Tips for Those Going Through an ILS Migration

I suddenly feel lighter than I have in weeks. All thanks to Debra Denault of Liblime for coming to Howard County Library and helping those of us involved in our migration from SirsiDynix‘s Horizon to Koha to get a grasp on things.

This is not the first migration I’ve been a part of but certainly this one was a lot different. Last time we basically changed from one product offered by a vendor to another product. This time we were going with an open source ILS and support would come from many places (our data migration company – Liblime and the whole Koha community). I often wasn’t sure if I should submit something to the community, chat with the developers in IRC or just what was my first step. I was not only learning how Koha worked (I am creating content for the testing or discovery phase as well as helping with creating the training for staff) but I was learning a completely different way of getting answers or help.

Change can be scary for most folks but I’ve often found it interesting. Change gives me something new to focus on, play with, explore. This time, however, I’ll have to admit that I was a bit scared. This time it was a little bit out of my comfort zone. At one point this week I Twittered that I knew there was a lesson in here somewhere for me to learn but it wasn’t revealing itself to me just yet.

But that has all changed. Something clicked. Something stopped being scary. Something lightened my load. I think it was having someone, Debra, who knew the product inside and out be here to walk us through things. Debra’s calm nature (although she swears there is a Type A personality underneath), her depth of knowledge, her ability to get answers immediately from folks at Liblime was the perfect mix to calm nerves, soothe the worried SysAdmin in all of us.

Debra along with Darrell Ulm of Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library, another Koha library, helped me not only get my head around things but helped me put things in perspective.

So I’d like to pass along to you some tips for getting through a migration:

  • “That’s a bug!” is a good thing. Both Debra and my boss, Amy De Groff, have helped me to see this one. At first I felt like “Oh great, another problem.” But now I can see what they see “Oh great, we can fix it!” Lesson being that the first step to fixing any problem is recognizing what it is. Once you can do that fixing is easy.
  • Collaboration eases any burden. Many of the things we had grown to expect from previous software weren’t part of Koha. Nice thing is since it is open source anyone can contribute to the success of Koha. Better yet, find another library (or 2) that want the same functionality as you and share the cost. Collaborating not only is a great way to give back to the community (as well as have another set of eyes give you a different perspective) but it eases the burden of cost.
  • Ask, don’t assume. We all know the old adage “Don’t assume because you make an ass out of U and Me”. Ask about everything, don’t assume you know the answer or that someone will think you silly for asking. Nothing is too small or too large. If we hadn’t asked some of the questions we did we may have never figured out some of our problems were caused by us.
  • Take your time. An old boss of mine used to drill into our heads “With accuracy, comes speed”. That is true with migrating as well. Don’t hesitate to say this is going too fast. Don’t hesitate to say you want to do it right and being rushed only stresses everyone. Stressed staff make more mistakes. By stepping back and examining things we slowed down and we now feel when we roll this out it will be a really great product instead of something we just rushed out. This will be a ILS system we can be proud of.
  • Reach out. Whether you have the benefit of the open source community or a list of other libraries using your vendor – reach out to them. This one didn’t come easy to me at first. I’ve exchanged several emails with the aforementioned Darrell Ulm. He has pointed out somethings. All the experts in the world are great but talking to someone who uses the product is invaluable. He also reminded me of the next tip.
  • Stay calm. This wasn’t always easy but Darrell was right, panic never helps anything. He shared that he had his share of panic about his migration and it actually set him back at times. He said that Liblime pulled through their migration quite well. Staying calm helps to keep things in perspective. So if you need help, follow my next tip.
  • Step back every so often. I found myself getting so wrapped up in Koha that I couldn’t focus on much else. I was coming home exhausted, going to bed early and arriving the next morning no more rested than I had been the night before. I insisted one night that my husband and I turn off the tv, unplug the computer and sit outside in front of a roaring fire in our chimenea. It recharged my batteries and gave me a clear head to face things the next day. Do what you need to do to step back and recharge.

So if you are going through a migration, I hope my tips have helped. I’d love to hear some more tips that helped or are helping you to get through.

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