, LGBTQIA+ resource history might lead to arrests.
    Hence, data storage significantly affects patron welfare, making it a paramount consideration for libraries.

So Chris asked libraries to consider the following questions:

  • Do we know where our data is stored?
  • Can we get all of it out at any time?
  • Can we identify indigenous data?
  • Sometimes are we not collecting enough data or the right data?
  • What access do we provide for indigenous people to get their data?
  • Should we be holding this data?

Koha does quite well on a couple of these questions, we do we know where data is stored and we can get data out easily. But improvements are necessary and libraries should also consider if they should collect, aggregate and use data about patrons.

Chris Cormack (Catalyst IT) posing questions for libraries to consider around the storage of data about indigenous library patrons.

6. Wrapping Up KohaCon Talks 2023

As the third day of the conference concluded, the presentations wrapped up, paving the way for the upcoming two days of the hackathon. During the hackathon, members of both the Koha and Perl communities unite to work on Koha bugs and new features for Koha. It is also a time when new contributors are guided through their first contributions to Koha.

Before the day ended, I called upon the Koha community to maintain their impressive record of supporting the high-school students who participate in Koha development. The community have been wonderfully supportive over the years by tagging bugs for academy students to fix, and working on testing and sign-offs so the students patchesee their patches make it in to Koha during intensive academy period.

Lastly, the community received an official invitation to the next Kohacon, scheduled to coincide with the Perl conference in Montreal next September. The event will be hosted by InLibro, a prominent Canadian Koha support vendor. The anticipation for the next KohaCon was palpable, and the community is eagerly looking forward to returning next year .

We can’t wait for next KohaCon 2024!

Formal invitation to KohaCon24 in Montreal, Canada in September next year by InLibro, at the closing of the talks for KohaCon23