Cycling for Libraries

Cycling for Libraries 2013 – Day 2

Day 2 we cycled 53 miles from Amsterdam to The Hague. It was a beautiful ride along the coast through the dunes. Photo by Eeva Rita-Kasari

The first library visit of the day was in Haarlem at the railway station. The library is open during the busiest times at the station and is single staffed. The focus is on current best sellers and quick turnaround with self-checkout. You can grab a book and still catch your train. The library also has a little coffee machine. This library is just the first of ten station locations to be opened in the Netherlands in the coming years. Next stop was a public library in Noordwijk. This library serves the community and the 2 schools neighboring schools. The library is only open to the public 26 hours per week, but it stays open for the schools' use. Students are actually trained as library assistants to help their classmates.

This library is where we learned about the common logo for all the Netherlands libraries. This saves a ton of money on promotional items and creates excellent brand recognition for all libraries. At many of the public libraries in Holland we also heard them mention the "public living room." The spaces have coffee shops and some have bars and they all offer lots of comfortable seating -- all designed to allow users to stay longer and really enjoy their time at the public library

Day 2 Video

Cycling for Libraries 2013 – Day 1


Another Cycling for Libraries trip under my belt and this one was tough! The libraries were awesome but the weather was terrible. This year the Amsterdam to  Brussels route was shorter than last year but it was more difficult thanks to the rain and wind. The 2013 ride was made up of 120 librarians from 20+ countries. I saw many of the friends I made last year from the Baltics trip and made a ton of new friends. I had another amazing experience. Hope you will follow along with the diary, photos, and videos from the trip. The library visits actually started as soon as I landed in Amsterdam. Schiphol Airport has a library in the International terminal. It features travel books on the Netherlands and books by Dutch authors. It is actually the only place where you can download Dutch music for free. Great way for publishers to introduce Dutch works to a captive audience. The library has computers and a lot of comfortable seating since many travelers use this as a lounge and hang out for hours. I love how the art walls make it look like home.

Day 1 - Amsterdam The first day we met at the Open Bare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA). What an incredible way to start off the trip. This is the largest public library in the Netherlands. It has 7 floors of open, creative, inviting space. The building contains a cafeteria, and a restaurant. There are 500 computers and 1000 seats for study.

The next stop was the Institute of Tropics Library - KIT. This gorgeous old library contains a collection of Holland's cultural heritage with the oldest book from 1652. The staff has digitized much of the collection and they also work with African countries to create open repositories. Unfortunately, as were hear too often, funding was cut completely and the library would soon close. At the end of the trip we learned the great news that funding had been restored and the library would remain intact. I can only hope that Cycling for Libraries will continue their advocacy for libraries and the importance of information in the everyday lives of citizens.

To end the day we had kick-off party sponsored by the University of Amsterdam. It was a wonderful way to send us off on this journey of discovery.

Day 1 Video

Thank You to Cycling for Libraries Supporters


Thank you to all the folks that helped us reach our fundraising goal for Cycling for Libraries! We start our trek from Amsterdam to Brussels on June 18. Watch for videos and a day by day recap of our adventures. We would like to thank our Library Associations TLA and SLA for helping us spread the word about the trip. And, we give a very special thank you to our generous donors:

Matt Lassila Rex C. Cindy Romaine C. Chidester
K. Parhizi Davewellbeloved mccranie3 Bridget Macmillan
Catherine Hardy Amanda Lefebvre Jill Strand Lola C.
Cynthia Shamel Yun Choi Coughlan Christine julup
Jane Whittlesey nscibellibouthilet Ronda Rowe Denise Chochrek
Gary Isenagle Colleen Cable Maria Bagshaw Joan Englander
Ann Koopman Colleen Lyon Georgia Pribanic Robert Bolton
Tracy Timmons Debra Kolah Tony Saadat DALL
Anonymous donors Librarians at TLA

Thank all of you again for helping us take this amazing international library adventure! --Barbara Fullerton, Karen Holt, & April Kessler

Cycling for Libraries Day 10-11: Last Days on the Road

Day 10 - 47 miles

Rakvere Library

We began the day by touring the delightful Rakvere Public Library. In the photo above you can see Katarina Jee, Estonia's only bookmobile, parked next to the library.

