Sunday, September 11, 2016

Czech Republic

Czech Republic .............. it has captured my heart - not the crazy tourist-packed Charles Bridge / Prague Castle / Old Town part (although I loved that too) but the real Czech which my host, Bohdan Smilauer, shared with me.

I was met at the airport by a perfect stranger but with my name on a card and with a huge smile and a wave: we hit it off immediately. Bohdan took me home to meet his daughter and wife (a domestic goddess who made the most amazing meal plus sent me on my way with food for a week).

I was blessed to be staying in Bohdan's ancestral summer home, a gorgeous old villa in Vsenory surrounded by an ancient orchard, perfectly manicured lawns and the Prague forest to the back doorstep. It was so peaceful and relaxing and only about 20 km from Prague. I learnt to use the trains and Bohdan had a full programme beautifully planned - although room expanded to take in a lovely surprise.

Ceska Trebova

Bohdan took me to meet Mike Denar and his colleagues at Ceska Trebova; a small town about the same size as Levin. It was a lovely visit and Mike and Joseph Morovec were great to talk to about Koha. They are librarians who have installed and configured it themselves, did most of the translation and were really interesting to talk with. Vufind is used widely as the opac interface in Cesko which I found interesting and don't really understand.

The library had some great built in furniture - the periodical displays but also the wall unit in the teen space - beautifully modelled by Joseph on the right.

Mike travelled with us up to Olomouc for a presentation at the University there where we met other librarians and a young* developer, Radek Siman, who kindly drove Bohdan and I back to Prague.

Nothing to see in Ceska Trebova
- apparently - just the oldest
Romanesque Church in Morovia.


After our extremely long day travelling from Prague to Olomouc and back, Friday was going to be restful. Huh! No..

In the afternoon I spoke at a great gathering at the Agricultural library in Prague. There was a good turnout of librarians and good discussion afterwards - and beer. Have I talked about Czech and their beer yet? They drink it by the bucketful; even really nice looking ladies who you would expect to be drinking Pimms swig away on great handles of the stuff. Its delicious - don't get me wrong - but they sure are big servings!

After a quiet few ales (large) and a meal (also large) in Prague, Bohdan had a lovely surprise for me. Karel Matejka (extreme left beside Bohdan) had invited us visit a weekend school for distance education librarians in the countryside about 30 mins from Vsenory. Like real countryside - deers running across the road on the way back - countryside. It was wonderful. The school was held in a semi-restored farmhouse first reported in the 1500s.  There was a keg, of beer, bbq and a fire. The nightime lecture was projected up onto the outside wall of the farmhouse. So, another late night and a belly full of beer - not that I am complaining but it was a lot of beer.


A recurring theme in every country I have visited so far is the matter of 'sharks' - Koha vendors who are overcharging and not contributing their developments back to community. It also means that every upgrade those enhancements which have not been incorporated back into the main trunk are broken; and the work has to be done again so the sharks charge again etc. 

There is real concern that this will give Koha a bad name and I understand the concern.  This is the stunt that PTFS LibLime pulled in the States and they won't be the first or last. I don't know what the answer is but I guess education is one step. My presentation talks about the important role of the vendors in helping build a strong community. We all want many vendors around the globe running successful support services for Koha. That is a good thing. What we also want is for those vendors to be good Koha community members as well and contribute back to the project in the spirit of open source and in keeping with the name: Koha. This is a reciprocal gift: sure you can have the code for free - but please share back by contributing to development planning and incorporation of enhancements. It is up to Librarians to insist that their vendors keep to the open source spirit and not play the old 'bait and switch' game where libraries think they buying into open source Koha but end up getting a proprietary setup.

*Correction: He's not so young at all, it turns out, has obviously led a charmed life!

1 comment:

Radka Římanová said...

Dear Joann, Thank you for your visiting in our the students opening lecture in Borek. Participants of this action are in start of their LIS career. Next day some students told me, that now they know the first important "technical term" - KOHA.
I would like to apologize, that we missed each other when you went away to Vsenory. I would like to wish you many intersting experiences in your Europa and USA tour! ...And belly full of beer ...simply the Czech Republic :-) Radka Římanová