Koha Hacks: How To Add A Z39.50 Server To Koha Library System (Running On Ubuntu 20.04LTS)

I think you will agree that one of the most tiresome, repetitive tasks you can do as a librarian is cataloging. Inventory is a close second but nothing saps your energy on a Monday morning quite like a pile of books on your desk waiting to be processed before they can be made available to your patrons. If this hits home then one of the modules you will appreciate and use the most in Koha library system is the copy cataloging module. 

It works by matching and importing ready-made MARC (MAchine Readable Catalog) records of books and items from a trusted source directly into your catalog, saving you a lot of time. Cataloguing a single book properly can take anywhere from 10 – 15 minutes, and even longer it’s a particularly old book. Considering that you will catalog anwhere from hundreds to thousands of books a year, those minutes add up to hours and then days that flow into months. Fortunately, with Koha you can walk on water easily catalog a book in less than 2 minutes using the copy cataloging module. I made a video on how to do that so go check it out! But before you can do that, you first need to add a z39.50 server from which your library can import the MARC records. 

Koha comes with a z39.50 client that can receive the records (and server, so you can also allow others to import your MARC records if you want) – all you have to do is enter the configuration details for each server you want. There is no limit to how many z39.50 servers you can add, however, you want to be careful to only connect to trusted, high quality sources. In this example we will be connecting to the Library of Congress, the biggest library in the world and defacto authority on anything to do with libraries and books. I made a list of other z39.50 servers you can connect to here – some may require authentication details which may be public or available on request.

Enough with the intro, read on for a detailed step by step explanation of how to add a z39.50 server to Koha, complete with images!

Koha Hacks: How To Add A Z39.50 Server To Koha Library System (Running On Ubuntu 20.04LTS)

I think you will agree that one of the most tiresome, repetitive tasks you can do as a librarian is cataloging. Inventory is a close second but nothing saps your energy on a Monday morning quite like a pile of books on your desk waiting to be processed before they can be made available to your patrons. If this hits home then one of the modules you will appreciate and use the most in Koha library system is the copy cataloging module. 

It works by matching and importing ready-made MARC (MAchine Readable Catalog) records of books and items from a trusted source directly into your catalog, saving you a lot of time. Cataloguing a single book properly can take anywhere from 10 – 15 minutes, and even longer it’s a particularly old book. Considering that you will catalog anwhere from hundreds to thousands of books a year, those minutes add up to hours and then days that flow into months. Fortunately, with Koha you can walk on water easily catalog a book in less than 2 minutes using the copy cataloging module. I made a video on how to do that so go check it out! But before you can do that, you first need to add a z39.50 server from which your library can import the MARC records. 

Koha comes with a z39.50 client that can receive the records (and server, so you can also allow others to import your MARC records if you want) – all you have to do is enter the configuration details for each server you want. There is no limit to how many z39.50 servers you can add, however, you want to be careful to only connect to trusted, high quality sources. In this example we will be connecting to the Library of Congress, the biggest library in the world and defacto authority on anything to do with libraries and books. I made a list of other z39.50 servers you can connect to here – some may require authentication details which may be public or available on request.

Enough with the intro, read on for a detailed step by step explanation of how to add a z39.50 server to Koha, complete with images!

Adding a Z39.50 Server to Koha Library System

1. Get the configuration details

You will need the following:

  • Hostname or IP address.
  • Port number.
  • Database.

If the server to which you are connecting requires authentication, you will also need a:

  • Username, and 
  • Password

2. Add them to Koha

Once you have the configuration details, head on over to Koha and:

  • Log in to the Koha staff admin page
  • Click on Koha Administration
  • Go to Additional Parameters
  • Click on Z39.50/SRU Servers
  • Click New Z39.50 server

3. Configure the z39.50 server

Enter the following (information highlighted in red is mandatory):

  • Server name (this can be any name, but it’s best to stick to the name of the target library for easy identification). In this tutorial enter “Library of Congress”.
  • Hostname or ip address – lx2.loc.gov
  • Port – 210
  • Database -LCDB (for UTF8 records. Use LCDB_MARC8 for MARC8)
  • Username / ID (not required, leave blank)
  • Password (not required, leave blank)

The following details are all optional:

  • Pre-elected – If you want this particular server to be searched by default, then check this.
  • Rank – lets you choose the positioning of this server in the list (if you have multiple servers). Enter a number, starting with 0 if you want it to rank first.
  • Syntax – usually MARC21/USMARC unless you are using something different.
  • Encoding – leave as default utf8 unless you are using something different
  • Timeout – leave blank or specify a value if you know what you are doing
  • Record type – Bibliographic is what most people want, but you can select Authority records as well
  • XSLT Files – no clue what that is about really. If you are geeky enough, read about it here and leave a comment to explain what it’s all about.  Leave it blank if you don’t know what you are doing.
  • Click Save. And that’s it. You can now import high quality MARC records from the Library of Congress when copy cataloguing!

4. Catalog a book using the copy cataloging module

Now that you are all set up and connected to the Library of Congress database, it’s time catalog the easy way. You can watch video below or follow these instructions. 

  • Get a book you’ve been dying to catalog.
  • Go to Home > Cataloging > New From z39.50/SRU > Books, Booklets and Workbooks
  • Enter the ISBN. You can search using Title, Author etc., but the ISBN is the most accurate because it will give you the exact record.
  • Confirm that the MARC record is what you are looking for.
  • Import the record and finish cataloguing. The whole process will take less than 2 minutes! 

The copy cataloging module will quickly become one of the favourite and most frequently used tools in your library. So make sure you configure a z39.50 server when you are setting up your Koha server. If you run into any trouble, get in touch and I will be happy to help!

This is only one of the many useful features that Koha will give you. Koha stands out as being the first, the best and most affordable world-class library system available today. It is highly scalable, feature rich, easy to use  and you can have it in your library today.

Koha Support provides hassle-free Koha installation and cloud hosting as well as training, data migration, customization and technical support. Check out our packages and get a quick quote today. Looking forward to hearing from you!

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