Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sunday, November 13, 2016


"Take me somewhere pretty, Brendan, somewhere clean and green".

Portland Oregon - that is where it is at folks. Look at that countryside: just like in the movies: green grass, a cabin in the woods and a horse!

By the time I got to Portland, after a freezing but fun week in Montreal, I was craving the outdoors again. I was also craving puppy-hugs and a home environment. Boy did Brendan deliver!

Not only did Bywater Solutions sponsor most of the American leg of my Koha world tour but Brendan took me home and allowed me to be part of his family with Sonja, Ginny and Aloo. I have loved travelling and the hotels and the restaurants but sometimes it is just so nice to be part of a family, eat simple food like the delicious scrambled eggs I had with Christine in Vermont and sleep with a dog on the end of the bed.

Being in Portland was the perfect way to finish my Koha World Tour. The trip was thus 'bookended' with Bob and Irma Birchall sending me off on my way from Sydney and Brendan wrapping it up with me in Oregon.

Spent about 6 hours in a car on our way to and from a users group meeting out at the coast and it was really good to reflect on the last 3 months and the themes or issues which have emerged. They will make a blog post on their own as I feel the need to write down what I have seen and heard; not quite a state of the Koha-nation but I think I have had a unique opportunity which has given me a global view.

Lenora and Brendan
We also visited Lenora Oftedahl from a fisheries research library in Portland. Brendan and I think she might have been the first Koha or 2nd library in the USA - very early in any case. Got it up and running themselves. It was a real pleasure meeting this wonderful lady and a real bonus was a stunning First Nation's craft fair. I could have spent a fortune because sadly, once you have fallen in love with a $300 handcrafted necklace everything else pales in to significance.

Did a fair bit of socialising in Portland too: great brewery visit, superb afternoon drinking cocktails from the 30th floor looking over the city, the best BBQ ribs I  have ever tasted in my life and pizza for breakfast with Sonja's dough (that we couldn't fit in the night before).

Portland, Oregon.

Friday, November 4, 2016


Kansas: big and flat and open; imagine what those early pioneers felt heading West.
From Montreal I flew to Kansas but had a massive 8 hour delay in Chicago. This was because the plane which had caught fire as it was taking off was still on the runway and Chicago, one of the busiest hubs in USA, had been running 2 runways down for a day or so. The wing was gone - like melted off. I am just so glad that it wasn't airborne when it happened and thus no one was hurt. It could have been catastrophic.

So poor George in Kansas joins a very select group of Koha alumni who had middle-of-the-night pickups: Esmael in Malayia, Ketan and Kirti in Mumbai. I really did try to arrive at reasonable time folks but I am so grateful that you so graciously met me instead of being tucked up in bed.

Cake tin collections!
I had to go to Kansas because this place is a hotbed of Koha consortia!

I stayed in Lawrence and was hosted by George from NEKLS and Jason from SEKLS. This was so cool as I got to cover a lot of ground, met a lot of librarians and see a lot of libraries. I have realised, after visiting Vermont and Kansas, that much of heartland America is populated by many small public libraries with the occasional big one - like Lawrence. The funding models are very different to NZ and quite complicated so I'm not even going to try and explain but I gather that philanthropy has a major role to play and the general 'wealth' of the area. Which means, actually, that the communities that need libraries the most and whose citizens have the most to gain tend to be more poorly funded. This sucks.

I saw two libraries in 2 small towns and one had a huge new library with everything imaginable while the other was squeezed into a tiny space which was crammed with kids. One town had been gifted a huge donation to build a library while the other was struggling on an annual budget of $28k which had to cover everything from wages to rent to power to collection development.

Money just pumping out of ground
everywhere you looked - but poorly
funded libraries
The library in this small impoverished town was probably the only place in the whole town that kids could go for free. Imagine if a local employer of most of the town's working-folk would financially support this facility with an annual grant of say $30k doubling their budget, imagine if the library could relocate into one of the many bigger empty places on main street, imagine if there was room for books AND people AND tables AND chairs AND computers AND space for programmes. The librarian was wonderful; clearly making the most of what she had - but she needed so much more. Maybe those neighbouring libraries who had great gorgeous collections that desperately needed weeding because their shelves were groaning could share with their more-poorly resourced neighbours through the provision of rotating loan collections. Maybe a rich town with generous benefactors could partner with their poorer neighbours - I don't know - but I do know that the inequity of the differing levels of service really upset me.

