Keeping up with Kohacon20 - Episode 6: Day 5 Recap

Kohacon is the annual international conference of the Koha software community, and in 2020, it was hosted in Wellington, New Zealand. Kohacon20 Day five on 23 October 2020 consisted of three tracks of workshops, and was our final Kohacon day at the Tiakiwai Conference Centre of National Library of New Zealand.

Day 5

There were two in-person workshop tracks and one online track.

Our online workshop was hosted by Avin Lee Shinn Hwa from FE Technologies, Christopher Kellermeyer from Altadena Public Library, and Spencer Smith from McKinney Public Library, all discussing RFID solutions amid COVID-19. FE Technologies is entirely dedicated to library RFID products and services, so were able to impart a great deal of information and knowledge to those of us who attended.

Grant McLean presenting

At the same time, Grant McLean from Catalyst took his group for a deep dive into encoding. We started by developing a shared understanding of encoding text, why original encoding solutions fall short of requirements, how Unicode works to address common encoding problems, and how Perl’s functions and modules deal with Unicode data. Grant shared some great examples and useful tools, which you can find in his slides(external link).

After stopping for morning tea with our final instalment of scrummy scrolls for the week, we split into two rooms for the middle section of workshops.


In one room, David Nind guided us through making our first modifications to Koha documentation. The Koha manual is a living document so needs constant work – similar to the codebase. David prepared some helpful notes on the wiki that anyone anywhere can follow.

Attendees listening intently in the linked data workshop

Meanwhile, next door, Jonathan Hunt kicked off Part 1 of his Linked Data 101 workshop, giving a great background on the what, how, and who of linked open data, and why it is important.

After a well-earned lunch, we returned to the National Library for the final set of workshops.

Jonathan continued with Part 2 of his Linked Data 101 workshop. We covered how useful linked open data is in the cultural heritage sector, specifically in libraries. We even had a chance to try writing some SPARQL queries. It was exciting to think about the potential for incorporating more linked data capability to Koha. While the workshop is not specific to Koha users and developers, the lessons are helpful for all of us! You can access his slides(external link) to learn more.

In the other room, Farasat Shafi Ullah showed us how he uses MarcEdit and other tools to tidy up data and prepare it for staging and importing into Koha. Farasat claims he is not a cataloguer, but his knowledge of open MARC data and how it needs to be reworked to make Koha happy shows his depth of experience.

Wrap up

We’re so grateful to our Kohacon20 teachers for sharing their knowledge, skills, and time with attendees. Koha being open source software is amazing for so many reasons, but a big one is the way those within our community support each other and strive to grow together.

Official photos for Day 5 can be found on Flickr(external link).

Kohacon20 continues over the weekend with a hackfest. We’ll be hanging out at Catalyst House, keeping in close contact with our international friends, and working together on some development and strategic projects to improve and enhance Koha. There’s something for everyone to do, and all are welcome.