Posted by Lori Ayre on December 2, 2014

One of my former clients, the Vermont Dept of Libraries, recently developed their five-year plans for LSTA, and as part of that process, they identified how the needs of their library users are changing. After conducting surveys and focus groups, they identified Vermont's "most important community needs." State Librarian, Martha Reid, puts it this way:

"The first [need is] that citizens have access to library materials, resources, and programs to support educational achievement, lifelong learning, personal enrichment, and economic wellbeing. This speaks to providing electronic resources and statewide databases and also supporting resource sharing and expanded electronic linkages. We offer our databases to libraries statewide through the Vermont Online Library, and we’ve added some great products in the last couple of years that focus on lifelong learning and workforce development. Access to resources also means interlibrary loan, where our Vermont Automated Library System (VALS) is key."

Vermont is a big "Koha" state. One of the earliest implementations of Koha in the United States was in Vermont where several individual libraries worked together to create Vermont Organization of Koha Automated Libraries. Jessamyn West was the spark plug behind it all in those early days.

Today, that little group has expanded to include some 50 libraries on a shared Koha system. Hosting and support is now provided by ByWater Solutions. My work with Vermont (a few years ago) included helping them choose between Koha and Evergreen when one of their networks Catamount Library Network (CLN) was looking at moving to a new library system. The hope was that whatever they chose would ultimately become their new statewide catalog. For that reason, it seemed like they should have chosen Koha, but because of VOKAL and the investment and experience the state already had with Koha, they chose to go with Koha.

Now, a few years later, they are still talking about a statewide catalog so it will be interesting to see what they choose. Since migrating to Koha, CLN has developed yet more competencies that relate specifically to Koha so maybe they'll continue on that track.

However, the skills they've developed in supporting Koha would translate quite well to Evergreen and even to Fulfillment, the open source resource-sharing system. For one thing, all these systems are based on Linux. For another, as open source products, each require a different approach to management of the system (e.g. having complete control over applying updates for example) and each also have an open source community that requires some care and feeding and also creates opportunities for leveraging that community to develop new features and share resources (training material, configuration guides, etc).

Whichever direction they go on their long-term strategy to build a statewide catalog, I trust they'll do a good job of it. They've been very methodical and thoughtful in their approach so far, and Martha Reid and Sheila Kearns (Information Technology Librarian) do a great job of listening to their constituency and making decisions that really do address the most important community needs.