Thursday, December 9, 2010

Te Takere Plans get Green Light

At the Horowhenua District Council meeting on 8 December 2010 Council gave the green light for revised Levin Community Centre plans to go out for public consultation.

The plans show a multi-functional $7 million facility which will be located in the old Countdown building as well as utilising the existing library adjacent. It’s hoped the facility will become a ‘heart and hub’ for the Horowhenua community. The building, designed by Architect Brian Elliott of Designgroup Stapleton Elliott, takes its inspiration from a waka and a ‘fly through’ of the building was presented at the meeting.

Five submitters spoke in support of the proposal – although some with caveats around the cost.

Cr Peter Keenan also announced the donation of a collection of rare bird prints by artists Bill Howard, Elaine Power and Russell Jackson on behalf of the Keenan family to the project. It is anticipated that the prints may be displayed within the new facility.

What is the proposed name and what does it mean?

Te Takeretanga o Kura-Hau-Po (or Te Takere as it will be known for for short) is the proposed name for the new facility and offers many different layers of meaning. Te Takeretanga means ‘dispersion of knowledge’ while the word ‘Te Takere’ means ‘hull’ – the place in the waka where taonga (treasures) are kept for safety. The bottom of Lake Punahou (Horowhenua) is also said to be the shape of a hull. Kurahaupo is the name of the Muaupoko waka.

What's included in Te Takere

Te Takere’s design, services and resources will appeal to all age groups. It will be free to visit, have good parking and be conveniently located to shops and other recreational facilities. Te Takere will be an ideal venue for performances, events, markets and fairs. Inside, it will be well equipped with services such as the café, toilets and baby changing facilities – all of which will encourage people to stay longer and enjoy their visit.

The plans show an exciting array of different spaces within the floor space of 4,080 square metres. These include:

§ The Takere –a large 500m² public exhibition, performance, function and social gathering space located in the heart of the facility and effectively connected to the outdoor civic space

§ Well equipped meeting rooms (of differing sizes and with several accessible outside of normal opening hours) which will offer meeting space and storage for local clubs and organisations, privacy for business meetings, and quiet areas for seminars and study

§ A Youth Area of approximately 250m² which includes spaces for social and recreational activity, group and individual study, mentoring and support

§ A safe, exciting and well resourced Children’s Area (of approximately 320m²) adjacent to an enclosed outdoor area

§ A comfortable and accessible 200m² Seniors Area (for relaxing, socialising, reading, meeting and participating in community activities and forums) which will include comfortable furniture, a TV lounge, news area and computers located near the Takere and the sheltered enclosed garden

§ A Te Ao Maori space (of approximately 150m²) which will located close to the entrance to Te Takere will reflect the heritage and history of all local iwi in Horowhenua and provide performance and exhibition space to showcase Maori arts and culture

§ A local history area (of approximately 100m²) which will provide information about the history of the district and promote local activities and achievements

§ Heritage and genealogy storage and research facilities (approximately 300m²)

§ A designated practice, content creation and recording facility (approximately 50m²) - designed and resourced to encourage people of all ages to record, preserve, share and showcase local stories, music and talent

§ A formal learning area of 200m² which will be used for local and at-distance education programmes (accessible outside of normal opening hours)

§ Exhibition and performance spaces located in the Takere (and including a small stage and associated equipment) as well as throughout the wider facility and the adjoin outdoor areas

§ A café (located within the Takere)

§ The main library collection (approximately 750m² to allow for improved access and effective display)

§ Reception, service and transition areas (which may also include areas for clubs and organisations to provide services and advice)

§ Public toilets

§ Work and storage areas

Who is behind the project?

The project is being developed by the Horowhenua District Council and the Horowhenua Library Trust in consultation with Muaupoko Tribal Authority.

Why does Horowhenua need this facility?

There are many reasons that a facility like this is needed in the Horowhenua District. These include:

§ The development of literacy skills – through the provision of accessible resources, mentoring and support for learning.

§ The Deprivation Index shows that Horowhenua District is more socio-economically deprived than New Zealand as a whole.

§ There is a higher proportion of teen parents; children and young people account for a greater percentage of crime in the District and a higher than average proportion of young people leave school without any formal qualifications.

§ Access to telecommunications is inconsistent and in many cases, unaffordable.

§ There is a desire to improve involvement and engagement between Council, Iwi and Hapu.

§ There is a need for an improved understanding of the Maori world view and a greater awareness of local history.

§ Publicly accessible space for cultural exhibitions and activities is needed.

§ Many community groups require support and improved networking between groups and volunteers are valued by the community.

§ The District would like to increase tourist numbers and encourage new business and industry.

This building is being developed in the context of a wider town plan for Levin and it’s hoped that the new facility will become a catalyst for revitalising the town’s centre.

Te Takere supports the strategic goals identified in many of the District’s key planning documents including Horowhenua District Council’s Long Term Council Community Plan, Muaupoko 2020 strategy, Council strategies on positive ageing, youth, education, arts, heritage & culture, disability and development and the Horowhenua Library Trust strategy.

