Friday, October 23, 2015

Clever Fiction

Summer 2013 Rowing Regatta, Clive River.

I looked along the row of parents supporting their offspring and counted 9 of us all reading ‘The Luminaries’ by Eleanor Catton which had recently won the 2013 Man Booker Prize.  A few weeks later, I was discovering that while many people had bought or borrowed the book I knew very few who had finished it – let alone understood or enjoyed it.

The Bone People’ by Keri Hulme, a Booker Prize winner in 1984, suffered the same fate and as a young library assistant I remember dozens of library members returning it unfinished. I read it myself and while I found it ‘so so’ it has always sat in the back of my mind. I reread it a few months ago and wow. I will no doubt read ‘The Luminaries’ again too – because I have to figure out the zodiac references and I completely missed that each chapter was half the length of the previous ones and that’s why I felt ‘rushed’ the closer to the end I got; so interesting!

Good fiction can sometimes feel a bit too ‘clever’ on first reading, making us feel incompetent or dull for not ‘getting it’. I remember reading Mrs Dalloway’ by Virginia Woolf. I struggled through it the first time feeling completely confused because the entire book is written as internal monologues but it skips from one person to another – without telling you whose head you are in! By the time I reached the last page I vividly remember starting straight over again from the front because I’d finally figured out how to read it!

‘The Matriach’ by Witi Ihimaera, Wattie Book of the Year 1986, was another astounding book. It contained huge blocks of text in Italian. I remember feeling so disconcerted and disoriented because I really wanted to know what was happening but I just didn’t understand the language. Well guess what: welcome to the struggles of Maori in the land alienation shenanigans by European settlers and Land Courts. This was such a powerful way to force the reader to empathise with the main characters and their struggle comprehending the whole new ‘language’ of land ownership.

Award winning literature is a funny business. Literary prizes have been awarded since the days of the Greek playwrights and for millennia there have been arguments about what constitutes an award winner. We want awards to be clear markers of excellence but there are no absolute standards for judging aesthetic matters. The criteria for excellence in literature are entirely subjective; It all comes down to personal taste.

The Library has just launched a collection of award winning books for readers to get their teeth into so pop on down to your local library or view online: List: “Award Winners” on

Jo’s pick of interesting ‘new’ Award Winners

Friday, March 15, 2013

Kete Redevelopment Proposal

So pleased to be working with Josh and crew at Rabid on the Kete Redevelopment proposal:

"Today we are very pleased to announce a proposal to rally the community of Kete users to assure the future and walk down a path of improving the usability of Kete, and again make it attractive to the community serviced by our libraries.

The Redevelopment Proposal is the result of discussions with many of the community, and we are now publishing this for discussion. The funding goals seem large, but we believe moderate funding contributions can kick-start a major upgrade. When we deliver Phase One, we will have a modern, well-tested software base to start rolling out features to get you excited about using Kete again.

We have some introductions to make. I am Josh Forde, co-founder of Rabid in Wellington. I have been talking with Joann and Walter since early 2012 about the prospect of working with Kete. We love the values of the project and really see the opportunity to realise the potential of the software. Breccan McLeod-Lundy, technical lead at Rabid has experience developing on the Kete project in previous iterations.

There is one quick request we have to make. Our proposal references research from the UK presented at a recent NDF event. It states that approximately 90% of the archives of value in our communities are actually in private hands, which is a major underpinning value of giving community access to store their repositories in a digital form. We think improving the storage capabilities will be a major driver for users increasingly using Kete, and that they can be placing these assets in trustworthy hands in the libraries. We would love your assistance in sourcing this research, as librarians are not going to abide my lack of citation! The closest discussion I can locate online is here : - but it's not quite the clarity that would help put the value of Kete into perspective.

Aside from that, we need your input and dialogue. I have spent many hours over the past 4 months talking to supporters of Kete and planning out a path for the software's future. But you are the users who understand where you would like this project to go. A successful outcome for us involves us modernising the software, but also activating local software developers in new territories to contribute to an improving system. Ruby on Rails has widespread adoption and significant interest from developers. Again having a robust open source offering is certainly achievable and would reflect well on the New Zealand contributors.

So, over to you... looking forward to your comments.

Cheers Josh

Josh Forde on the Cuba Street Project and Kete from Rabid Technologies on Vimeo.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Our council has a vision: “To make Horowhenua the best rural lifestyle district in New Zealand” and they recognize that 21st century Libraries have a huge role to play in getting there. In just a few weeks stage 1 of Horowhenua's brand new library, culture and community centre, Te Takere, will open. This $7m project is the work of the Council and Horowhenua Library Trust in partnership with the Muaupoko Tribal Authority. It is the result of a community working together to achieve great things – not least of which is a huge amount of fundraising.

We are on the home straight now but could really use a hand. Imagine if all of my friends each gave $20 and each of them asked their friends to give $20 as well and so on. Imagine all the people throughout the globe who have connections back to Horowhenua. If this went viral we could cross the fundraising goal really fast!

