Release of Koha 21.11

The Catalyst Koha team are thrilled to celebrate the release of Koha 21.11. This major release contains 588 changes including 4 new features, 196 enhancements and 388 bug and security fixes. Every six months the Koha community does a major release, like 21.11. This is when most enhancements are added to Koha, so it’s always interesting to see what’s going to be available to libraries in their next upgrade. Here are the Catalyst Koha team’s top picks from Koha 21.11:


Cataloguing enhancement - write protecting MARC fields based on source of import

This powerful new feature in Koha 21.11 enables librarians to define rules for specific MARC fields to be either protected (remain unchanged), overwritten, or appended to when different types of imports, or edits, happen in the staff client. To define these rules, set the ‘MARCOverlayRules’ system preference to ‘Use’, and navigate to ‘Administration’ > ‘Catalog’ > ‘Record overlay rules’. This feature is complex, and documentation for it has not yet been added to the Koha 21.11 manual, so you could take a look at the notes related to the MARCOverlayRules feature.

An example of how a rule setup is, if you wanted to protect the 942$c (Koha biblio-level item-type) subfield from changing when biblios are edited you’d select the following options:

  • Module = ‘Source’
  • Filter = ‘Staff client MARC editor’
  • Tag = ‘942’
  • Preset = ‘Protect’ (this will populate the ‘Added’, ‘Appended’, ‘Removed’ and ‘Deleted’ dropdowns).

Then whenever librarians edit biblios if they make changes to any 942 subfield those changes will not be saved – as you’ve ‘protected’ the 942 subfields.

New MARC overlay rules page containing a rule for protecting the 942 tag from changing when biblios are edited


Cataloguing enhancement - add option for using a MARC modification template on a single record from the details page

Here’s a time saving enhancement, when you’re viewing a biblio record in the staff client click ‘Edit’ > ‘Modify record using template’. That will load the Batch record modification page, pre-populated with the biblionumber of the record you were just on. Select the MARC modification template (a set of changes to MARC fields) to apply to the biblio, and confirm. I think this would be useful whenever you spotted a biblio missed off a list you put through the Batch record modification. Simply apply the same MARC modification template over the missed biblio individually.

New ‘Modify record using templates’ option under the ‘Edit’ dropdown on the staff client biblio detail page


Cataloguing enhancement - check alert in cataloguing should be a static message

Cataloguing bibliographic records in Koha just got faster. Now when you catalogue using the Basic editor, and save with empty ‘Mandatory’ subfields, Koha displays a yellow ‘error’ box at the top of the page. The great thing about this is each erroring subfield is now listed with a ‘Go to field’ link, taking the cataloguer to the subfield.

Yellow error box displaying at top of basic cataloguing page, after clicking save. Each erroring subfield is listed with a ‘Go to field’ link

After setting a subfield value, to navigate back to the error box simply click on the yellow ‘Errors’ button in the toolbar at the top of the page.

Yellow ‘Errors’ button in the toolbar at the top of the basic cataloguing page. Click it to navigate back to the erroring subfield list


Course reserves enhancement - allow bibs to be added to course without items

Increasingly library catalogues contain bibliographic records, without item records. Think of eBooks, often catalogued as a bibliographic record, with a link to an external source, and no attached items. Until now the Course Reserves module has been limited to only adding item records as course reserves. Libraries had to resort to adding blank item records to eBook biblios, in order to add them as course reserves. That workaround is no longer needed 21.11! Bibliographic records – both with, and without items – can now be added as course reserves. When adding course reserves, you can either enter an item barcode, or a biblio records’ biblionumber. After adding a biblio to a course, patrons will see a link to the course when they view that biblio.

Link to a course reserving a bibliographic record without any attached items


Acquisitions enhancement - make note fields from orders searchable

If your library uses the ‘Internal note’, or ‘Vendor note’ fields when adding items to a basket then you’ll be happy to know that you can search those fields in Koha 21.11. Simply navigate to Acquisitions > ‘Orders search’ > ‘Advanced search’.

Entering MATH100 into the ‘Internal note’ field on the order search page


Enter a value into either of the new ‘Internal note’ or ‘Vendor note’ fields and perform a search. Any orders with note fields containing that text will be returned.


Order record returned based on the MATH100 search term in the ‘Internal note’ field


Acquisitions enhancement - add additional acquisitions logging

The acquisitions module is now more transparent! After you enable the AcquisitionLog system preference Koha will track changes, and who made them, to orders, invoices, budgets and funds. You can then view these changes in the ‘Tools’ > ‘Log viewer’. An example of when this might be useful is to track an order, from when the items were added to the basket, to their receipt. This could also be useful for tracking changes to your budgets, and funds.

Changes to funds, baskets and orders in the Log viewer when the AcquisitionsLog system preference is enabled


Circulation enhancement - cancel holds in bulk

Another timesaver is the ability to cancel multiple reserves at a time. Simply click on a title from the staff client search results. Visit the ‘Holds’ tab and select the checkboxes of all the existing holds you want to cancel. Then click the ‘Cancel selected’ button.

Three biblio-level holds selected ready to be cancelled in bulk once the ‘Cancel selected (3)’ button is clicked

You’ll be asked to give a reason for cancelling, then you click to confirm the cancellation. The holds are not cancelled straight away, but are queued to be run as a background job.

After a bulk hold cancellation has been submitted Koha informs the user that the job has been enqueued

If you click on the ‘View detail of the enqueued job’ link in Koha's confirmation message you can see the progress of the background job. It’s important to look at the ‘Progress’ and ‘Detailed messages’ values to determine if the holds are cancelled. The ‘Report’ value may say all holds have been cancelled when they actually haven’t.