How much will it cost and where will the money come from?

§ Building Te Takere is expected to cost $7 million. This is made up of the $1.8 million spent on purchasing the Countdown building in 2006, plus building costs of an estimated $5.2 million. The building costs are lower than they would be for a complete new build of this size, as it utilises existing buildings.

§ Because the project incorporates a significant Community Centre, it has been able to attract external funding. Over $600,000 in funding has so far been secured from various community grants and additional funding applications are planned.

§ Horowhenua District Council will contribute $2.4 million in total towards Te Takere – (this figure includes the $1.8 million spent on purchasing the Countdown building in 2006).

§ At Horowhenua District Council’s November meeting, the project received a massive boost with the announcement of a $500,000 contribution from a deceased estate, taking the total funding secured so far to an impressive $1.1 million. (made up of $600,000 in community grants plus $500,000 donation)

§ The shortfall in funding needs to be found through additional community grants, business sponsorship and community fundraising efforts. A public fundraising campaign will be launched early in 2011, following the public consultation process.

Project Timeline

2006 – The Levin Library expansion is first mooted and put into the Long Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP)

2006 – Council purchases the old Countdown building with the intention of extending the current library and creating a community centre. Another company agrees to purchase the other half of the building, but negotiations stall.

2007 – Levin Community Centre Development Issues and Options Report is prepared by Opus International Consultants for Horowhenua District Council

2010 – An independent advisor, Nicki Moen is contracted to advise Council and the Horowhenua Library Trust on the design of the new facility.

August 2010 –Council agrees to utilise entire space of the Countdown building rather than half of the space as originally planned.

November 2010 – An anonymous $500,000 donation towards the project is received on behalf of a deceased estate.

December 2010 – Building designs and costings go to Council and are approved to go out for public consultation. Cr Peter Keenan announces the donation on behalf of the Keenan family of a number of rare bird prints by renowned artists

December 2010 – mid February 2011 – Council to undertake public consultation on the plans

For comment about the project, please contact:

§ Horowhenua District Council Mayor Brendan Duffy – Mob 0274 433 516

§ Muaupoko Tribal Authority Chief Executive Steve Hirini – Mob 021 651 958

§ Horowhenua Library Trust Chair Sharon Crosbie – ph 06 362 6551

For further background information about the project please contact:

Horowhenua District Council Strategic & Corporate Services Manager David Clapperton, Ph (06) 366 0980

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Robin Hood-ing our way to $500k

Several years ago Horowhenua Library Trust launched a bequest programme encouraging people to remember us in their wills. Now don't go all funny on me and throw your hands up in horror: this is not ghoulish.

We need to raise 15% of our revenue from sources other than rates - thats about $180,000 a year. The more we can raise in sponsorship and donations from those who can afford to 'give' the less we have to charge in rental fees and user charges. Unlike Robin's victims ours seem quite happy with this approach.

A fair few people have significant wealth tied up in assets and while they may not have the ready cash to donate generously to the library during their lifetime they are very pleased to 'give' on their demise. In the scale of an entire estate a $20k donation to the library is often seen as peanuts and I have witnessed the pride exhibited by family members when they discovered that their Dad had left money to the library. It was only $3,000 but it felt really good to them when they delivered it - in person - and it gave us a warm feeling to know that he appreciated us in his lifetime.

Of course some do have the wherewithal to donate in their lifetime and we have 1 lovely person who brings us in a $15,000 or $20,000 cheques every July - just to help us out a bit. The old adage 'don't give until it hurts - give until it feels good' springs to mind whenever I see the monthly automatic payments showing up on our bank statement from a woman wanting to say thank you because we are so kind to her housebound Mum. This 'thank you' sentiment strikes a cord with a good many of our Seniors because every year we manage to raise about $3,000 in $20 donations - in fact people start asking when the promotion will be running because they don't want to miss out!

We receive donations of $1,000 - $5,000 reasonably often, but we have had two $20,000 donations this year and last week we were given a staggering $500,000 towards our new library building. The donor had no children and wanted her money to benefit the kids of the town ... we can do that :)

This approach works for us so don't be shy to try it.

PS If you would to donate to our building project we'd love your support :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

The power of a good Annual Report 09/10

I am delighted to present the 2009 - 2010 Annual Report for Horowhenua Library Trust.

This year, I wanted use the Annual Report to paint a picture in order to have a useful tool for the coming year. We are about to embark on fundraising the remaining $2m required for our new libraries. We are a Council controlled organisation and elected councillors have to choose how much of the rate-take will come to us in operational funding and also how much capital to invest in our new facilities. I have tried to make a number of points to help make that decision making easier:
  • we are a professional organisation not some 'bake sale committee',
  • we are a team of many - not a one pony show,
  • we think strategically about what we do and why,
  • we provide an extremely good return on investment,
  • we are truly a 'community' organisation
  • the 'book' loss in the financial accounts doesn't tell the whole story.
We have printed a small number of hard copies but have also produced an online version for the first time. The printer was able to supply us with a high grade pdf file which was easily and quickly loaded to issuu, an award-winning free online publishing platform. This means that we can spread our story far wider than our cheque book would have allowed through traditional print media.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

School yard bullying is alive and well

Remember the schoolyard bullies of childhood?

