How to do recalls with Koha

The Catalyst Koha team is excited that Koha library software project introduced a built-in recalls feature in Koha 22.05, released in May 2022.

Catalyst was integral in getting recalls into Koha, developing the first iteration of the feature way back in 2017. Huge thanks must be given to Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, Waikato Institute of Technology, and Auckland University of Technology, for their sponsorship and support of the recalls feature development over the years.

The recalls feature, now available for Koha libraries all around the world, requires some configuration before it can be used. This tutorial will cover how to set up recalls in your Koha library, and how recalls can then be placed and filled by your staff and patrons.

What are recalls?

Recalls can be thought of as high-priority holds, with a few more conditions. Patrons can recall items or records that they need urgently but are currently checked out or allocated to someone else.

When a recall is placed, the patron who currently has borrowed the recalled item will be notified, and their loan period will be adjusted. The due date being changed (ideally brought forward) reflects the urgency of the recall and is the key difference in behaviour from placing a hold.

Recalls are prioritised over holds. This means if an item has both holds and recalls, Koha will offer to fill a recall first.

Configuring recalls

There are a few key system preferences to enable or configure when using recalls.

System preferences relating to recalls

System preferences relating to recalls

  • UseRecalls – enable the recalls feature by changing the setting to “use”. This is disabled by default.
  • RecallsLog – change the setting to “log” to start logging data about actions taken relating to recalls. This is disabled by default.
  • RecallsMaxPickUpDelay – set the number of days that a recalled item may be awaiting pickup before it is marked as problematic, or possibly auto-expired. This is set to 7 days by default.

Library staff who will be able to cancel or expire recalls must have the manage_recalls user permission.

System preferences relating to recalls

System preferences relating to recalls

How recalls behave in your library system will depend on how your circulation and fines rules are configured. There are six rules to configure specifically for recalls.

  • Recalls allowed – set the number of total recalls a patron is allowed to place
  • Recalls per record – set the number of recalls a patron is allowed to place on one bibliographic record
  • On-shelf recalls allowed – set to ‘if any unavailable’ if only one item needs to be checked out for patrons to place recalls on the record, or set to ‘if all unavailable’ if all items must be checked out for patrons to place recalls on the record
  • Recall due date interval – set the number of days the patron is given to return their recalled item to the library
  • Recall overdue fine amount – set the fine amount to be charged to the patron if they are overdue to return their item to the library and that item has been recalled
  • Recall pickup period – set the number of days the patron is given to pick up the item they recalled from the library

There are a few recall notices and slips that you may want to customise.

Notice about recalled item awaiting pickup

Notice about recalled item awaiting pickup

  • RETURN_RECALLED_ITEM – a notice sent to the patron who currently has an item checked out which was recalled by someone else
  • PICKUP_RECALLED_ITEM – a notice sent to the patron who requested the recall, notifying them that the item was returned to the library and is now awaiting pickup
  • RECALL_REQUESTER_DET – a print slip displaying the details of a recalled item and the patron who requested it 

Finally, there are cronjobs your Koha support provider can schedule to automate some recall actions.

  • overdue_recalls.pl – a script to mark recalls as overdue when the recalled item is late to be returned to the library
  • expire_recalls.pl – a script to expire recalls that have either been requested and not fulfilled and their expiration date has since passed, or been awaiting pickup for longer than the allowed pickup period

Placing recalls

As at Koha 22.05 and 22.11, recalls can be requested by patrons via the public catalogue (OPAC). Work is being done in the Koha Community to enable recalls via the staff interface.

Place a recall from the search results

Place a recall from the search results

To recall an item, it must be checked out to another patron. A recall can either be placed from the search results, or from the detail page of a record.

Koha will check a few rules before allowing the patron to place a recall. Including the recalls-related circulation and fines rules, patrons must not have checked out or placed a hold on the item in order to place the recall.

If it is a valid recall request, the patron will be able to choose a pickup library and an optional expiration date. The patron could place a record-level recall if any item under the record could be allocated to fill the recall or choose a specific item to recall.

Place a recall from the detail page of a record

Place a recall from the detail page of a record

Once the recall is confirmed, the patron who currently has the item checked out will be notified and their due date adjusted by the number of days specified in the recall due date interval circulation and fines rule.

Notification to return a recalled item

Notification to return a recalled item

Managing recalls

The patron who placed the recall will be able to see this (and their other recalls) from their account on the OPAC. From here, they’ll also be able to cancel the recall. Note that cancelling the recall will not affect the due date of the checkout; the checkout will keep its adjusted due date, even if it has no longer been recalled.

Patron’s account on the OPAC, displaying their recall

Patron’s account on the OPAC, displaying their recall

Library staff will also be able to manage recalls from a number of places on the staff interface.

Specific recalls can be cancelled and expired from the patron’s account, or from the recalls tab on the record detail page.

Patron’s account on the staff interface displaying their recall

Patron’s account on the staff interface displaying their recall

There are also a number of circulation reports that libraries can use to gain an overview of recall activity.

  • Recalls queue – manage all current recalls
  • Recalls to pull – manage recalls that could be filled by items currently on the shelves
  • Overdue recalls – manage recalls that are overdue to be returned
  • Recalls awaiting pickup – manage recalled items that have been allocated to fill a recall, but are waiting to be picked up. Problematic recalls that have been awaiting pickup too long are split out into different tabs.
  • Old recalls – manage all recalls that are expired, cancelled or filled.
Recall reports available in the Circulation module

Recall reports available in the Circulation module

Filling recalls

The process for filling a recall is much the same as filling a hold. When a recalled item is checked in at the library, a recall window will pop up giving the option to fill the recall with that item.

The recall can be ignored if the library does not want to fill the recall right away. If the item has been checked in at a different library from the recall’s specified pickup location, confirming the recall will trigger a transfer. When the item is returned at the chosen pickup location and the recall is confirmed, the patron who requested it will be notified that their item is ready to pick up.

Recall confirmation box that pops up when the item is checked in

Recall confirmation box that pops up when the item is checked in

When the patron picks up and checks out their item, Koha will mark the recall as filled and the process will be complete!

Checkout confirmation box that pops up if library staff attempt to check out an item to one patron that has been recalled by another

Checkout confirmation box that pops up if library staff attempt to check out an item to one patron that has been recalled by another

Recalled items that have been allocated to fill a recall will block the circulation of that item for other patrons. A confirmation box will pop up if library staff attempt to check out an item to one patron that has already been allocated to fill a recall placed by another.

Expanding on recalls functionality

In future versions of Koha, the recalls feature will be enhanced and expanded. Work is being done to allow placing recalls via the staff interface. We also plan to introduce a cronjob which will convert holds to recalls overnight if a certain number of holds have been placed on a record, plus some API endpoints so recalls can be managed through discovery layers or alternative OPACs. The implementation of enhanced messaging preferences for recalls notices is in progress.

As work continues on the recalls feature, including fixing any bugs found, we appreciate the sponsorship and support from our partner libraries and the Koha Community.

We’d love to hear from you about how recalls are being used in your Koha library, and if there are any improvements or enhancements we could investigate together.

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 contact us (New Zealand) or [email protected] (Australia).

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