I used to cop flack that the Youth Space at Te Takere was full of poor brown kids; you know what: great! I don't care. The kids who had warm homes that they were actually allowed to go into after school, who had nice furniture and every technogadget imaginable, and the luxury of enough space to hang out in and relax didn't need the youth space as much as the others.

Lawrence Library
The last library I visited was in Lawrence and it was beautiful and modern and friendly and welcoming and such a lovely place to be in.

It was a big renovation project which basically 'wrapped' a new building around a brutalist 1970s bunker - spectacularly well.The signage was beautiful - such a light hand - but so clear and helpful and the collection was also beautifully managed; 2/3rd full shelves with lots of display.

There was also a very large touchscreen 'station' for downloading ebooks and audiobooks. The display was enticing - with all the covers - and it really showcased the 'other' collections that were available.

Also saw the sexy bibliotheca 'ipod' self issue stations with neon lighting. I wanted those so badly for Te Takere but we went with something else.

Library collections done right right according to Jo. Lots of space, lots of covers, no clutter.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Francois in Montreal - we met in Mumbai in 2011
I was hosted in Montreal by Eric, Serge and the InLibro team. I travel to the other side of the world, walk into an office and find someone I know: Francois!!

I love this about Koha; the global nature of the movement / project / community means that you never know where people are going to turn up or which vendor they are working for.

A real selling point for libraries considering switching to Koha is that it is vendor agnostic. Vendors are selling a service; the code is free - anyone can download it for free and  get it going and run their library completely independently of any vendors.

Many of us though, choose to use vendors for a bunch of reasons. For me the reason was Koha doesn't need a lot of staff time and it was silly having that resource on staff sitting around when I could just buy in the few hours a year when we needed support. So if the code is free it is the service you are buying and if you aren't happy then change vendors. It does not mean you have to change library management systems. The best thing for Koha is do have many vendors all running thriving businesses in co-opetition with each other: commercial competitors in the market-place but cooperative partners in development. This is actually a thing and does work. It is also one more powerful reason to make sure that you are running as close to trunk as possible.
Hockey at the Bell Centre

One of the things I really wanted to do was see a hockey game in Canada and the InLibro did me proud taking me out to a fantastic game at the Bell Centre. It was great; so much more immediate than a rugby game because the rink is so much smaller and you are sitting right there. The arena was huge 3 or 4 tiers and the crowd was so rowdy; it was great!

I spent a couple of gentle days sightseeing after developing a list of must-sees with the InLibro folk following a user group establishment meeting (which was great by the way). There is definitely a movement within the Koha world to form user groups and I am quite excited by this as an opportunity for us to figure out a way to channel that local 'voice' into the international 'voice'.

Anyway, sightseeing: the Notre Dame Cathedral absolutely breathtaking.These buildings are so important in our cultural heritage and must cost a fortune to maintain. I'm happy to pay an entry fee as my tourist-tax to help.

The archaeology museum was fabulous and made such good use of multi-media to provide a whole bunch of ways using different senses to 'get' the story. I'm really bad at modern museums; I am linear (it turns out) and want to see everything chronologically, in the right order. I really struggled with the Smithsonian evolution hall and also the History of German History in Berlin because I couldn't find the beginning and then step through in an orderly manner. I recognise I'm old fashioned and out of sync with best practice.

I also spent hours in art galleries, particularly Inuit art, and purchased a beautiful dancing polar bear carved from a piece of dark serpentine stone. I have basically bought 3 main souvenirs: a stunning tablecloth in Malaysia, a beautiful porcelain dish in Czech Republic and this dancing bear which weighs a ton but I don't care. When I bought the dish Bohdan asked was I seriously going to carry it around the world for the next 2 months; yes I was and I have and ditto the bear.

It was Halloween while I was in the States and the photo for this entry is from an amazing decorated garden in Montreal.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Notes to future Jo re travelling

Below are notes to self next time I am planning to travel:


  • you hate early starts so avoid early flights,
  • you don't sleep well in planes so avoid overnight flights too,
  • you don't much enjoy airline food so eat before you board,
  • you are perfectly happy to watch 4 movies on end so just relax and enjoy a whole day sitting on butt in a plane,
  • you don't enjoy reading on an ereaders,
  • take several disposable books; the trashier and chit-litty the better,
  • you will not want to read nonfiction while on holiday even though you think you do,
  • you like moving to a new place every 4th or 5th day,
  • you like meeting new people and crave human company and conversation after about a day so make sure you build in opportunities for human interaction eg tours,
  • tours are a great way to see a lot in a short period of time - and to talk to people,
  • trip advisor and viator are great,
  • google maps is brilliant for negotiating public transport,
  • eat fresh vegetables every day because you will feel shit after about 3 days otherwise,
  • you have never been let down by Uber or had a bad experience,
  • 'checkin' regularly on twitter or facebook to leave digital footprints especially when going somewhere a bit off the track.