The ‘Progress’ and ‘Detailed messages’ sections of the Background jobs page are where you should look to check if the bulk hold cancellation job has finished


Patrons enhancement - add ability to preserve patron field from being overwritten by import

Many academic libraries import patron CSV files, from their student management system, into Koha using the ‘Import patron’ tool. Often-times these patron CSV files contain both new, and modified, patron records. So librarians want to update existing patrons in Koha, and add new patron accounts, if a cardnumber doesn’t already exist. However, up till now when updating a patron all fields in Koha would be overwritten by what’s in the CSV file. In other words, there was no way to ‘lock’ fields from being replaced. 21.11 has solved that! Now when importing patron CSV files you can use the ‘Preserve existing values’ field to stop a field being overwritten, if a matching patron is found.

Preserving the ‘Address’ field when importing a patron csv file into the Import patron tool


Patrons enhancement - split borrowers permissions into create/edit and delete

Libraries now have more granular control over what changes their librarians can do to patron records in the staff client. Up till 21.11 one sub-permission permitted librarians to add, modify and delete patron accounts. That has now been split into two. The ‘edit_borrowers’ permission covers adding and modifying patrons, whilst the ‘delete_borrowers’ is needed for librarians to remove patron accounts.

Selecting the new ‘delete_borrowers’ sub-permission, under the ‘Add, modify and view patron information (borrowers)’ permission


Notices enhancement - add 'Hold reminder' messaging preferences

Koha is so configurable by librarians, and it’s now even more configurable by patrons too. In 21.11 patrons can now control if they receive Hold reminder email and/or SMS notices. The Hold Reminder notice was added in Koha 21.05. It’s intended to notify patrons that their reserved items are still awaiting pickup after X number of days waiting. That number of days items have been waiting is set on the Koha server. Now when patrons login to the OPAC, view their account, and select ‘your messaging’ there’s a new ‘Hold reminder’ message setting. If they don’t want to receive the notice all they need to do is untick the checkboxes.

Note: There was a problem with this enhancement in the Koha 21.11.00 release - it did not correctly add the Hold reminder to the messaging preferences. You’ll want to wait until 21.11.01 for a follow-up fix for this.

Selecting SMS and email Hold Reminder notices in the OPAC


OPAC enhancement - convert OpacNav and OpacNavBottom system preferences to the Tools module.

The last of the OPAC home page editable regions (OpacNav & OpacNavBottom) have now been shifted from system preferences into the Tools module. The Koha community has been moving editable regions into Tools since Koha 19.05 (in 2019), so it’s great to see this work has finished for the OPAC home page! There’s another new page in the Tools module to edit the editable regions: Tools > HTML customizations.

Some of the benefits of shifting these content regions to Tools are:

  1. You can queue custom content to display on the OPAC in the future – By setting the ‘Publication date’ and ‘Expiration date’ values you can create OPAC content when your workload is low, then queue it to automatically display in the future.
  2. You can now add custom OPAC content for each language installed on your Koha instance – For example, you can add English New Zealand and Te Reo Māori OpacNav content, as long as those languages are installed on your Koha. Then the OpacNav content that displays will be determined by whatever language the OPAC user has enabled.
  3. You can use a user-friendly free-text editor to insert tables, images, links and styling to your content without needing any HTML or CSS knowledge.

Tip: When creating content make sure to add text into the ‘Title’ and ‘Content’ boxes, otherwise it will not save successfully.

Numbered areas of the HTML customisation page. 1 is the publication and expiration date, 2 is the different languages you can create content for, 3 is the free-text editor to create the OPAC content with


Accessibility: OPAC - breadcrumbs should be more accessible

Our own Wainui Wikita-Park has been working hard to improve the accessibility of Koha since she started earlier this year. This enhancement makes screen-readers describe breadcrumbs in the OPAC more succinctly and logically to blind and/or low vision users. Breadcrumbs show users where the webpage they’re currently on fits into the site hierarchy. You can think of a site hierarchy like a file path.

Breadcrumbs at the top of the ‘your charges’ page in the OPAC


New API endpoints

Does your organisation use a student/staff management system for managing users, or a discovery platform as the search interface? If yes, then you’ll find the Koha API endpoints useful! API endpoints allow other systems fetch, add, and modify data in Koha.

Koha 21.11 has added several new endpoints. Patrons can now create, view and delete purchase suggestions using the api/v1/suggestions endpoint. Where this comes in handy is if your patrons interact with a discovery platform, like VUFind, rather than using the Koha OPAC. Patrons could create a purchase suggestion in VUFind, and have it automatically created in Koha for library staff to process. Similarly, patrons could view their Koha purchase suggestions within VUFind. If you wanted to test out Koha API endpoints you can use a browser plugin (like RESTED in Chrome or RESTED in Mozilla Firefox) to send requests to endpoints, and view the output.

Purchase suggestion of Wind in the Willows returned by the api/v1/suggestions endpoint



Elasticsearch is increasingly being adopted by libraries as their Koha search engine. It’s fast, configurable by librarians, and can be managed using other open-source visualisation systems like Cerebro. Koha 21.11 has made it even more useful. You can now search more MARC subfields with Elasticsearch including:

  • 050a
  • 245b, and 245p
  • 246c
  • 710 and 711
  • 800t, 810t, 811t, and 830a


Read more about the 588 features, enhancements, and security and bug fixes of the 21.11 Release on the Koha Community Website.

Written by Alex Buckley, Catalyst Koha Developer.


Catalyst Koha

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