Tuesday, October 25, 2016


I arrived in Vermont in the nick of time for the gorgeous autumn leaves; one good wind and they'll come tumbling down.
After my frantic 2 days in New York I took a leisurely 9 hour train trip to Essex Junction where I was hosted by VOKAL - a consortia of 58 Koha libraries in Vermont.

Essex Junction library takes 'living room' of the town to
a whole new level; the fire is gas and much loved.
Travelling by train is so easy and so comfortable and it was such a nice relaxing way to get from point A to point B. I arrived about 8.30pm and was met by Wendy Hysko and Lara Keenan. I stayed with Lara and her husband Andrew for the next 2 nights and it was so great. I love the way I keep meeting awesome interesting people who transform from complete strangers into friends within about 10 minutes! I really do think there is something about this open source Koha library community that just attracts the right kind of people. Anyway, I really am enjoying the homestays on this world tour.

Richard, Wendy, me and Kim enjoying
Ben and Jerry icecream (made in Vermont)
The train journey was such a great way to finish my mentally busy New York visit and my advice to anyone is don't try and 'do' New York in 2 days; it was just as impossible as trying to 'do' London in 3.

Road Trip
The next day I joined the dynamos behind VOKAL for a tour of 5 different Vermont libraries. Richard, Kim and Wendy were such good company and so inspirational. They are the drivers behind the consortia of 58 public libraries in Vermont which comprise the VOKAL consortia. This consortia is a great model; they have a shared install but each library can implement its own lending policy ie loan period lengths, fines etc.

I get so tired of librarians in NZ saying that you have to give up something to join a consortia because its not true. With a Koha consortia you don't and I really hope that someday enough library managers in NZ will say 'enuff' and we can get a significant shift towards the nationwide Koha consortia which is starting to be developed by the existing Koha libraries.

Anyway, enough of that rant and back to Vermont! VOKAL is comprised of many small towns and library communities and I picked up lots of really cool ideas. The 'Books on Tap' programme is a bookclub for blokes that meets at the local pub - thats cool! And several libraries had display cases for displaying private collections of residents - including kids - but adults too. I loved the silent auction of beautifully crafted library book bags made by the local quilters and embroiders that were being auctioned to raise money for a building extension. I also loved the beautiful friends of the Library booksale 'cupboard' which squeezed into the tiniest space imaginable but was so attractive.

VOKAL User Group Meeting
I felt so privileged to be invited to speak about my work establishing and operating Te Takere as Horowhenua's new library, culture and community centre. I am so proud of all that the staff and I achieved and it was so great to be able to share our story. I also squeezed my 40 minute presentation on the origins of Koha into 15 minutes!

Nick Clemins from Bywater looking
pretty stoked with his purchases.
Some links
All the libraries I visited, and I think pretty much all public libraries in USA, are run with Boards of Trustees - like Horowhenua was. There are common challenges that we directors face including managing that divide between governance and operations, preparing / shifting staff for 'the new model' and managing performance.  I mentioned several tools and documents which I am happy to share:

After the usergroup meeting we had lunch at the Von Trapp estate; yes - Sound of Music Von Trapps who retired to Vermont! We shared a lovely lunch, actually some of us shared a lot more than others (because don't you just want to try everything when you are somewhere new) and then headed down the mountain (NZers: not really - more like foothills) to the best brewery in North America apparently.

The Cornish-Windsor Bridge
Christine Porter then drove me home to her forest home for the night where I played with her three gorgeous dogs (I so needed that - I've my one terribly) before driving me to Hanover for a bus to Boston. On the way we passed the longest covered, 2 span, wooden bridge in the world!

I can't believe how much can be squeezed into 2 days when you really set your mind to it and I am so grateful for Bywater, who sponsored this USA leg and VOKAL librarians for being so generous and hospitable!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

New York, New York

Looking downtown from
the Empire State Building
You've heard of speed dating right? Well I just had a massive speed date with New York City: 2 days!

When time is tight I find tours are a great way to cover a lot of ground really quickly - so I did one each day

Day 1
I booked a New York highlights VIP tour months ago and had forgotten what it involved so it was a mystery tour on the day! The best part was a very early start, no queues and first up / first on. It was remarkable value: 7.30am start and finished about 1pm.

The tour included the Empire State Building - what a cracker! The view was extraordinary! Then a quick bus trip to the Space, Sea and Sky museum. The Enterprise space shuttle was there and a whole bunch of planes and things. We then caught a ferry down to the tip of Manhattan Island and had a walking tour around the financial district etc before visiting the 9/11 memorial site.

The day finished with a trip on the metro to Greenwich Village and dinner with the lovely Jarod Camins-Esakov. Everyone I met in Marseilles who heard I was going to New York said I had to contact Jarod and meet him so I did and we did!
Another awesome piece at MoMA

Day 2
Another early start and straight down to Battery Park on the metro to catch a ferry out to the Statue of Liberty and then on to Ellis Island.
In the afternoon New York Public Library and MoMA before finishing off the day with New York cheesecake and Jamesons whiskey (which I have been carrying around for nearly a month and which I really must drink!)