Two groups of kids playing similar games on adjacent courts. One group, slightly nerdy maybe and certainly not the 'in' jocks of the other group, seem to be having heaps fun. Laughing, loads of kids on each side, all playing together, really friendly, with rules tweaked as the game progressed to even things up a bit so everyone can play.

The other court has a small team of uber-jocks playing hard and fast 'properly', right number of players on each side, referee, complicated rules, lots of people standing on the sidelines just watching. Slowly, one by one, the onlookers start drifting away from the jocks to the nerds; just watching at first then joining in to play as well.

The jocks look around and realise that they aren't the centre of attention anymore because of this 'mad' inclusive game on the other court which anyone can play because it doesn't need expensive gear, or insider knowledge or years of training.

So the jocks barge onto the court and take the ball, claim they own the court and the rules of the game are xyz. The nerds cry foul but the teacher just nods and says oh thats ok - they don't mean any harm.

The game carries on for a bit but the bullies don't get the nerd game, keep trying to bring in the old rules - not remembering that the nerds had already walked away from the old rules to play their own game.

The nerds try to play nicely but dont get a lookin with the bullies, they eventually wander off, find another place to play, a grassy paddock, another ball and carry on. The grassy paddock is pretty good actually, heaps softer to fall on, makes the game even better. Heaps more people join in. People still come to the courts to find a game, but its not the one they heard about. Their ears pick up the happy noises over in the paddock where the 'real' game is being played and they wander over and start playing too.

The jocks don't get it ... they took the ball, got the court - why havn't the nerds just given up?

Koha bullying
Well this is not dissimilar to the situation the Koha community finds itself in with LibLime / PTFS.

The game was library management systems. Some of us couldn't play - couldn't afford the gear and didn't really like the game that much anyway. So we started a new game, Koha, and pretty soon heaps of people were playing it to. Soon the 'real' library management systems started noticing that people were moving over to Koha. Funding issues just made Koha seem even more attractive, and of course the game was one anyone could play and it evolved really fast because everyone has influence.

So LibLime PTFS grabbed a piece of Koha. They took the ball, the code, and played with it a while cutting out the orginal players by not pasing it back in the way of bug-fixes and enhancements. They got the court too,

After a while, the koha community realised that it just wasn't getting a look in and decided to go get its own court to play on, and they have another ball, the code. Everyone is welcome to join in and the community is strong.

PTFS just dont get it.

They keep calling their forks Koha - but they are not. Its a different game. LEK and Harley are Koha forks because they were both built on the Koha open source code at some point in the past. They are not Koha now. PTFS have just released a new LibLime website where they still call their forks Koha and have invented a new logo for Koha. This is provocative, aggressive and just not on.

I was told off in Twitter today for swearing - and yes, sometimes I feel so angry and so helpless against such bullying that I do resort to swearing. I am so annoyed that our philosophically beautiful Koha is getting sullied through association with such ratbags as LibLime and PTFS who think nothing of lying in order to 'win' the game.

What is the game we are playing folks? What will a win look like to PTFS? Total domination of Koha by a single vendor? That will not be a win for anyone.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Powhiri at Kawiu Marae

Koha Conference attendees are invited to Levin on the 28th October for a very special event.

The Library Trust is honoured that Muaupoko, the tangata whenua or people of the land, are hosting us at Kawiu Marae following the Mayoral reception in Council chambers. This is a first for the Library Trust and the purpose of this post is to encourage Conference attendees to join us for what will be a very special evening.

We will be welcomed onto the Marae in a traditional manner. This will include the karanga where we are called on the Marae, a wero or taiaha challenge (to see if we come in peace), the laying down of koha, speeches, waiata (songs) a hakari or meal and kapa haka entertainment (singing, poi, haka). Information about the various components of the powhiri and what to expect can be found here.

There are also a few basic rules or tikanga which visitors will need to beaware of:
  1. Do not sit on the tables ANYWHERE,
  2. Do not smoke or drink alcohol,
  3. Do not throw food AT ALL,
  4. Do not pass food over anyones head.
The cost of the trip is $75 per person which includes return travel between Wellington and Levin, plus koha for our hosts and the entertainers. Partners and children are very welcome to join us (no charge for kids). Prepayment and bookings are essential so we can confirm arrangements with our hosts. To book and pay online click here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

KohaCon10 : the World comes down under

Our baby is grown up and out there doing its thing in the world, so it is with real pleasure that HLT welcome the 3rd International Koha Conference to NZ this October.

Koha is now used by hundreds of libraries around the world and supported by many international vendors. This year, to mark the 10th anniversary of its release, the conference is will be held in Wellington from Monday 25th October - Wednesday 27th October. Previous conferences have been in Marseilles and Texas.

