Monday, 10 October 2016





India - man I love this place! It is so full on and vibrant and energetic and busy and colourful and smells gorgeous and the people are great, so yeah, fabulous 3rd stop on my world tour.

My Indian hosts, Vikram Zadgaonkar, Ketan Kulkarni from First Ray Consulting and Kirti Bandekar from Libserve really pushed out all the stops including meeting me in the middle of the night plus a long wait while I sorted out where in the world my luggage might be because it certainly wasn't in Mumbai with me! 

First up was a guest speaker slot at User group meeting at the Nehru Centre, Mumbai with the gorgeous (in every way) Arati Desai who was as elegant and graceful as I was not - in my trainers and travel garb. Whats not to love when someone introduces themself as the world's biggest koha fan? Actually, come to think of it, that was a common theme throughout Malaysia and India. People felt so happy and proud to be running Koha.

The Pune Public Library is a case in point. 168 yrs old - the oldest
public library in Pune and run by a board of Trustees who are nothing short of inspirational. Mostly older in age, mostly retired professionals and all absolutely bursting with pride at their fab library in inner city Pune and that they were running Koha. The visit was arranged at very short notice but there was nothing short in the hospitality. I particularly loved the paintings of freedom fighters lining the walls.

I visited Pune University twice; once to speak at the Pune User group and once to speak with the library masters students (see earlier post). Meeting Shubhada Nagarkar, Assistant Professor, will be a highlight of my tour I think.

As well as discussing library stuff (really good library stuff) she snuck me away for a tour of the library which houses 5m items classified using Ranganathan's colon system and stretching back hundreds of years. I got to see a ancient manuscript written on palm - so beautiful - plus a whole bunch of other precious and rare books.

Anyway I suspect we might work together on something Koha related in the future especially since they have just decided to convert to Koha!  She is particularly interested in interface useability and a complaint that came up repeatedly in India was the acquisitions module so it might be that the expert eye of a critical friend could be applied to see what needs to be done to meet the need of the ever increasing Koha Indian community .


Part of the reason for this trip is to replenish my soul after a really tough 3 years pulling off the impossible. Today I spoke with the Masters Students and staff at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. It was wonderful. The format was an interview which Kirti led but then questions and comments came from the floor. I started the ball rolling with the key themes I'd spoken about in Pune and it was so radical compared to public libraries in India now. These guys may just start a revolution! The Institute runs Koha - all 4 campuses throughout India as branches - and while Amit Gupta and his crew did the data conversion they basically run it themselves now. The students are taught about Koha including installation and configuration! This is because many of them will go back to rural areas and will probably use Koha. I think someone said that the Indian Government are encoraging the use of open source software but I'd need someone to confirm that. If so, then Koha could explode into India very quickly.


At every session I needed to remind people that there is no boss of Koha, no board, no staff, no one in charge. Everyone has a voice and the ability to contribute. If they want an interface or user manual in Marathi then they have to translate that themselves. If they need / want something in acquisitions changed then they need to load a bug. In short: scratch your own itch.


Finally, I have to acknowledge and thank these guys who trekked back and forwards on the Pune - Mumbai expressway (a 4 hour trip) and arranged a full programme of meet and greets and booked fab hotels for me and looked after my every wish and even took me shopping (see the Punjabi suit I'm wearing - so comfy in the hot climate). The hospitality was exceptional.

Thank you Ketan, Vikram, Kirti and Hermant.

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