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.

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