The conference speakers are a veritable United Nations: UK, France, Nigeria, Taiwan, Pakistan, Malaysia, USA, Australia and NZ - and conference attendees hail from more countries than I care to list. The full programme can be found here.

This is an amazing opportunity for NZ librarians to see what all the fuss around Koha is about and mix with a truly international bunch of people who love Koha and have made it so successful overseas. It is somewhat odd that NZ, its country of origin, has been so reluctant to support this home grown product. A prophet is indeed a stranger in is own land.

The conference is free so there really is no excuse not to come and find out more. Registrations are open now on the conference website.

Personal highlights for me are:

George Oates - Integration with Open Library
A big success at NDF where she talked about her work with Flickr, George now works with Open Library team. She was responsible for creating the Flickr Commons ( and was the award-winning lead designer of Flickr itself.

Nicole Engard - How you can help
Nicole is a human dynamo and I have no idea how she squeezes so much into her life. She is the Director of Open Source Education at ByWater Solutions in the States, she is a prolific writer being published in several library journals and keeps the library community up to date on web technologies via her website "What I Learned Today...". In 2007, Nicole was named one of Library Journal's Movers & Shakers and in 2009 she was the editor of “Library Mashups,” a book published by Information Today, Inc. and in 2010 she will publish “Practical Open Source Software for Libraries” with Chandos Inc.

Mark Osborne - Koha in schools
Albany Senior High School is New Zealand's first open source high school, and Koha is one their key online environments. This session will be about how Albany is using Koha to promote literacy, community and high achievement.

Lee Phillips - Ask a librarian : Why I love Koha
Lee is the director of the Butte Silver Bow Public Library (BSB) in Montana, the first open source public library in Montana. The library runs Ubuntu OS on the public PCs and Open Office suite on both the public and staff client servers.

As an alumna of the University of Washington's Information School, Lee's MLIS focus was on human and computer interface, consortia culture and open source applications in public libraries. Her collection development plan was featured in the Spring 2010 OCLC newsletter.

Currently Lee is serving as a Montana State Library Commissioner by appointment of the governor of Montana. In the past year she has secured 150,000 dollars in grant funding for her library to develop programming that puts technology in the hands of library patrons.

Francois Marier - Freedom in the library: Convincing your boss that sharing is good

I hear "We can't use Koha because Council IT dept won't let us" far too often and this presentation is just for those people. Francois will show how the concepts of sharing, freedom and public domain are embodied by the FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) community. After describing what is meant by FOSS, we will look at how fairness is promoted through the choice of copyright licenses. Then we will examine the benefits of this freedom and of the related communities (for example, Creative Commons) it has inspired.

Mark Piper - Risk, considerations and realities of running a public access network

Mark is an independent hacker and will talk at the bigger picture of providing network & end-user systems for library membership to access Koha & the internet. He will explore the risks & mitigations of real world attacks.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Be careful what you wish for : teenagers in the library

We have been trying for as long as I can remember to attract teenagers into the library. Well we have done it. The library is the coolest gig in town and come 3pm the kids rush down from school. And its all for the internet, and the warmth, and its dry and, its seems just lately, its also a great place to punch hell out of other kids.

Take today for instance. 3 skinny white boys known to staff were quietly playing Risk, the board game, when 2 bros walked past. They abused our boys, shoved each other onto the board game and then each of the bros punched - yes punched - one of our boys in his face. At which point I was frantically summoned by 1 of the other boys.

When I challenged the bros, asking for their names, asking them to wait please while I ring the police because they have assaulted a library patron (yes I labelled it) I was turned on by 4 big girls, their sisters or friends or whatever. 15 or 16 years or so, full of attitude and lip: "oh leave them alone", "they didn't do anything", "they are only little" blah blah blah. At which point I pulled a camera out and took their photograph before heading back to my office to call the Police. I was followed back inside and up the stairs to my office by a very confident young lady, hurling abuse, mouthing off at the boys who had been bullied, getting right in my face until I said loudly and clearly "this is intimidation - you need to leave now".

Now I would like to say this is an unheard off incident, but sadly no. Yesterday 3 very naughty annoying girls bullied a couple of boys, the same girls who had spat on a staff member the previous weekend when asked to leave at closing time.

Actually that incident had capped off a scary scene an hour or so earlier when a staff member had been abused in extremely colourful language by a big fella who had taken offence at her rescuing his 18 month old toddler who was about to hit the bottom of the stairs after hurtling around the library screaming at the top of their lungs. Our staffer had already rescued the toddler once from running out of the library onto the street and had tried without success to find an adult to claim the toddler. Fortunately other members of the public came forward to defend her, someone called the police, several people made statements and the 'Gentleman' left the premises with obscene expletives still streaming from his mouth. He has since been trespassed for 2 years from the public library.

But what do we do with these kids? I don't want to trespass them for 2 years, the length a trespass order applies for. I want to welcome them in from the cold and rain, to use the computers, read the glossy music magazines, slouch in the velour couches and flick through the graphic novels. I just don't understand the psychology of their appalling behaviour. What motivates these kids to act they way they do and stuff it up for themselves? They want what we have - desperately - and queue every day for their free internet time. But I just cannot let this behaviour continue. All kids, the hip cool dudes and the geeky boardgamers alike, are equally entitled to a safe library experience.

Now my own kids will tell you that I'm pretty staunch and not scared of much, but in 25 years of public library service I have never felt as vulnerable as I did today when this young woman was in my face going off. I didn't know what was going to happen next - couldn't believe it was happening at all really.

So where to now? I'm dammed if I'm going to let my library be taken over by thugs. I am just not prepared to have public and staff feeling unsafe in the library. I'm going to have to find precious funds to roster more staff on the floor, probably hire a security guard, and start handing out trespass orders to the ringleaders.

And I just don't want to.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Just for the record

It has been reported to me that a senior male PTFS employee told people at ALA that Horowhenua Library Trust (HLT) sold the Koha name and domain to Liblime and that we are now asking for it back for free.

This is a lie.

In 2007 three Katipo staff went to work at Liblime. The code that had been written by Katipo employees, the domain and Katipo clients went with them, including HLT. At that time Liblime had a good reputation in the community and it was believed that the domain would be held in trust for the community, exactly as Katipo had done.

HLT had nothing to do with the sale apart from being one of the clients transferred to Liblime. A number of NZ and Pacific Koha clients were treated very badly by Liblime with support contracts not honoured, commissioned enhancements not delivered and significant amounts of money lost. None of the libraries involved have ever talked publicly about this, choosing instead to act with discretion and integrity.

The trust in Liblime was misplaced and after 2 years of shameful behaviour the global Koha community asked HLT, as a trustworthy charitable trust, to seek the return of to community hands. We asked Liblime, and then PTFS, what would be required for the return of the domain.

HLT have never asked for it to be given back for free.

In asking PTFS what would be required to bring back into community hands we were acting under directions of the wider community. PTFS have a total misunderstanding how FLOSS works, and seem to think they have bought Koha, or that Koha was something Liblime could sell to them, or that Katipo could sell to Liblime. HLT has been asked by PTFS to move the community back to This is not something HLT can do even if we were prepared to be blackmailed - which we are not.

Please judge HLT on our actions not on malicious and untrue rumours designed to cause dissent in our community.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Koha 3.2 : reflections on going live

Its been a long long time since I wrote for this blog, way to long, and I'm taking this cold wet Sunday afternoon to look back over the last few months.

Koha 2.2.9 > 3.2
Back in September 2008 we made the decision to upgrade from Koha 2.2.9 to Koha 3.0. We realised very quickly that this was not going to be a mere upgrade, but effectively an entirely new system. The biggest change was the shift from our RDA-like biblio-group-item arrangement to a biblio-item arrangement. This change was essential to make the MARC work nicely and MARC is the key to all the groovy stuff that made 3.0 so attractive.

After investing a couple of months getting to grips with what the change to 3.0 would mean the decision was made to wait for 3.2 since the upgrade was going to be so huge it was better to wait a few months more and go the whole 9 yards. Looking back, this was a very good decision and meant we went through 1 delayed upgrade n0t 2 in 12 months.

Our Goal
We decided early on that our Koha had to be developed from the patron's view not the staff's and the OPAC would double as our website homepage too. We also wanted our Kete Horowhenua digital content to sit alongside Koha search results. We asked Katipo to write the html required to customize our Koha using the built in system preferences in Koha , and also help us to create the 'inside' pages which included setting up a Trust Kete.

I also needed to delve deeply into the system preferences and tools and make informed decisions about the myriad of system settings. This was a significant and important step. When a library chooses open source software its different to choosing a proprietary system. The responsibility lies with the library to make the software do what you want it to do, and of course if it doesn't then you can make changes or develop enhancements so it will do what you need it to do.

Lets do it!
So the Koha upgrade was shifted to a back burner and a year passed, and then at the end of March 2010 the decision was made that we would go live in 8 weeks - ready or not. That right there is the reason I havn't posted for a while :) We couldn't wait for the official 3.2 release as our funding was good for 2009/2010 only. If we didn't spent the upgrade budget by the end of June 2010 we'd lose it.

That decision to go live in 8 weeks was another good decision looking back. It forced us to get on with job, make decisions, assign priorities and just do it. We focussed all our efforts for a very concentrated, intense period of time. We had to decide what had to work on day 1, and what could be left for day 2, day 3 etc. 3.2 is still in development and the code was being enhanced constantly throughout the 8 weeks leading up to Go Live, and in fact continues still.

This takes a bit of getting used to if you aren't used to the rapid pace of development that happens with Koha where things can be fixed from hour to hour. Our ex Head of Libraries Rosalie Blake was dragged out of retirement and asked to 'learn' 3.2, prepare tutorials and then train all 25 staff .... identifying, reporting and fixing bugs throughout.