  • use; it helps you find hotels quickly, use the filters, you can cancel without penalty, it managers all your bookings and their contact details in a handy dandy list, sends you reminders, has information about the best way to get there,
  • you are perfectly happy in 3 star hotels,
  • 'chic, 'designer', 'urban', 'modern' are all ephemisms for 'tiny', 'uncomfortable' and 'high tech',
  • you hate high tech rooms where you can't turn on lights or operate showers,
  • old hotels don't generally have lifts and you hate carrying luggage up lots of floors,
  • you don't much enjoy hotel breakfasts so don't pay for them,
  • you prefer to sleep late and miss breakfast then have a great brunch / lunch and then eat again at teatime,
  • get a hotel close to a metro station,
  • pay more for a hotel close to major sights you want to see, 
  • remember to always ask for a room on a high floor, not facing the road, away from lifts,
  • only book rooms with free WiFi,
  • you like room service,
  • post your photos on facebook in case you lose your phone,
  • buy sim cards in each city rather than use roaming data.


  • Pack everything in luggage organisers and use them fanatically: tops, bottoms, underwear,
  • Unpacking / packing time if you do so: 5 minutes,
  • Pack 2 white and 2 black bras so you have 1 to wear when the other is in the laundry,
  • You are really good at doing hand washing every day so you will reuse the same clothes over and over and over so don't overpack,
  • all of the clothes should go together in different ways,
  • the long sleeved Swazi top is the one to take; forget about the short sleeved one: you either need a Swazi layer or you don't,
  • you will not wear sandles no matter how hot it is because you don't like slippery, sweaty soles,
  • 2 really comfortable pairs of walking shoes - one of which can double as formal shoes,
  • you love your Swazi coat; it is not too hot if you wear a light layer underneath, it is a great snuggly blanket on flights so carry it on board and it has huge pockets which can take about 10kgs of luggage if you need them too,
  • find a source of lightweight silk underwear rather than cotton; you love wearing cotton but it takes ages to dry and you hate synthetic underwear, 

Accessories and stuff

  • forget jewellery - you are too lazy and only wear your gold chain,
  • take 1 multi coloured scarf that goes with everything; you like them when its cold and it changes an outfit,
  • pack a light coloured collapsible umbrella in your handbag; use for shade when its hot and for drizzle protection,
  • pack a woolly hat and gloves if you are going somewhere cold,
  • forget about a sunhat and sunblock; the only country you ever get burnt in is NZ,
  • forget about makeup - you are too lazy to put it on,
  • except for lipstick - you like lipstick,
  • and perfume - one 50ml or 75ml bottle of great perfume,
  • hair plucking tweezers,
  • liquid laundry soap,
  • toothpaste and brush are great stain removers,
  • a bathroom with inroom temperature control and humidity extractor makes a great overnight drying room if you set it to 30 degrees,
  • a heated towel rail will dry clothes overnight,
  • knicker liners are the best invention,
  • pack your own personal hygiene products because you will not be able to find the right brand when you are away and having your period is NOT the time to figure this shit out,
  • you hate hotel shampoo so take enough special shampoo for the entire trip,
  • forget a toilet bag; pack everything in ziplock bags and double bag shampoos and deoderant,
  • you will not be arsed blow drying your hair so just embrace your lego-lady look,
  • eyeglass cleaning wipes,
  • ear plugs,
  • multi-zone power adapter, multi box, usb charging box and corded usb cables,
  • a mouse for your computer
  • a soft across-the-body bag that can be thrown in a suitcase is better than a formal handbag,
  • a nice wallet doubles as an evening bag.

First aid kit

  • Berrocca is your go too drug - pack 1 for every single day,
  • pack diarrhea, anti-naus and electrolytes for 10 days, 
  • pack cold sore ointment and patches because if you don't pack them you will need them,
  • strepsil throat spray because your throat is your weak spot when you are run down, 
  • cough drops,
  • 10 days of Coldral cold tablets will get you through 2 bouts,
  • blister gel pads and plasters - and use them before you need them,
  • toe nail clippers.

