The Catalyst Koha team are delighted to celebrate the release Koha 20.11. This release contains 775 changes including 9 new features, 354 enhancements to existing features, and 412 bug and security fixes. This major release also adds 27 new system preferences allowing libraries further freedom to customise the behaviour of their Koha site. This blog will cover a few of the new features and enhancements we are particularly excited about:
Circulation feature – Group circulation by item type
This feature has been written to help simplify circulation rules, which can very quickly grow out of control when you have many item types and borrower categories! You can now create a ‘parent’ item type to group multiple ‘children’ item types – for example, you may have a ‘Media’ item type group containing the ‘Music’ and ‘Visual Materials’ item types. You can then create a circulation rule using the ‘Media’ parent item type to apply checkout limits to all children item types.
Circulation feature – Specify a reason when cancelling a hold and send a notice to the borrower
This new feature allows staff to state a reason for cancellation when cancelling a hold. Cancellation reasons can be configured by adding values to the ‘HOLD_CANCELLATION’ authorised value, found under Koha Administration. Optionally, the library can also define a notice with the code ‘HOLD_CANCELLATION’ to be sent to borrower if their hold has been cancelled and a reason was specified.
Acquisitions enhancement – Hide chosen fields from the OPAC suggestions form
This enhancement adds a new system preference OPACSuggestionUnwantedFields to configure the visibility of the input fields on the OPAC suggestion form. Simply check the unwanted fields in the OPACSuggestionUnwantedFields system preference in the Staff Client to hide them from the OPAC purchase suggestion form.
Notices enhancement – Custom destination for failed overdue notices
This is another enhancement written by Catalyst! Previously, overdue notices would fail to deliver to Koha patrons with no primary email address. These failed overdue notices would then be sent to the branch email, or the email set in the KohaAdminEmailAddress system preference. This wasn’t always appropriate and meant that, not only did patrons miss the notification that their item is overdue for return, but also libraries would miss that their patrons had no registered email address to receive notices. This enhancement adds a new system preference AddressForFailedOverdueNotices for libraries to specify a separate email address to send failed notices.
Cataloguing enhancement – Add ability to attach a cover image at item level
If the LocalCoverImages and AllowMultipleCovers system preferences are enabled, it will now be possible to attach a local cover image to a specific item, not just to the whole record. This is especially useful for subscriptions, where the cover image will likely vary per serial. Images are uploaded to a record and to items via the staff client, but if you also enable the OPACLocalCoverImages system preference, they will show on the OPAC too!
Circulation enhancement – Make high holds work with different item types and number of open days
This enhancement was proudly written by Catalyst IT, and is yet another way that Koha gives the library control over its system. Previously, Koha provided a set of system preferences to enable reducing the loan period for high demand items, which are characterised by reaching a specified number of holds. This enhancement introduces a new circulation rule ‘Decreased loan period for high holds’ which will override the value defined in the decreaseLoanHighHoldsDuration system preference for specific item types, or patron categories, or branches. For example, I can use the system preferences to set a global rule that reduces the loan period to 7 days if a record has more than 5 holds. I can then set a circulation rule to reduce the loan period to 3 days if a record has more than 5 holds and the loaned item is a Book. This enhancement is especially useful if a library has specific item types that will be required often, such as course reserves.
Fines and fees enhancement – Add options to charge new or restore forgiven overdues when a lost item is returned
This new feature allows libraries to control what happens regarding fines when a lost item is found and returned. Specifically, this enhancement adds two new options to the ‘Default lost item fee refund on return policy’ dropdown in circulation rules. When a lost item is found, the library can choose to do any one of the following actions:
- Refund the lost item charge
- Refund the lost item charge and charge a new overdue fine
- Refund the lost item charge and restore the original overdue fine, or
- Leave the lost item charge
A previous fix wiped overdue fines when a lost item was returned without the library’s approval, so this enhancement was developed to give libraries the flexibility to choose which fines get charged in this situation.
OPAC enhancement – Holds history for patrons in OPAC
This is a helpful new feature that allows patrons to see the history of their holds via their account in the OPAC. This was already accessible on the staff client, but libraries may also want to allow their borrowers to view their own holds history. The OPACHoldsHistory system preference must be enabled.
An accessibility audit on the OPAC took place during this release cycle. We’ve begun making changes to Koha to increase its accessibility, and in doing so, make it more robust and usable for everyone.
We’re also pleased to announce that the Catalyst Koha team has grown! We welcome Wainui Witika-Park, a new developer, who has already made her mark on the Koha community by contributing to many of the following accessibility enhancements included in the Koha 20.11 release:
- Header levels – All OPAC pages should now contain just one H1 level heading and then consistent header increments without gaps. This is helpful particularly for screen readers.
- Skip to main content – A hidden button now appears upon first tab navigation to allow keyboard users skip to the main content of the page quickly without having to tab through all the navigation elements.
- We now consistently introduce content on all OPAC pages using properly defined headers, which is great for screen readers.
- DataTables content overlap improvements were undertaken to prevent content overlapping at high zoom levels.
- The aria-label HTML tag was exposed to the translation tools to encourage a wider adoption of it’s use. Aria-labels are used by screen readers in cases where a text label is not visible on the screen.
- The shelf browser has been improved to visibly show focus when a cover image is missing, and is now announced when loaded after selecting the ‘browse shelf’ link.
- The date picker calendar is now operable via keyboard commands.
- Some new coding guidelines were introduced focused on accessibility and bugs opened to collect cases where these new guidelines are not yet adhered to in the existing codebase.
- Finally, to encourage continued focus on accessibility in future cycles, a new role ‘Accessibility Advocate’ was added to the team for the next release which will be Koha 21.05.
Read more about the 775 features, enhancements, and security and bug fixes of the 20.11 Release on the Koha Community Website.
Written by Aleisha Amohia, Catalyst Koha Developer.
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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