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.

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.


View from Maivor's office at Hogskolan I Gavle
After Norway I flew to Stockholm and then caught a train to Gavle ready for a Swedish usergroup meeting the next day. I had a lovely evening meal with Per Falks and Maivor Hallen from Hogskolan I Gavle. I ate reindeer - yum!

Hogskolan has beautiful library; so light filled and elegant and with great spaces for students including 30 (yes - not a typo) bookable rooms for small group work. Maivor gave me a tour and it was clearly a very well used space for the university students onsite.

The usergroup was well attended - 40 people at a rough guess - and there were a number of presentations about Koha including Oslo public library showcasing their wonderful work which went live this week.

I was concerned to hear one library speak about how hard it was 'going it alone' who recently switched to Koha and felt they had no one to talk too or help.

They do not appear to have found the Koha community and the various help channels: irc online chat, discussion list, online tutorials etc. The website is a wonderful resource and the community is always happy to help.

There are many ways to switch to Koha from full-service, hosted through a vendor, onsite servers with either vendor support or do-it-yourself. There is at least one vendor in Scandinavia: Libriotech who has clients in Norway and Sweden.

Some of the 30 rooms available for 

Monday, October 10, 2016


I was so looking forward to the Norwegian leg of my journey; how many Kiwi's can say they have been north of the Arctic Circle? My trip was a bit like a mullet: business up front and party at the back!


The first part of the visit was spent in Oslo. First up was a visit to the Oslo public library who were 2 weeks out from going live on Koha (of course). 

They are doing this themselves and have a great development team who are doing all sorts of cool stuff with the Koha API and the semantic web and recommendations.  My understanding is that it is basically a standard Koha install with all sorts of magic done using the API - and all their work on github so the community can share here which is awesome :) This will be an install to watch I think.

Design University, Oslo
They also have a new building in the wings - a spectacular building that will look right at home beside the new opera house down at the harbour front , but in the meantime they are doing great things renovating their existing 1930s building. It's a big old solid thing so really hard to knock walls about but it has great bones and features including huge windows and they are working wonders with colour. Convinced me again that all you need are clever librarians with great taste to transform a space into a perfectly acceptable public library. 

Fab youth space upstairs in the oldest purpose built
public library in Oslo
This was confirmed again when we visited the first purpose built public library in  Oslo. A WWI era building (I think) and while the downstairs is unashamedly a step back in time (as in 100% authentic) the upstairs youth area is stunning.

Magnus and a VIKING
ship - a real one!
We also spoke twice at a university in Oslo, once to library students, and visited a private university for arts and design that has recently opened in a refurbished warehouse. We had a tour of all floors and this building is not only truly beautiful but has a range of great student spaces to suit the collaborative way of working and flipped classroom trend.


Ok - not quite party but certainly pure pleasure. Before Magnus took me to stay with his family for the night in Bodo we visited the Viking Museum and a collection of historic Norwegian buildings included an amazing traditional church. The weather was sooo cold in Bodo and so wet and simply perfect - given that we were north of the Arctic Circle (I'm going to try and say that at least 3 more times because I can!)

After a day sightseeing in Bodo (north of the Arctic Circle) including the remarkable narrow tidal strait and the new library we headed off to the ferry for the trip to Lofoten Islands (even further north in the Arctic Circle). It was dark when we arrived and then an hours drive to the house we were sleeping in. So, the next morning: WOW! What a stunningly beautiful place! 

We made an early start to the day because Magnus had an itinerary and we had so much we wanted to see; in fact that night when we were heading home on the ferry it was hard to believe how much we had seen in a day. If you ever get the chance to come to Norway or head to Lofoten: do it. I would rate Magnus 10/10 as a tour guide - would definitely book again! 

The landscape and the weather are so huge and the towns and buildings and people seem so very small. So, to honour that these last photos are huge!

Fish drying racks in front

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A wee bit of naval gazing

As I have been travelling around I am seeing so many different libraries and meeting librarians and I am thinking all the time about my profession. This is because I have reached a crossroad in my life and have needed to decide where I want my next 15 years of working life to take me.

I have worked my guts out (for non-Kiwi readers that means 'really hard) over the last 3 years creating a new model of a public library in Horowhenua. This was 'public library on steroids' plus a whole added dimension of needing to raise significant amounts of our operating budget (like 30% of a $3m budget) and to run it as a 'business' AND as a 'charity' - not as a council department like my peers. It has been a brutal few years and I gave it my all.

Just when we had managed to hid our stride; when I was feeling confident that we had developed a great strategic framework, a sound business plan and a high functioning organisation both in terms of structure and of individuals and teams, the rug was pulled out from under our feet and within a week I was gone. Council would take over the running of libraries and I was out of work. I have to be very careful in what I can say about my exit but it was heartbreaking. The shock was almost physical. I kept extremely professional throughout because I wanted that to be the enduring memory of me but I took it really hard.

After 2 really horrible weeks I discovered, while trying to study for an exam, that my brain could not actually retain or recall information. I realised I needed a real break, a complete change of scenery and a way to get my mojo back. The idea of a Koha tour came to me and within a very short timeframe it was happening and I was on a plane.