Saturday, October 29, 2016


I read a lot about New England and Salem and Boston when I was studying for my English degree; my favourite paper of all time was American short stories. I was therefore really keen to come to Boston and have a poke around.

I am really starting to feel tired now so I reverted to my post-Asia routine of sleeping until I wake, leisurely late brunch then out and about from early afternoon followed by an early tea and bed.

I am loving this trip but I have realised that it is a pretty relentless schedule heading off to a new place about every 4th day (though sometimes 3rd and very occasionally 5th). I had booked in a rest week in Ireland and one in Boston but the opportunity came up to visit Vermont - and I wasn't missing that for anything - and Ireland was a crazy obsessive - but productive - genealogical marathon.

I love meeting people in this wonderful Koha community and I want to meet everyone and talk to everyone and drink beer with everyone and accept every offer of hospitality and see and experience everything in every city BUT this does take energy, energy I need to start managing a bit better ..... although I could just sleep for a week when I get home I guess :)

So, leisurely starts, gentle days and early nights should just about get me home I think - plus 4 days eating BBQ, drinking beer and generally solving the problems of the universe with Bywater-Brendan in Oregon.

Back to Boston ....

The Duck Tour - every itinerary said to do the Duck Tour first so I did. Brilliant - corny - but brilliant. All the main spots on land then a harbour view as well. Tours like this are great don't take much energy - just kick back and enjoy.
Trinity Church, Boston.

The key, I have discovered, to seeing a place is learn to use the metro immediately and google maps. In fact technology has been of priceless value to me. I loaded all my bookings into an app - correction: Tripit gathered up all my bookings from my email account - and that was a great way to have all my flights, transfers, accommodation and tourist attraction bookings in one place. was another awesome tool which made it so easy to find accommodation quickly (use the filters) and book it. I did reviews too because I found those really helpful when choosing places to go. I stayed at one place after ignoring the 30% of bad reviews and that was a mistake because those bad reviews were all correct right down to the mouse in my room, arrogant staff and exorbitant 'facility fee' extra that is charged on arrival. Uber was brilliant - I used it in cities where I couldn't be bothered trying to master public transport and just wanted to get from A to B as quickly as possible (generally when I had loads of luggage and couldn't face escalators and metros).

The gamechanger though was google maps which I used extensively, everywhere. It was brilliant for telling me how to get from A to B and the metro info in every city was bang on; it tells you what station, what platform, what direction, how many stops and what it will cost. The only trouble I had was knowing what direction 'north-west' actually was etc but a compass app soon solved that but I quickly learnt that if you position yourself on a corner with the streets in the right alignment it all falls into place.

Back to Boston ...

Many of the tours were closed for the season but Christine from Vermont, who had worked in Salem, told me just to catch the train out there - easy peasy - and it was. I don't know about Salem. It kind of felt like a themepark and the story of Salem witch trials and those silly hysterical naughty girls is actually hideous and it didn't sit right with me seeing this glorification of witches and the Disneyfication of Salem. Maybe its because everything was ramping up to Halloween but I just didn't get it. I was interested in the history of it, the social conditions that prevailed at the time and created the environment for it to happen but the tacky fortune tellers and witches potions and related stuff just didn't do it for me.
The House of Seven Gables, Salem.

I loved the Nathaniel Hawthorn house down on the harbour front - that was way cool - and the House of Seven Gables (built in 1668 and the title of one of his novels) was a fantastic tour. This whole complex was set up to teach skills to immigrant children by a remarkable woman called Caroline Emmerton.

I made a mistake in getting to the Boston airport 3 hours before I was due to fly. I have an Air Canada club card and since I was flying Air Canada I figured there would be a nice lounge I could relax in, have breakfast, drink champagne, read a magazine and perhaps write a blog post. Nope. You pass straight through security into a 'lounge' that feels like a Dr's waiting room with a crappy cafe cart system and that's that. It was a long 3 hours I can tell you.

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 insanely 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 book club 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 embroiderers 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 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 user group 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 allegedly the best brewery in North America.

The Cornish-Windsor Bridge
Christine Porter then drove me to her forest home for the night where I played with her three gorgeous dogs (I so needed that - I've missed 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 to Bywater, who sponsored this USA leg and VOKAL librarians for being so generous and hospitable!
Post VOKAL User Group meeting lunch; an awesome bunch of people whom I feel so privileged to have met.