I found MoMA quite overwhelming; so many of my favourite artists and works in one gallery. The galleries were arranged roughly in decades and it was an exceptional collection. I didn't know most of the newer and contemporary artists and I have mostly visited classical collections on this world tour so it was brilliant being exposed to new works and artists. I'd been told it was not to be missed and I am so glad I went.

I didn't get to the Met but that will have to wait for another trip.

Wall of 1960s pop art at MoMA

Thursday, October 20, 2016


I stayed in Annandale, DC and was hosted by Brooke for 4 days. I am so appreciative of the effort and generosity of people like Brooke, and Magnus and Mirko etc, who took time off work to escort me around their cities.

Brooke was a bit horrified at my choice of hotel because it was cheaper and not in a great area but I loved it! The room was enormous (and I have been squeezed into some cupboards this trip), the bed was comfortable (not a blimmin futon) and the local colour was great fun!

The lift was always an adventure. There was only 1 working lift and about 18 floors and it could only carry 6 people at a time took forever to get anywhere so you learnt pretty quickly to relax into it, chat in the queue, forget about trying to get anywhere in a hurry. The clientele were not well heeled, although there were a few startled tourists who were possibly booked here by accident. Lots of elderly, black-americans, teenagers, blue collar workers and dogs - you could have your pet to stay.

My approach is always to greet everyone in a friendly manner and be polite and really gets you through most situations. I don't know what Brooke thought the morning I hopped in the car reeking of pot because I'd shared the morning lift down with young men wearing gold grills and hip-hop clothes and speaking a 'street' dialect that was just fabulous. They were so joyful and full of brash confidence and had obviously been 'preparing' for their day. Anyway - I loved it.

A Triceratops at the Smithsonian; they were always my favourites as a kid.

We had agreed early on that we weren't going to race around like idiots and try and see everything and that we were going to relax and enjoy gorgeous food in great restaurants. Brooke and I had travelled in India a few years ago and both enjoy delicious food so I knew I was in good hands. We had fried green tomatoes and BBQ. If you ever need a food guide in DC; hook up with Brooke - 10/10 would use again!

Oh - and MASSAGE!! She booked us in for Thai massage on the first morning and after being told a gazillion times 'relax please' I actually did relax and it was possibly the best 1.5 hours I've spent yet. So funny though: Brooke wanted the works and I wanted relaxation; she came out like an energizer bunny (which lasted 3 days) while I came out like a lazy cat looking for a windowsill to curl up in.

In addition to seeing all the awesome buildings and landmarks, including the memorials, we got to the Smithsonian natural history museum and saw the dinosaurs and rocks and also managed to connect up with Phil Shapiro out at Takoma Park.

It was so great to spend time with Phil, visiting his turf, meeting his boss who proudly supports open source software - and yes they run Koha (all the cool kids do).

There was an amazing project in the hallway of the new community centre extension: a collection of portraits by Carollyn James showcasing and celebrating the diversity of the Takoma Park library community.

Phil Shapiro and the Faces of Takoma portrait wall.

Reflections on flying

I flew premium economy from Marseilles to DC. I had upgraded the 4 long legs of this tour (as in flights of 6+ hours) because I am a large woman and a tall woman and while I can fold myself into coach for a few hours it's no fun for anyone. I was also flying a lot of Lufthansa flights and while Air NZ  is quite spacious I've flown Lufthansa coach before and it was sooo bad. Los Angeles to Frankfurt with my knees jammed in sideways, hard against the seat in front left me crippled for about a week. This wasn't about my weight but about the length of my actual bones. Anyway, I reckon on this Lufthansa DC flight about half the length of the plane was business and premium-economy - which is a lot. Which tells you something about how airlines have made flying coach so blimmin awful that anyone over 5ft10in needs to be a contortionist.

The other thing I noticed is how hard it is to travel if you are older or have mobility issues; not full-on wheel chair but any kind of impaired ability. One of my connections required me to walk as fast as I possibly could, using every single travelator and walking fast on those too, from gate A69 to gate Z69 to make a connection. It took a solid 20 minutes of fast walking and I was the last person on the plane - sweating like a sweaty-thing and out of breath. This would have been impossible if you had a sore leg or foot, or a breathing condition or had short legs. I didn't see any obvious means of getting assistance unlike Washington where a bevvy of red caps were plane-side with wheelchairs and friendly smiles to assist.

And baggage carousels! I watched a lovely group of older women enjoying a holiday together try to collect luggage in Sweden and it was so hard for them to manhandle their bags off the conveyer belt. I helped of course, as anyone would, except no one else had offered to help. Having a fit young thing along with them would of course have helped but it would have changed their lovely holiday from 'a girls weekend' to an 'escorted trip of oldies'.

With our population getting so much older proportionately, and so much of the wealth in the hands of the babyboomers who are now retiring, and able to spend it, air travel might have to rethink itself. I can definitely see how cruising has so much appeal.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hackfest in Marseilles

The Bywater crew at the pancake place
To finish up the Europe leg of my world tour I went to Koha hackfest in Marseilles for 2 days before heading off to Washington - and it was totally awesome. I think there might have been 66 people attending over the week which is amazing!