I have spent the last 6 weeks reflecting on how I want to live my life going forward and have been an observer in all the libraries I have visited, and in my all conversations. I realise I am trying to pull together the essence of what libraries are about, the threads that are common across the Koha community. What was the last 30 years of my working life about? How did I get it so wrong that I could be dumped so unceremoniously from leading a very successful organisation that I had created?

Two Council employees have said that Council was not getting the credit for the success of Te Takere and the Horowhenua Trust. The public know that the Trust ran libraries and while we always made sure that the Mayor got to 'front' events there was still a feeling, it turns out, that they weren't getting enough of the kudos. I wonder if one or more of the elected representatives, or perhaps council officers, have been so hellbent on securing the credit that they were prepared to sacrifice the successful Trust and management to  pull it back inhouse. I am starting to realise, and some of the Trust board members got there weeks ago, that our biggest sin was be too successful.

Dublin: a Flying Visit

I caught an early morning bus down from Derry to Dublin and it was a great way to see the countryside.

Dublin is such a cool city. I was staying right in the middle of HQ Central for the Easter Uprising in 1916, virtually opposite the Central Post Office itself.

My visit to Dublin was a fleeting one. I arrived around noon and went straight to Trinity College and saw the long hall (amazing) and the Book of Kells (amazing too) and then I met Charles Quain from Interleaf for a gorgeous Japanese dinner before the usergroup meeting the next day.

It was so nice to meet the Interleaf guys; I'd been meeting their fans for weeks! A really good outcome was interest in forming a user group.

The question of Koha usergroups has come up many times over the last 6 weeks as I've been traveling round. While in Sydney Irma Birchall and I talked at length about important they are and how best Calyx as a vendor can support the user community. The trick is that while vendors can and should offer support, the usergroups should really be run by users not vendors. This question came up in Malaysia, Berlin and also again today in Stockholm.

Irma tells me that the North American Koha usergroup has done some great work formalising a structure and held a terrific usergroup meeting which her and Bob attended. Perhaps the North American model could be used by others as a starting point.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Derry: where Jo finds great grandparents

When planning my itinerary I built in a rest week that I would spend in Derry. The plan was that I might sleep a lot, drink a few guinness in an Irish pub and quietly potter around in the library or records office to see if I could track down family of my grandfather who left Derry in 1926.

Moneymore - not what I was expecting
Well best laid plans flew out the window really fast ...

My paternal grandfather left Derry as a 23 yr old in 1926. He came to NZ and married my grandmother in 1929. He never said a lot about Ireland, never wanted to go back, never talked about his family in Derry.

My Mum had been searching for years, had even hired a researcher in Derry to see what they could find, and no luck. All we had was Grandads birth certificate and the marriage licence of his parents, Patrick McBride and Eliabeth Wilson. We hoped there might be family somewhere, cousins for my father. Dad passed away a few years ago without us ever finding family but I have always wanted to trace those Irish roots. This was my chance.

On the first day I found a candidate for what could possibly be my great grandmother Elizabeth in the Derry City Cemetery. The electronic records were inconclusive so I sent an email to the records office to see if I could view the actual register. Of course; come on over! I was there in 20 minutes flat!

Font where my great grandfather was
baptised in 1864
The Records Office staff were wonderful and after flipping through a catalogue card drawer and hauling out original register books it was official I had found my great grandmother Elizabeth AND also her husband Patrick, my Great Grandfather plus 2 wee babies that were Patrick's but not Elizabeth's. There was a wealth of information on those registers - none of which was available on the electronic records. I also found the place of birth for Patrick and Elizabeth plus the names of both of their parents. I had so many leads now and things clicked into place very quickly as I spent a frantic couple of days using electronic databases tracking down leads to piece the family together.

I checked and cross checked and I am certain that I am correct. Long story short my grandfather's paternal line came from Donegal, his mother was a Callaghan and they were Roman Catholic (not presbyterians from Derry as we thought). Patrick changed his religion 4 times and married 3 times and lied about his age consistently throughout his life. No wonder he had been so hard to track down!

I visited all the places and addresses in Derry where I knew the family had been. On a whim, I took a hire car over to Donegal, and using my phone  and google maps found my way down one way mud tracks to Moneymore, where Patrick and his siblings had all been born. Just on dusk, then the credit ran out on my phone and data roaming stopped worked (Donegal is in another country to Derry) and than I found myself at a muddy paddock. Moneymore was a paddock!! Frantic reversing, an 8 point turn, desperately found my way back to the highway. Relief! I had visions of being stuck in the Donegal countryside overnight. I saw a road sign for Newtoncunningham - birthplace of Patrick - so I swung into the only pub in sight and collapsed with a glass of wine relieved but also disappointed.

Ballintoy Harbour - Greyjoy's turf in Game of Thrones
The waitress asked who I was and what I was doing. Oh she said, there are still loads of McBrides down Moneymore way, its a rural area with scattered houses and farms, and I'm a Callaghan! I'll ring my mammy. The luck of that happening was astounding. I went back the next day and photographed all the McBride and Callaghan headstones, then went back to the actual church Patrick and his siblings had all been baptised in.

I left exhausted but happy; I'd worked for hours at a computer, driven places, stomped around cemeteries and had only 1 day off sightseeing along the northern Ulster coastal scenic route (went to a number of Game of Thrones sites.