Levin really is an awesome place and as a community we have done cool things together. The hockey turf, the events centre and the adventure playground are 3 big community projects - and Te Takere is the next.

If you would like to help us by donating please do - and please ask anyone you can think off who might like to help to.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Update 3: NZ Koha trademark

We have received a response from PTFS to our letter outlining the grounds on which we object to their trade mark application and inviting them to transfer their application to the Trust.

The response advised that they are considering organisations as possible candidates to hold the NZ trademark and we were welcome to submit a proposal which would be required to address a number of criteria set by PTFS.

Te Horowhenua Trust, trading as Horowhenua Library Trust, is the nonprofit body elected by the Koha global community to hold community assets in safe keeping. We have spent a number of years negotiating with PTFS and would prefer now to trust a transparent and defined process conducted through IPONZ as to the proper ownership of the mark in New Zealand.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Review: The Arrangers of Marriage

A short story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

For my second book in the African Reading Challenge I chose The Granta Book of African Short Story . I love short stories as a genre. They take a formidable level of skill to write and I love that ever scene, every literary device employed, every word has to contribute to the whole, embedding layers of meaning within a very taut framework.

Adiche's story is extraordinary. It is a brief work, a mere 17 pages, that resonated so strongly with me I read it twice and then shut the book.

'The Arrangers of Marriage' is the story of Chinaza, a young Igbo woman, and her 'new' New York based Doctor-husband, Dave, also a Nigerian.

Back in the day I enjoyed a brief marriage to a beautiful Igbo man. It didn't last; sadly cross-cultural marriages are incredibly challenging. The obligation to be a success, or at least perpetuate the myth of the 'Golden West' to those dependent on you back home, is a very heavy burden.

In the story we read of Chinaza's disappointment when she arrives at her meanly furnished flat, they can't afford good food or phone calls home, and her husband works incredibly long, poorly paid, hours as a resident in a public hospital system. Chinaza eventually discovers that Dave is still married - what? He had married an American to get the Green Card - Oh its quite common apparently, everyone does it. But the divorce hadn't quite been finalised when he travelled home to meet and marry Chinaza. And so they are stuck in a loveless arranged marriage, and not a legal one at that, thus no Green Card and no way to leave and support herself. Nor can she expect any help from home.

Dave is an oafish man - nothing endearing about him at all - but I don't dislike him. So much of the story is so real. The characterisation is so nuanced, or maybe its my history, but I just feel for both of them.  Adichie has captured beautifully the sadder side of the expat experience.

Its a beautifully written tale by a young woman who is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie also wrote The Purple Hibiscus (finalist 2004 Orange Prize, nominee 2004 Man Booker Prize and winner of the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Update 2 on NZ Koha Trademark

Well things have been very quiet on this front while the lawyers work through the process.

We are being represented by Andrew Matangi from Buddle Findlay with input from Rochelle Furneaux and feel very confident that he has a good understanding of the Koha journey over the last decade or so and how we have got to where we are. He is also a specialist in this area so we have been quite relieved to have his hand on the tiller and plotting the course. These things take time and have to be done discretely of course, but a key date has passed and I think it is okay now to update everyone on progress.

A letter was sent to PTFS on the 19th January essentially outlining the grounds on which our objection to their NZ trademark application is based and asking them to assign their NZ trade mark application to the Trust. We also attached a Koha Trademark Usage Policy which the Library Trust recently adopted, following consultation with the Koha Subcommittee. We advised that unless a response was received by noon NZ time on the 1st of February we would file formal opposition.

Well that date has passed without word and so a formal Notice of Opposition is being prepared. The process from here is set out on the IPONZ website.

So there it is, due process being followed and no resolution in sight but we are still very confident that the right decision will be made.

Our Secret, Siri Aang

African Reading Challenge
I am taking a part in the African reading challenge and have just finished my first book this year by an African writer or about Africa.

The author, Cristina Kessler, is an American who has spent 19 years in Africa. Our Secret is a teen novel about a young Maasai girl called Namelok. She is on the edge of becoming 'A Woman' and all that entails including female circumcision, marriage to a man twice her age, restricted movements etc. It is also the story of 'change' touching on western education, poaching of African wildlife, the impact of tourism and 'reservations' on the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Maasai.

Namelok 'can't breathe' in her family encampment and regularly wanders far collecting firewood when, one day, she comes across a rhino giving birth. She forms a bond with the rhino family, swearing to protect them but something dreadful happens and, bent on revenge, she tracks a limping man over the dangerous savannah.

The tale follows a lovely path and Namelok does become a woman but following a far different route than that prescribed to her. It is beautifully written and far more subtle and complex than I would have expected from a young adult book. Mind you; I don't read much Teen fiction and maybe I should.

4 stars and recommended.