Go Live
We had a soft launch 2 days before we officially announced it. We had signs up in the library and all staff wore badges saying we were in training in the hope that people to be kind with us - and they were - which is good because we really were making it up as we went. One problem which tripped us up was the slowness of 3.2 compared to 2.2.9 but changing browsers from Firefox to Chrome saw an immediate improvement.

I have no regrets for our seat of our pants approach. There is nothing like the first day of a Go Live to test software. Very little didn't work well enough because we had tested all circulation and accounting aspects pretty thoroughly. But some stuff wasn't perfect on day 1. This meant that all staff were involved in identifying bugs; not just saying 'this is broken' but "this is what happened and here is how you can replicate it". Some of the stuff we would never have found in a testing environment and I completely endorse the advice of going live when its close enough not when its perfect -- coz it never will be. Just make sure you have your staff are on board and stay calm, and that your Tech-Guru is on hand to fix things as they crop up.

Our OPAC is the jewel in the Koha crown and staff are so proud of it and get such a buzz out of the public's response to it. We have added so much value to the patron's experience and when things settle down we will hold sessions showcasing the new features. We spent a bit of dosh buying in supplementary content so we could launch with a stunning OPAC. Library Thing for Libraries, Syndetics and Amazon all add value to our catalogue, plus a 3.4 enhancement which draws on our 10 year store of issues history to provide a 'people who read this also read these" service.

To maximise the value of our OPAC we really needed to issue passwords to all our library borrowers - and of course showcase the new functions that were now available. So 3 days after Go Live we started reregistering all our borrowers. That was 2 weeks ago. And what a fortnight. But also what a fantastic opportunity it has turned out to be. We have had 4 staff working flat out issuing new library cards to patrons and in the process we get to point a few things that they might find useful, based on clues picked up in the 2 or 3 minutes it takes to check the Patron's data and assign user logins and passwords. The power of conversation: don't underestimate it as a marketing tool.

What next
2 weeks post launch and we are pretty much there. A few wrinkles in acquisitions to iron out and a few enhancements but thats about it really. Overall this has been a remarkably stress free upgrade. I'm glad it was hard and fast, 8 weeks of concentrated effort really, and the next task is to maximise the PR value of the new system and use it get out and connect to as many different pockets of our community as possible.

Final Words
  • Identify what your priorities with Koha are. Our primary goal was a fantastic OPAC because that's that makes Koha 3.2 a great LMS compared to the others. We also needed a solid acquisitions module with a clear audit trail,
  • Think about how to 'present' your collection to library patrons in the OPAC,
  • Get totally familiar with all the system preferences and how different combinations can be used because Koha is very powerful and flexible and highly customisable,
  • Just do it: go live when its good enough and tie the loose ends up as they appear,
  • market, market market because 3.2 is fantastic.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The 'value' I get from Twitter

I am starting to 'get' Twitter now and was thinking this morning about what the 'value' is that I get from investing time using it.

I may be a slightly odd Twit because I prefer to keep the clutch of people I follow quite small. I check Twitter maybe 6 times a day and I want to be able to quickly scan the tweets since my last post without having to troll through too many screens. I compare it to a dinner party where I can't 'hear' all the conversation in the room at once so I join a small group and then move to a different group of people when I'm ready. So no offence if I drop you from my list of followees for a bit; I'm just working the room!

The value I get from Twitter falls into 4 different categories:
  • Firstly, as a professional development tool in terms of libraries in its broadest sense. I tend to keep following people who share links to interesting stuff. Its like reading newspapers in companiable silence with a mate and you share snippets with each other. I follow briankelly, citegeist, mstephen7, gnat and littlehigh for this reason.
  • Secondly, its a way to keep informed about business because I currently have a horrified fascination with whats happening in the world economy; bernardchickey is fabulous for posting interesting links as he comes across them.
  • Thirdly, as a Koha-ian, I want to become familiar with members of the Koha global community. I want to 'personalize' or get to know who the people are who post to the Koha list. Its amazing how you start to add 'colour' to an image of someone you only ever 'see' as a name online - all from just 140 character posts each day.
  • And lastly there are people I know personally, or care about, but don't get to see or talk to very often so its nice to stay in touch. Its like waving at someone across the room
So thats me. I started writing this post to promote a couple of blog posts about Twitter and librarians:

Twitter basics for librarians by Leora Wenger (leoraw on Twitter) and 14 UK information professionals to follow on Twitter by Brian Kelly (briankelly on Twitter).

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Unimaginable

Let's just for a minute imagine that your teenage daughter and her friend went to the well populated park at 4pm one afternoon in full daylight.

Imagine how your daughter might feel if her friend was then attacked by a girl called, oh I dunno - lets say 'Jax', and lets imagine that 'Jax' thumped your daughter's friend to the ground but the friend, who was fighting for her life, managed to hold her own against 'Jax'. And lets imagine that at that point anther girl, lets say her name was 'Desiree', then leapt in and dragged your daughter's friend a metre along the ground by her hair and then started kicking and punching the friend as well.