The Katarina Jee is part of the Tallinn Public Library system, and she followed us throughout our journey from Vilnius to Tallinn. We had many fun events that involved Katarina Jee, including this fantastic performance of a folk song performed by Estonian school librarians.

Later that day we cycled to the Palmse Korts, an amazing restaurant that is on the grounds of one of Estonia's manor house. We had a very tasty meal that included some of the best pork we've ever eaten.

Palms Korts

Day 11 - 49 miles

The last day had finally arrived. It was a long ride in a headwind and took forever. I think we were just getting excited to be in Tallinn and to reach the our final destination. When we had lunch at the half way mark, it felt like we had already been riding for the entire day. We had been on the  highway and then took a detour through the forest. When we stopped for lunch we understood why we had taken this route, we walked past the lunch tent to discover this amazing waterfall! What a wonderful surprise and beautiful backdrop to our last lunch on the road.

Estonian Waterfall

To pass the time on the long, hard last day. We belted out the hits of the 70s, 80s, and today. We definitely entertained ourselves and our captive audience seemed to enjoy the musical styling of the Texas Girls (the name of our new coverband!). When we hit the city limits of Tallinn we were so excited. Our trip into the center of town was along the coast and we had this incredible view of Old Town. Cycling by the ocean is pretty, but the wind was blowing so hard we had to concentrate on not blowing over.

View of Old Town from Tallinn Coast

We cycled through the cobble stoned streets and were greeted for the last time by the smiles, waves, and cheers of the Estonian people. When we got to Freedom Square, we jumped off our bikes and hugged and congratulated everyone. We had done it! We cycled a total of 366 miles over 11 days. We met the most incredible librarians from around the world and we were changed by the international experience off a lifetime. Where are we going next year?

Celebration in Freedom Square

By April Kessler and Karen Holt of Librarian Lifestyle. April & Karen are librarians at the University of Texas at Austin.

Cycling for Libraries Day 7-9: From Mountain Retreats to the City

Day 7 - 30 miles We left the mountain trails for actual mountains during the next stretch of the trip. This part of Estonia is called the Switzerland of the Baltics and now we know why. We cycled in the same spot the Russians send their Olympic skiers to train in the summer! The ride to Otepää was actually pretty short but the climbs were incredibly difficult. If you could get some momentum from the down hill, you could make up the next hill a little easier. That meant we were doing some serious flying downhill. Very fun, but kinda scary too. We visited just one local library, and then stopped early for the day at the mountain ski resort for some much needed R&R. We had a dip in the lake, a sweat in the sauna, and a soak in the hot tub. Just what our worn out bodies needed.

The sauna in Otepää

Day 8 - 55 miles

We call this part of the ride the highway to hell. We were actually on the way to the lovely Tartu and the scenery around us was gorgeous, but it was difficult and scary to ride single file along a busy highway. Because we could not talk to our peers, we realized how much we appreciated the library discussions that keep our minds busy and buzzing.

We stopped in the little town of Elva to tour their beautiful library.

This is also where Karen's bike got arrested.

We also visited a little public library in Ülenurme, which is on the outskirts of Tartu. They had charming little nooks in their library where you could visit with friends.

Once we arrived at some very nice dorms in Tartu, we cleaned ourselves up and met as a group for a discussion on library issues like marketing and publishing. It was very interesting to learn more about how libraries in other countries tackle issues like eBooks. We have so much in common, but when the topic turned to copyright we learned so much about we differ as well. We take the concept of Interlibrary Loan for granted in the States, but it is not the norm in Europe.

That evening we were free to explore the city of Tartu on our own and we went to the seriously amazing Italian restaurant, La Dolce Vita, which we would highly recommend to anyone traveling to Tartu. Thanks to our new Cycling for Libraries friend, Eve, for the recommendation!

