What is Koha?

Koha is an open source integrated library system (ILS) maintained by and used by libraries all over the world.

The History

In 1999 the Horowhenua Library Trust in New Zealand contracted with Katipo Communications to develop a new ILS before their existing system failed due to Y2K. During the proposal process, Katipo suggested to the library that the software they developed should be released under the GNU General Public License (GPL) to ensure the project lived on and would be able to be supported by other companies.1

The Name

During the development process the new ILS was playfully named C4 or “Cheap and Cheerful Copy of C‚Ķ {the name of the old system},”2 but the library wanted to come up with a name that meant something and so they decided on the name Koha. Koha is a MƒÅori word (not an acronym for anything) for “gift,” but not just any gift, it’s a gift with expectations. Think of a koha as a bottle of wine you bring to dinner. You are giving the wine as a gift to your host, but you expect dinner in return. With Koha the expectation is that you will contribute back to the project in some way.


With open source software people often think that the only way to contribute is to write code, this is not true. By simply using the product, reporting problems and suggesting improvements you’re contributing. What makes open source software so much better than proprietary software is the back and forth that takes place between those using the software and those writing it. With Koha the developers are very open to suggestions from those using the ILS and always use these suggestions as the building blocks for the next release.

Learn More

To learn more about Koha features please review our Koha Features Overview.

To contribute to the project please contact us and/or check out the official Koha website.

You can also learn more by reviewing the  Koha group bibliography or searching through the fake rolex sea dweller Free/Libre and Open Source Software bibliography, both on Zotero.


1 Ransom, Joann, Chris Cormack, and Rosalie Blake. “How Hard Can It Be?Developing in Open Source.The Code4Lib Journal no. 7 (June 26, 2009). http://journal.code4lib.org/articles/1638.

2 Engard, Nicole C. “KohaCon10: Keynote. What I Learned Today October 24, 2010. http://www.web2learning.net/archives/4218.