As open source library automation products find their way into more diverse libraries, the news that the Delhi Public Library in India has adopted Koha marks its entry into the ranks of larger municipal libraries. Yet, upon closer inspection we will see that this initial deployment of Koha for the Delhi Public Library represents a fairly modest endeavor relative to the demands of a large municipal library in the United States. Delhi Public Library, like many libraries serving cities in the developing world, remains in a fairly early phase of automation. Our examination of their adoption of Koha provides an excellent snapshot of library automation in the developing world.
About the Delhi Public Library
Dehli public library faces challenges typical of libraries serving large cities in the developing world. With limited resources, the library provides services to one of the world's largest cities. Public libraries are seen as one of the developing world’s most important resources for increasing literacy and competing in an increasingly information oriented world.
The Delhi Public Library was founded in 1951 by the Indian Government. From its modest beginnings as a small library in Old Delhi, it has expanded into facilities throughout the city. The library currently consists of a central library, a zonal library, three branch libraries, 26 sub-branch libraries and 6 community libraries. The system includes 20 Resettlement Colonies Libraries that serve these areas of former slum inhabitants, and a Braille Library. In addition the library provides 47 service points with its mobile services and has 27 deposit stations. Deposit stations are small libraries run by local societies or associations under the supervision of the Delhi Public Library, which provides a training program for their workers.
The current funding of the library supports a total of 451 personnel, distributed between 334 professional and 117 non-professional positions. Currently about 173 positions remain vacant.
The Delhi Public Library describes itself as one of the busiest libraries in Southeast Asia. It serves a city with a population of 13.8 million inhabitants, though only 45,000 are registered members of the library. The library was founded on the principle that membership would be offered free of charge. Members pay a refundable security deposit of 50 Rupees, about 1 U.S. dollar, unless their membership is verified by a suitable guarantor such as public official or professional. Last year, the library reported annual circulation of 974,110 annual transactions.
The collections of the Delhi Public Library total 1,487,038. In 2007-08 57,446 books were added. The library purchases and processes books centrally and distributes materials to the other facilities throughout the system. The main languages of materials acquired include English, Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi.
In 1981 DPL was named by the National Library as a recipient of the Delivery of Books and Newspapers Act. This law mandates that the library is entitled to receive a copy of each item published in India without cost and in all languages. By 2008 DPL had received over 270,290 books through this program.
Like many libraries in the developing world, much of the work in the Delhi Public Library is carried out through manual processes. Some progress has been made in bringing computers into the library, but not at the level where all items in the collection are represented in a single database and where each of the libraries use automated circulation software.
The library’s automation efforts began in 1995 with the installation of its first computers. In 1997 the library began using the CDS/ISIS system to create a database of the books received under the Delivery of Books and Newspapers Act. Delhi Public Library recently began offering Internet access, deploying ten computers in three of its libraries.
Transition to Koha
In tune with the worldwide trend toward open source software, the Delhi Public Library embarked on a project to shift away from the CDS/ISIS software provided by UNESCO to Koha. In 2008, The Delhi Public Library began its project to implement Koha. On October 2, 2008 the library made its new catalog available, based on Koha Version 3. The library was the first in India to put Koha Version 3 into production. This version relies on the Zebra search engine from Index Data.
Although the implementation of Koha marks a significant milestone in the automation strategy of the Delhi Public Library, it should be seen in the context of a library in its early phases of automation, which cannot be compared to municipal libraries that are already fully automated migrating to a new system.
Out of the 1.5 million items in the library’s collections, only a relatively small portion are currently managed under either Koha or CDS/ISIS. Library officials report that about 20,000 titles have been loaded into Koha so far, with up to 55 copies each. The library is converting the CDS/ISIS system that manages the 70,000 books received through the D.B. Act into Koha. In the initial deployment, the Koha software will be implemented in three of the branches. Koha is now being used to process newly acquired books.
Building on these somewhat modest beginnings, the Delhi Public Library is working toward a more comprehensive implementation and is working on making all its collections available through Koha. One of the projects currently underway involves using Koha for the circulation of its collections of DVDs in its zonal libraries.
The Delhi Public Library was able to begin its Koha project at a relatively modest cost. Most of the technical work for the project was accomplished by the library’s own staff. The library spent the equivalent of about $7,500 for the Dell PowerEdge server used and about $350 for services related to the installation of the server.
The library made use of services from IndServe InfoTech Pvt. Ltd. for the installation of the server for Koha. According to library officials, this company had limited involvement in the implementation, configuration, and operation of the Koha software and did not have previous experience with library automation. The company expects to gain experience with Koha through its involvement in this project.