Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sunday, November 13, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portland, Oregon.

Friday, November 4, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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