And imagine if dozens of other kids were standing around watching. Stay with me: try and imagine it: 2 girls beating 1 girl surrounded by abut 50 kids, all just watching. Oh and recording it on their cellphones too, and then imagine that one of those girls, lets say her name was 'Eden', posted that video clip up to YouTube. Imagine then that dozens of kids in the town are emailed the video and then it is bluetoothed around school classrooms.

You can't really imagine that bit though really. No one would be so stupid as to use their personal Youtube account to upload a video which showed their friends beating up another girl, a girl whom the video shows did nothing to provoke or encourage the attack.

You would probably have no trouble imagining that the Police would take action against 'Jax' and 'Desiree' and 'Eden' so that these 'young ladies' learned that it was not okay to beat the crap out of another child. Maybe charges of 'grievous bodily harm' or 'common asault' or something like that would be laid. Maybe the school would even do something that would give the message:"This is not ok".

You would never in a million years imagine that 'Jax', 'Eden' and 'Desiree' would get away scot free because they are protected from prosecution by NZs youth laws.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

To Dewey or not to Dewey . . .

We are seriously rethinking our use of Dewey in the Horowhenua Library Trust libraries. We know that there are a number of 'rationalized Dewey' systems being used around the place eg putting all gardening books together rather than having them in a number of different places ie 635.9 + 728s + those 600 numbers, the trains in the 620s and 380s etc. For years we have been kind of doing it anyway on a very minor scale with our countries and history books but maybe its time to extend it into more areas.

Living Rooms
We are also giving thought to breaking the non fiction down into sub collections and shelving them in distinct groupings, called living rooms at Palmerston North Library NZ. We wonder too whether we should do a bit of both, given that we have a district collection which may be at Levin (with room for a bunch living rooms) but could equally be at Foxton (with room for only 2 or 3 living rooms) and Shannon with room only for a standard running sequence.
I saved this link in the New York Times a while back, about Harry Courtright, director of the 15-branch Maricopa County Library District, who came up with the idea of a Dewey-less library and uses living rooms. The plan took root two years ago after annual surveys of the district’s constituency found that most people came to browse, without a specific title in mind. This happens in our libraries too . . . in fact I sometimes wonder whether we invest way too much time on our cataloguing at the expense of other activities (I am of the quick and dirty school of cataloguing!)
“The younger generation today is wired differently than people in my generation,” said Mr. Courtright, 69. “What that tells me is we as librarians have to look at how we present materials that we have for them the way they want it.”

Open Shelves Classification
It was interesting too to read of Tim Spalding at LibraryThing who is calling for librarians to help him develop an open source alternative to Dewey. He is looking for bunch of librarians willing to take leadership on the project, much in the same way that Jimmy Wales is 'in charge' of Wikipedia:
"I hereby invite you to help build the Open Shelves Classification (OSC), a free, “humble,” modern, open-source, crowd-sourced replacement for the Dewey Decimal System."
While the motivation behind this project appears to be to break away from the formality and control of the OCLC structure, which I'm not convinced about, some interesting possibilities may arise from this initiative.

All this thinking leads onto the issue of spine labelling; how do we accommodate the differing needs of the 3 libraries who share the collection? While visiting Woodands Public Library in Singapore last week while attending the Bridging Worlds conference (totally inspirational conference) we saw the Colormarq colour coded spine labelling system. (Thats it in the photo at the start of this post) Talking to the sales rep today he tells me that 15 million items are being managed with the system in Singapore and that Taiwan have recently converted their collection simultaneously with implementing an RFID system. (and thats another post all on its own..)
The Colourmarq system looks very cool and I am surprised that so few libraries are using it in the Asia Pacific region. Its not outrageously expensive, about $NZ1 a book all up, but this is partly offset by not having to buy barcodes, spine labelling tape (whic is ruinously expensive) and logo stickers. Would be interested in hearing anyone with an opinion on the system.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Koha Community rocks!

Absolutely flippin brilliant day ....

Early this morning a Koha Community meeting was held to discuss, yet again, the community assets problem. The whole LibLime thing is still dragging everything to a near-standstill .....

But today, well the community just said enough - in the nicest, most polite way possible - we took back control of our community to make sure we had the tools we need to keep Koha rockin' along. Its just a temporary measure mind, just until the whole LibLime - PTFS thing is settled and PTFS have had time to work out what their customers want and what they want to do etc etc. And while we understand and are happy to give them the time they need to get their stuff sorted out, we need to still be able to function as a community.

The biggest problem over the last 18 months has been the lack of access to the site and having no way to expose the up-to-date Koha information, news, demos, documentation, pay for support options etc.
Anyway, the big thing to come out of the meeting was the decision to make a new temporary website for the Koha community, to carry us through until the LibLime/PTFS thing is sorted. We brainstormed names, voted, grabbed a domain and within a very short time - like a few hours - we have a community website again!

irc has been an amazing place to be today. Developers and users and vendors all working together, volunteering support, hosting, mirror sites, content, testing - whatever they could and whatever was needed to get a Koha Community place up and running again. Liz Rea has done an incredible job on the website - and so fast!