Eve & April in the Ülenurme Public Library

Day 9 - 10 miles

This day involved very little biking. We spent the morning and afternoon in Tartu. We rode by Tartu University Library, the oldest and largest research library in Estonia. Then, after meeting the mayor and riding with him to the Tartu Public Library, we had a discussion about book publishing by libraries in Finland and Estonia. The Tallinn Public Library works with a local author to publish a book each year and then every 2nd grade student in Tallinn gets their own copy. The catch is that this book isn't for sale. It is only available from the library. Of course this limited printing makes it quite special for the country. All the kids and teachers are trying to get their hands on this hot commodity!

The discussion was followed by a special session on erBooks. Because libraries in Estonia can't buy eBooks, the Tartu Public Library has partnered with the Estonian Literary Museum to convert print books in eBooks, and one of the leaders of this project gave a very interesting demonstration for us on how they convert the books into a digital format.


Mural in the Tartu Central Library.

Next, we took a bus ride to Rakvere. That evening we went to the historic castle ruins, which featured a reenactment of castle life.

And then we had a lovely dinner and danced to a local rock band. Like we always say, there's no party like a librarian party.

Cycling for Libraries - Day 4 - The Longest Day

Day 4 - 63 miles This was the longest ride of the trip. We were in the saddle for 6 hours (do you like the new biking lingo?) breaking our own personal records for most miles cycled! We rode through the Latvian forest, toured two community libraries, visited a castle, and stayed the night at a rehabilitation spa in the mountains.

We were welcomed at every single library we visited, but the Alluzi Public Library greeting had to be the best! The neighborhood kids made us signs, the librarians fed us delicious soup for lunch, and then the kids led us on the library tour.


Inside, the Alluzi Library is bright and cheery - we loved the open doors and fresh air.

Following a beautiful concert in one of Latvia's most architecturally significant churches, we rode to Sigulda where we went through a beautiful botanical garden and stopped for a few minutes at a castle. Check out this amazing view, it even includes yet another castle. The entire day was like cycling in a fairy tale. We even had cake and coffee in the beautiful forest. It was truly magical, even if we did have to stay out of the wet grass to avoid ticks and Tick-borne encephalitis. Every fairly tale has it's dark side, right?

The Sigulda Public Library is a shining example of a new community library and it had all the latest equipment and the cutest children's room. They welcomed us with a beautiful selection of fresh berries. Just the pick me up we needed in the late afternoon.

Sigulda Public Library

When we got to Sigulda we thought we had made it to our stop for the night. Not so fast! Turns out this was just a short stop.

Karen had to make a much bigger stop after this library due to her second flat tire of the day. Because we didn't have the necessary equipment with us to make the repair, our excellent bicycle repair team of Patrick Otton and Michel Guegan (to whom we are eternally grateful) wasn't able to change the tire. So, Karen's bike was transported on top of a Yugo that was traveling with our group, and Karen got to ride the last few km in style in the Yugo.

We were behind schedule and a couple hours late so we didn't get to tour of the paper mill, but we were not too late to catch the band playing for us on top of the mountain. Not a great picture, but if you look up you can see the railings and the band is on that stage. We were exhausted by this point, but there were a few diehards that even did a little polka.

Then, we were back on the road, or shall I say mountain, to get to out hotel outside of Ligatne for the evening. I don't think the last few hills were that steep, but you should know that the previous 20 miles were on a washboard dirt road and did I mention just moments before we thought were done riding for the day? That will mess with your head.  After a great dinner and a warm shower, we were were ready for bed. We had done it. We completed the longest day of the tour, but we had 7 more days to go.

Stay tuned for more of our cycling adventures!

Day 4 - Video

By April Kessler and Karen Holt of Librarian Lifestyle. April and Karen are librarians at the University of Texas at Austin and they are missing their cycling buddies and the deep library discussions they had on the road.

Cycling for Libraries - Day 2 & 3

Day 2 - 23 miles cycled After the fist day and and a whirlwind of library tours, day 2 was double the cycling and only one library visit. The 23 miles seemed more difficult, because it was unseasonably warm in Lithuania. That day we got our first glimpse of the types of cycling we were in for - mountain bike trails and hills. Along the route we were surprised and thrilled to be supported by members of the Lithuanian Library Association. The group wore bright green t-shirts and followed us in cars along the route and honked and waved and met us at our destination in Trakai. Their support made a huge difference  long, hot ride.