Hackfest is like an unconference where all the attendees say what they want to work on and then a programme is put together. Lots of conversations, lots of bug fixing, lots of shared knowledge and lots of socialising.

What I especially loved were the greetings; it was like the movie 'Love Actually'. A bunch of us met up in the square with delighted hugs and handshakes; some were meeting in person for the first time after years of talking online (like me and Owen), others were old and new friends reuniting (me and Katrin who havn't met since KohaCon10) and me and Mirko (who I saw only a few weeks ago).

We went to the pancake place and over the next 3 hours as people arrived that scene was repeated and again the next morning at the BibLibre offices as people arrived.

International cheese lunch
I spent my time developing a Trust Deed for a new Trust that will take possession of the Koha assets that will be passed over with the winding up of Te Horowhenua Trust. This is because the Trust needs to vest its assets before it is wound up following Council's decision to no longer fund THT to provide library services in Horowhenua.

An infamous part of Hackfest is the cheese lunch and by crickey - it was astounding. We all ate too much and I can say for the first time in my life I was 'cheesed-out'.

That evening 15 of us went out to a beautiful French restaurant that Paul had suggested and most of us went for the Chef's menu of 5 courses - of his choice.  What a wonderful way to finish my hackfest.

I kept my head down in Marseilles and got a lot done but by about 3pm on my last day I realised I hadn't sat in the sun and drunk wine by the harbour - so that is what I did!

Marseilles harbour - old town


I spent the weekend before Koha hackfest with Sophie from BibLibre and her family about 40 minutes out of Marseilles, near Aix en Provence.

You would think living in hotels and eating in restaurants every meal would be glamorous - and it is for a while - but there is nothing nicer than being embraced by a family and living normally. The best thing of all is that the home was full of beautiful contemporary art and they like gorgeous food as much as I do :)

We spent Saturday being tourists and Provence was everything that everyone has ever told me it would be.

Sophie and Eric were the perfect hosts / tour guides and the first stop was a total surprise: Paul Cezanne's studio! It was just as it had been left and has been in the family ever since. It is now set up as a lovely low key museum with his props and paint brushes and also letters and papers.

 We then spent a few hours wandering Aix including the church - with a baptismal font dating back to the first century (not a typo). There was also a fabulous front door that is only opened 20 minutes a day - and we got to see it.

The market was probably a typical French market with gorgeous looking tables loaded with spices, olives, cheeses, salami, veges, spices, mushrooms but I found it charming and wonderful and took loads of photos. I also tasted a lot and bought salami and nougat as a small contribution to the wonderful food that I knew we would eat later in the weekend.

We also went to an old Cistercian Abbey. This Abbey is completely austere, devoid of ornamentation and absolutely beautiful. That term a 'religious' sense of awe; well that is how I felt walking around. I am constantly amazed at the engineering and craftsmanship employed by the cathedral builders back in the day.

We visited a few galleries and drank wine and ate tarte tartin and bought linen and then headed time to ignore each other for a few hours before the most wonderful home cooked meal where we ate cheese and salami and bread and olives followed by a succulent veal casserole. Brunch on Sunday was the best meal I've had in weeks including the fluffiest lightest pancakes made by Sophie's daughter that one can imagine. It sounds like we ate all weekend and actually we pretty much did - in between wonderful sightseeing. As far as hospitality goes and all round experience I rate 'Sophie's' as a 5 star establishment!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Gothenburg, Sweden

Last Summer we were so lucky to host 2 exchange students from Switzerland and Sweden in Horowhenua . They had a few meals at our house; wandering home after a long day at the beach patrolling as life guards. Karin's family called in briefly at the end of her trip and it was a such a pleasure to stay with her and her Mum in Gothenburg for a flying visit before leaving Sweden.

More stunning scenery; we started the visit with a gorgeous lunch and then a boat trip out to see the small islands out of f the harbour.

Next day we went for a tour of the Volvo factory that Anna-Maria organised for us! Robots welding is a magnificent thing to see; no photos though - top secret.

Karin then took me into Gothenburg city for a look around. The Church is amazing: built in mid 1800s in a gothic style but it is painted so really different but really gorgeous too. Even the wooden pews were painted a lovely soft green which worked with the arches.

I talked Karin into taking me to the art gallery and Wow! Beautiful building and really lovely collection including many scandinavian artists that I had never seen before. The colour palate used the light is so different and so 'light-handed' - I really loved them.

Karin had never visited a gallery before or had any knowledge of art but she agreed to play a game with me that my sister Jackie and I first played in Melbourne. In each gallery/room you have 1 minute to pick your favourite and explain why to the other person. It is great way to experience art, figure out what you like and to view art through another person's eyes.

I think the best way to start looking at art is to see which ones resonate with you, evoke a reaction, and then think about why? It is a good way to figure out what it is that piqued your interest. Sometimes it is not even a picture you like or it is one that surprises you. Anyway it was fun and Karin found out she does quite like art actually after all!

A gallery in the Gothenburg Art Museum

Gorgeous views on the commuter ferry trip.