The news just got better as the day progressed:
  • Galen tagged v3.02.00-alpha in Git, thereby kicking off the alpha period for 3.2, with a tarball to be available tomorrow,
  • Chris showed us the git stats which highlighted how many people have been making commits; the work on Koha over the last year has truly been the work of many many hands.
Today I saw in action all that is good in an open source community; and the Koha Community rocks!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Woo hoo: Koha Con 2010 bus trip

So I am thinking it would be really nice to meet people coming into Auckland for Koha Conference and drive them down to Wellington. We could take a few days for a quick detour through Rotorua and heartland NZ, driving down through the North Island via Levin.

Current thinking is:

Day 1: arrive in Auckland, dinner at the harbour area.
Day 2: travel to Rotorua (3 hours ish) afternoon at Te Puia thermal area, Maori cultural night in the evening, spend night in Rotorua.
Day 3: drive down the island, afternoon tea / civic reception at Levin (4 hours drive), travel to Wellington for evening meal and the night.
Day 4: either a spare day in Wellington or day 1 of Koha Conference.

So what do you reckon? If there is enough interest I'll grab some indicative pricing together.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Users vs developers : not in my universe!

Today I went to Wellington to have lunch with Bob Birchall, CEO of Calyx, and Chris Cormack from Catalyst IT. Through a serendipitous crossing of paths we were joined by Simon Blake from Citylink; Rachel Hamilton-Williams, CEO of Katipo Communications; Mason James, CEO of KohaAloha and Brenda Chawner from Victoria University.

Thats 1 user, 1 Academic / FOSS commentator, a network engineer and 4 Koha vendors. Driving back home again I got to thinking about this group in relation to the discussion on the Koha list about users vs developers.

Owen Leonard has written very eloquently about this and I have used below big chunks of his email to the Koha list made in response to a comment made that Koha "users" and "developers" are at opposite ends of a pole.

"I'm a Koha user. And in using Koha I saw that I could make Koha better, and in time became a Koha developer. There is no Koha developer out there who is developing Koha features just because they think it would be cool to do. Koha developers are doing their work because they *see* a need, in an actual user or an actual library. Or developers are getting paid by libraries to develop the features the libraries need."
He goes on to list the occasions when users and developers are in opposition:
  • "When a company decides to develop a feature that they think will help sell a product, even though the feature doesn't meet any actual need,
  • When a company throttles or cripples a feature in a product because they want to charge extra for a particular feature."

Now I have been around Koha for a decade now and I agree with Owen that no self-respecting Koha developer or Koha support company is doing that kind of stuff.

The LibLime experience has hurt the Koha community in the States. I get the distinct feeling from reading various blogs and help requests on the Koha list that LibLime clients have been having a hard time of it, hence their very valid wish to gain more of a 'users' voice than they have had in the past. I suspect this applies more specifically to Liblime clients than Koha users in general though. It is also a real risk when Libraries abdicate responsibilty for their own systems by handing it over to a vendor: a traditional client-vendor relationship.

Brenda mentioned today that her research is indicating that contributing to FOSS projects has a direct correlation to satisfaction levels. This is a critical point and one which I raised in the presentation Chris and I made at LIANZA 2009.

As librarians we are comfortable with a traditional client-vendor relationship. But the times are a changin folks and as librarians we have to change to. We need to be taking back control of our industry tools; Dewey and Ranganathan were both librarians and the originators of Evergreen and Koha were librarians too.

We have to learn new ways of working if we are going to maximise the value of Koha to our organisations:
  • think about what you WANT not what we are given,
  • learn basic system admin skills and take responsibility for your own Koha 'settings' to customize it for how YOU want it to operate,
  • become comfortable with irc as a networking and community meeting tool,
  • become skilled at identifying, describing and reporting bugs, and then testing the fixes,
  • think 'what if' and log enhancement suggestions,
  • and then join the discussion to ensure the developers understand what you want and how you want it to work, and work out how to make it fit into the main development trunk,
  • fund a developer to 'do' if if you aren't a programmer yourself,
  • learn to ask for help and give help to others,
  • share your thinking and decision making processes, tips and tricks and inhouse resources like staff training tutorials or videos,
  • become adept at collaborative working on wikis,
  • fund work for the 'greater good' not holding it selfishly to yourself,
  • and co-fund significant developments with other organisations to share the cost so we all benefit.
I'll leave the last word to Owen:
"Let's get together as users and/or developers and figure out how we can get some stuff done. Let's put together a structure by which Koha users can spec out new features and get them funded, collectively. Let's put together a structure by which Koha users can communicate with their vendors without fear of exclusion or reprisal. Let's not talk about a users group breaking down some barrier that isn't really there; let's talk about strengthening and leveraging the connection that we already have!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Personal MBA reading list

I came across Josh Kaufman's Personal MBA site on Lifehacker a few months back and I'm thinking it would probably be a very good personal goal to read my way through his recommended book list one title at a time .... or at least 1 book from each section :)