After lunch we had one of our first cultural visits when we visited the beautiful castle on the lake in the picturesque vacation town of Trakai.

When the castle tour was over we loaded our bikes on a truck and filled up two buses with librarians for a 4-hour ride into Latvia.

During the bus ride we got to meet more of colleagues when we had discussions about our library careers and future plans. We arrived in Riga a few hours late so we skipped the showers and jumped on a train into the city for a traditional Latvian dinner.

Day 3 - 13.5 miles

On day 3 we had another police escort through the city of Riga. This was the first time we saw what kind of press was following the tour. It reminded us first hand that one of the goals of Cycling for Libraries is to bring awareness to libraries and library services. That morning we were interviewed by the Latvian news as were waiting for the Latvian Minister of Culture to meet our group.

The backdrop for the interviews was the construction site National Library of Latvia which opens next year.

Even though Day 3 was spent in the city of Riga, we had a packed day. After meeting with the mayor, we cycled through the city to a charming public library. There is nothing quite like cycling through a city with a police escort. All of the streets were open to us and it felt like being in a parade. We greeted many curious passerbys with rings of our bells and shouts of hello.

Following the ride in the city and a tour of the Turiba University Business Library, we turned our thoughts to current library issues, namely librarians and entrepreneurship. We gave a very brief talk about the way libraries could foster entrepreneurship among staff. Åke Nygren followed us with a very interesting talk about his work and his powerful ideas on libraries and entrepreneurship.

We capped the evening by taking a Riga tour of our choice. On offer were tours of a bike shop, an adventure tour, the Art Nouveau tour, and a craft/maker evening. Being an architecture lover, Karen choose the Art Noveau tour, which featured a fascinating personalized tour of the Art Nouveau architecture in Riga and the beautiful Art Nouveau Museum. (Highly recommend for anyone traveling to Riga.)

Then, it was off to bed to prepare for our longest day of cycling.

Day 2 & 3 Videos

By Karen Holt of Librarian Lifestyle and April Kessler. April and Karen are librarians at the University of Texas at Austin and had an amazing time at Cycling for Libraries.

Cycling for Libraries (aka Living Without a Hair Dryer for 2 weeks) - Day 1

Photo by Panu Entresse

Day 1 - 12.5 Miles Cycled

We met at the National Library of Lithuania with our luggage, bikes, and our newfound crazy love for cycling with 100 people we didn't yet know.

The day began as quite a few of our Cycling for Libraries days would. We mingled, did some stretches led by the fantastic Patrick Otton, hopped on our bikes, and followed the police escort that took us to several beautiful libraries in Vilnius, including a new branch library of Vilnius University that opens in September, the Vilnius Gediminas Technical University Library, the Lithuanian Technical Library, and the Vilnius University Library.

Karen Holt at the cool new Scholarly Communication and Information Center of Vilnius University.

Founded in 1570, Vilnius University Library is the oldest academic library in Lithuania.

Cycling for Libraries participants at the Vilnius University main library in the oldest room in the library

One thing that we discovered on the tours this day is the trend for individual subject-based reading rooms in Baltic Libraries. We really love the concept of the reading rooms. Each one has its own look and feel and we found them all very charming.

Asian Studies Reading Room at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University Library

Philology Reading Room

Graduate Study Carrels with a view at Vilnius University

Another trend we discovered in the Baltics is that whether you are at a cafe or a library, blankets are always on hand to keep you warm. This could be a trend for us to bring back, especially since our library is always freezing in the summer.

Blankets on a book cart at Vilnius University Library

Stay turned for more information on the amazing places we saw over the 11 day tour. If you are just catching up, be sure to read all about the Cycling for Libraries Unconference and see the route.

Day 1 Video

By Karen Holt of Librarian Lifestyle and April Kessler. Karen and April are librarians at the University of Texas at Austin and are still coming off the high of cycling through the Baltics and seeing the coolest libraries and meeting amazing librarians.

The Beginning of Cycling for Libraries aka Hanging Out in Vilnius

Recharge in Vilnius

We arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania, three days before the start of Cycling for Libraries, so we had a chance to explore this great city. (For those of you who haven’t heard of Cycling for Libraries, it is an unconference featuring two weeks of library workshops, debates, and tours with a diverse group of international librarians. This year the unique format combined library discussions with 387 miles of bicycling from Vilnius, Lithuania to Tallinn, Estonia. Yep, that’s right, we biked through the Baltics and solved global library issues! The 100+ participating librarians came from 26 countries and worked for national, public, academic, and special libraries. We’ll be writing more about the cycling and library tours in the next few posts.)

Vilnius’s new airport was quaint and easy to navigate. We were greeted with signs advertising “Recharge in Vilnius!”which turned out to be exactly what we did there. While walking around town for 7 hours (trying to beat jet lag), we saw some great gems. If you’re traveling to Vilnius, we highly recommend a visit to Vingio Park, a relaxing park dating back to the 16th century with a really cool Soviet-era stadium where both the annual Lithuanian song festival and Lady Gaga appear in concert. You can rent bicycles there, run through the beautiful forest paths, or just bring a book and chill in the park.

Vingio Park stadium

Gediminas Castle was completed in 1409 and a wonderfully restored tower remains today. You can take a funicular or the stairs up to the top, where you are rewarded with glorious views of the city that show the juxtaposition of the old and the new architectural styles.

View of Vilnius from Gediminas Castle

We were very charmed by Vilnius. The Old Town was picturesque, the restaurants were excellent, and the shopping was some of the best we’ve experienced in Europe. Plus, there’s nothing like sitting in a cafe with a latte watching the rain to make you fall in love with a city.

Our Favorite Places in Vilnius:

Sue’s India Raja totally knocked our socks off. Mint chicken may not sound good, but after one bite, you’ll be hooked. Who knew that the best Indian food we’ve had outside of India would be in Lithuania?

The Coffee Inn chain is the Starbucks of Lithuania, but so much better. Great furniture, free wifi, and good coffee. Recommend are the Frappes and the Almond Latte.

Alchemikas Cocktail Lab – They handcraft the most delicious cocktails. Each drink is a 5-minute work-of-art and as tasty as it is pretty. At half the price of what you would pay in the US, it is also a bargain.

Rental Bike Pick-Up

Picking up our rental bikes from BaltiCCyle for Cycling for Libraries was quite the adventure. We went to the bike shop in the Old Town and were told that the Cycling for Libraries had a special pickup location at the “bike warehouse.” The description of the warehouse was “Go to the big white building with a hook.” Huh? Once we found the building (you’ll note in the picture that the hook was much more obvious than one would imagine), we followed the spray painted signs to the back, where we could pick up our bikes. After a 3 hour ordeal, where we met many of our cycling colleagues, we set out on the streets of Vilnius by bike with our Po Campo bags in tow.

The building with the bike warehouse in the back.

One of many spray painted green bicycle signs leading us to our destination.

After hours of waiting, we had our bikes!

That night we had our first informal meeting at Town Hall, where we got to meet many more members of our new cycling family. We had a great dinner of traditional Lithuanian food, including potato pancakes and beet soup, which comes with more potatoes, the theme of the entire trip. (Seriously, after two weeks of potatoes twice a day, we can never eat another boiled potato. Luckily, we had Chef Pasi on the bike ride and he fed us the most amazing meals ever out of a tent.)

Many of the Cycling for Libraries participants at the Vilnius Town Hall the night before it all started.

Beet soup with potatoes – yum!

Stay tuned for more posts about all of the exciting adventures we had on the road with Cycling for Libraries in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia!

By Karen Holt of Librarian Lifestyle and April Kessler. Karen and April are librarians at the University of Texas at Austin and are now super fit after biking nearly 400 miles with amazing librarians from around the world.