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.

No comments: