A Comprehensive Guide to Koha Library Software

February 22, 2023

This guide will help you learn about Koha library software, its features and benefits—and demonstrate how it can assist librarians or anyone in charge of managing a library to streamline its operations. Let's dive in.

What is Koha?

Created in New Zealand in 1999, Koha is a well-established, versatile, free, and open-source integrated library software (ILS) designed to support library operations of all kinds. It has become one of the most popular library automation software used by libraries globally.Koha offers an easy-to-use interface that significantly reduces time spent managing library tasks, and increases productivity. In recent years, Koha has emerged as the go-to system for thousands of smart libraries.Koha is flexible enough to allow customization of its features and design to suit , but requires advanced skills, and experts who build software and understand similar systems.What makes Koha software stand above other alternatives is its affordability - libraries do not need to pay licensing fees, making it a great solution for small and medium-sized libraries on a budget.Koha's wide range of features and capabilities make it a perfect choice for large libraries as well. From cataloging and acquisitions to circulation and the online public access catalog (OPAC), Koha is a comprehensive solution for library operations.

Free and Open-Source Software

Koha was developed by the Katipo Communications for the Horowhenua Library Trust in New Zealand, under the GNU General Public License (GPL). This allows libraries to use Koha without any cost, and distribute it without charge.Additionally, its open-source nature allows for community contributions and enhancements, further increasing its value as a robust solution for libraries.

Koha modules

Koha Library Software offers a suite of modules (or features) to streamline library operations and improve User Experience. These modules include:

  1. Cataloging and Acquisitions: This module streamlines the process of adding items to the library's catalog, managing vendor information, processing orders, and handling invoices. It allows library staff to digitally manage the acquisition process and keep track of their library's collection.
  2. Circulation: This module provides a comprehensive solution for managing library circulation activities, including checking out and returning items, managing holds and generating circulation reports.
  3. Patron Management: This module let's you manage patron accounts, their access, set up patron categories, fine policies, and generate reports. It provides library staff with the tools they need to effectively manage their patrons' experience.
  4. Reporting and Analytics: This module provides a robust set of reporting and analytics tools to help libraries track usage and performance. Libraries can generate reports, create custom reports, and schedule reports to be run automatically.The analytics tools also provide insights into library usage and performance, allowing libraries to make informed decisions and become data-driven.
  5. Customization and Integration: This module offers a range of customization options, allowing libraries to modify the interface and branding to match their specific needs. Also included is an API for developing custom applications and integrations with other systems, such as payment processors.

Koha features


  • Easy to create and manage bibliographic and authority records
  • Support for MARC21 standards
  • Powerful search capabilities for items by ISBN, title, author, keyword, and more
  • Ability to manage multiple libraries which makes cataloging and managing bibliographic records easy


  • Automated circulation processes for tracking loans, holds, and fines
  • Ability to customize rules for loans, returns, and fines
  • Automatic notifications for due dates, overdue items, and fines
  • Support for multiple circulation and user levels


  • Ability to track physical items in the library
  • Different inventory locations
  • Automated notifications for lost items


  • Automated purchase orders and invoices
  • Budget tracking capabilities
  • Support for different vendor types

Web-based Interface

  • Responsive, user-friendly web-based interface
  • Ability to customize the look and feel of the interface
  • Mobile-friendly design for better usability on mobile devices

Advantages of Koha library software

Cost Savings: With Koha Library Software, libraries can save money on the cost of purchasing and maintaining expensive proprietary software.Open Source: Koha Library Software is open-source, meaning it can be freely used, modified, and redistributed by anyone. This encourages community development and makes it easier to customize the library management system to meet the specific needs of individual libraries.Easy to Use: The Koha Library Software interface is intuitive and user-friendly, making it easy for library staff, patrons, and volunteers to use.Comprehensive Features: Koha Library Software offers an array of features that make it suitable for various library types, including real-time circulation, OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog), acquisitions, serial control, and more.

Dive deeper into Koha's advantages

10 Advantages That Make Koha Your Ultimate Solution to Library ManagementRead Blog

Disadvantages of Koha library software

Limited Accessibility: Though Koha Library Software is Open Source, it is not always easy to access the software as it is limited to certain versions and platforms. Additionally, the software does not have a mobile version for users to access from their smartphones or tablets.However, its possible to build custom mobile apps that work seamlessly with your library running on Koha. Get in touch with our team if you want to build and integrate a mobile app for your library.Low Support: Koha Library Software has limited development support because its open source, and isn't backed by a large organization. This means that the software is not always updated regularly and may face issues with compatibility with other services or software.Complex Installation: Installing Koha Library Software is not a straightforward process and requires a certain level of technical expertise. This makes it difficult for users to install the software and may require help from a professional.

Using Koha with DSpace and EPrints

Koha can easily be integrated with popular digital repositories like DSpace and EPrints, both of which enable libraries to share and preserve digital resources.By using Koha in conjunction with DSpace and EPrints, libraries can create a comprehensive system for the digital preservation and sharing of their collections.Koha facilitates the creation of digital objects that are linked to their physical counterparts by allowing users to search for items by name or description. This allows for easy discovery and access to materials that may not otherwise be available through traditional cataloging systems.

Trying Koha by yourself

To get a feel for how Koha works, try out the software yourself. There are several ways to do this, including installing Koha on a server, setting up a web-based installation, or using a locally installed executable.Koha is available for Linux as well as Windows and supports a wide variety of systems and hardware. Learn more about Koha's system requirements and recommendations.

Want the easiest way to check out Koha?

Get a guided Koha demo without having to install anything.Book a Demo

Popular use cases of Koha

Koha library system has been adopted by libraries all around the world for various tasks, such as acquisition, cataloging, circulation, and more.Some of the most popular use cases for Koha include:Acquisition: Librarians can add new items to their collections and track acquisitions in real-time.Cataloging: Rasily create and manage records for items in the library catalog, as well as edit, delete, or merge records.Circulation: Track circulation data and manage overdue items. Koha also integrates easily with barcode scanners and self-checkout machines for a more efficient checkout process.Patron Management: Koha allows librarians to manage patron information, such as name, address, contact details, library cards, and library privileges.Reporting: Koha provides detailed reports and analytics to help librarians track usage and circulation data over time, as well as monitor trends in library inventory.Custom Barcodes: You can create and print custom barcodes that can be used for books, library cards, and other library artefacts that need to be in the system.

Popular libraries that use Koha

Koha is used by over 200 libraries throughout the world, including:

  • California Institute of Technology Libraries
  • University of Southern Indiana Libraries
  • University of Wisconsin-Plains, Wausau.

You can check the complete list of libraries that use Koha here.

Parting thoughts

Koha is a powerful and flexible software option for managing digital assets and library operations. It's available for free, offers a mobile-friendly experience, integrates with other open-source software, and is easy to set up and use.If your library isn't using Koha yet, it's worth making the effort to bring the software in. No matter what type of library you work for, Koha is an easy and effective way to manage digital assets.With Koha, you get one step closer to modernize your library, and getting future-ready.

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This article is part of a collaborative series between GR Techand industry leaders, aimed at bringing new ideas andinsights to our readers.


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