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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How I Got Into Blogging or Be Careful Who You Tag They May Just Tag You

Well I could blame Meredith Farkas for starting this meme or fuss at the (almost) BaldGeekinMD and Julie Strange for both tagging me. Actually I’m flattered that they both tagged me but feel maybe that Maurice is getting his revenge for the “Sisters of Irony” tag teaming him on a previous meme.

To be honest my first “dipping of my big toe in the pool” came when I participated in Maryland’s 23 Things program. I then went on to try blogging more of personal with my blog about our family vacation to the land of my husband’s birth – England. Then I tried to continue with a more personal blog about things going on in my life, Something More Than Long (taken from “My Corner of the Sky” from the Broadway musical Pippin). But I didn’t seem to keep up with it and that blog died in March of this year.

Maurice knows the answer to how my latest blog came about – peer pressure! It started during the Computers in Libraries 2008 conference. Prior to the conference, I had had the pleasure of taking an 8 week online course about online training and Maurice (and Julie too) were in the class. Finding my fellow trainer soul mate in Maurice (this man loves technology and good music as much as I do) we made plans to meet up at CIL 2008. While walking to lunch or chit-chatting between sessions Maurice had the pleasure of my outgoing personality and opinions of open source vs. proprietary software. He dubbed me “The Open Source Evangelist” but I had to tell him that title was already taken by none other than Nicole Engard of Liblime. He kept nudging me to blog.

Even after the conference when I ran into Maurice virtually he’d put in a plug for me to start blogging. But what finally got me to cave in was being tagged for another meme by Michael Sauers. It was an interesting meme – teaching the next generation about your passion (which for me was open source). The flood gates opened from there.

Although my blog isn’t always about open source, quite often it is. I try to stick to some topic that comes from my experience of working 25 years in libraryland. My current slant tends to be more technology based but I tend to include rants about fashion (Project Runway), politics, and music (help with FineTune playlist). For those that read this blog I hope I provide some insight, some fun, a bit of humor and an occasional question or two to make you think.

That’s the rest of the story…..now I want to know yours – Michael Sauers, Bobbi Newman, Joshua M. Neff, and Marianne Lenox.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet That is the Question

Seems to be a lot of speculation about Twitter these days. The growing pains it has recently experienced has been frustrating to say the least. Several blog posts have pointed to an exodus to Friendfeed (LISs StevenK‘, LibLime’s Nicole Engard) due to frustrations felt at the recent ALA conference.

Many are jumping ships to other sites such as Plurk, Kwippy, Identi.ca, Pownce, etc. Friendfeed is also gaining some of the ex-Tweeters. I am signed up on all of them as mlibrarianus.

My main problem with leaving Twitter is my “friends” or followers. Some are on Plurk or one or two on Kwippy or several on Friendfeed but none of them are all in one place like Twitter. Sure I can send invites from these other sites to get my followers to jump ship but which one? I’ve yet to find one that I like better than Twitter at the moment.  Plus what I like about Twitter is all the different apps that have spawn out of it. Spaz, Twirl, Twitterfox, Twitwheel, TweetLater and my all time favorite Twitterfeed.  I know Friendfeed has several applications as well but I’m not hooked on Friendfeed like I am Twitter.

Friendfeed certainly does have some attractive features (being able to link to all your social networks and have display in one place).  I guess it’s the age old problem – lead, follow or get out of the way.

Lead – if you lead and have plenty of followers fine, your friends are there along side you.  However, if you lead to a place they don’t like you are left out in cyber space alone.

Follow – not always the best path to take but you are never alone.

Get out of the way – maybe the best approach to just sit back and let everyone fight it out?

Thinking that I’ll just let the dust settle a bit and then see what’s the next big thing.  Until then I’ll Tweet away while Plurking my Kwips all on Friendfeed.

You can lead a horse to water but

… you can’t make it drink goes the rest of the line. By the end of next week I’m hoping that a lot more horses where I work will be drinking.

We have the distinct pleasure of Solveig Haugland‘s presence for what we are calling OpenOffice Week at Howard County Library. I think Solveig’s one-line bio says it all “OpenOffice.org and StarOffice instructor with a passion for showing how the software makes things easier.” If that weren’t enough her sense of humor will put them at ease and the fact that she, like myself, highly believes in the powers of CHOCOLATE!

She will spend the whole week with us addressing training in Writer, Calc, Impress and Draw. Staff have been using OpenOffice for some time but old habits die hard or the training they did receive didn’t address their needs. I’m sure that Solveig will answer all their questions with style and grace (if she is anything like her phone calls/emails in person – we’ll be set!). I have faith in her that by the end of the week we’ll have many more OpenOffice converts drinking the water.

The best day will be Friday as we are hoping to get some of our open source vendors (Liblime, Groovix) together in one room for lunch with Solveig. Will be great to have so many like minded folk all in the same room.