IGeLU Member(s) Spotlight: Laura Morse and Betsy Friesen

Tell us your names, titles, and more about your history with Ex Libris Products.

My name is Betsy Friesen, Director of Data Management & Access (read metadata and systems) at the University of Minnesota. We climbed aboard the Aleph train, going live in July 2002, a week sooner than Harvard. We were development partners for Primo and also ran SFX, Metalib, and Verde. We were early adopters of Alma, going live in late 2013 (the year there was no Christmas — for some of us). We brought Leganto on board for fall term 2018. I am also Alma Working Group Coordinator. 

My name is Laura Morse, and I am Director, Library Systems & Support at Harvard University.  We started our Ex Libris journey in July 2002 with Aleph, adopted Metalib, SFX, Verde, and Primo in recent history, and completed our migration to Alma and Leganto in July of 2018. Laura serves on the ELUNA Steering Committee, including a stint as chair.

We started working together on Aleph issues back in the early 2000s, and found that we are very compatible not only in our approaches to work, but with travel.  A deep friendship has grown over the years.  We are happy to share the IGeLU spotlight this month.

Why do you feel attendance at the conference is important?
The IGeLU conference provides many opportunities to learn from peers and share information. More importantly, we build relationships with colleagues during and around the edges of the conferences. These important relationships help in post-conference leadership work on IGeLU and ELUNA initiatives, work with Ex Libris colleagues, and general collaboration between libraries when common interests are discovered. We had the opportunity to do this both at the conference in Singapore, and afterward, while travelling to places in the world we might not otherwise have the opportunity to see.

Tell us more about building these relationships at the conference:
In Singapore, we had the opportunity to see some of the local sights of Singapore after the day’s sessions were completed with other conference attendees.  We explored the Harborfront and caught stunning views of the city and the Gardens by the Bay from the top of the Marina Bay Sands with John Greer and Jen Betz.  

from left to right, Laura Morse, Jen Betz, John Greer, Betsy Friesen
Singapore skyline view of the infinity pool atop Marina Bay Sands

Later in the week, we took a boat tour from Clarke Quay with IGeLU and ELUNA colleagues Allen Jones, Camelia Anghel, David Perry, Knut Bockman, and Cindy Greenspun. After a great dinner, we caught a different view of Marina Bay Sands, complete with the light show.

How did this trip come about?
We have vacationed around the IGeLU annual conference for seven years. We obviously share a love of travel and, of course, Ex Libris products. We have been to the top of Jungfraujoch (over 3400 meters) in Switzerland, to below sea level when snorkeling this past September off the coast of Sabah, on Borneo, after IGeLU in Singapore. We travel well together. Laura takes lots of pictures; Betsy takes lots of bathroom breaks. It works for us. In case readers are wondering, the current lead in Betsy’s International Restroom Tour for fanciest, cleanest, and most spacious restrooms are those in the Singapore airport.

As IGeLU 2019 fast approached and friends from Australia provided advice for our post-IGeLU trip to Borneo, “Don’t forget the bug spray.” “Watch out for the leeches!” Betsy’s son’s father-in-law warned of South Pacific monster spiders and giant centipedes. We were prepared for it all: bug repellent x 3, antifungals for feet, bamboo socks, hats, sunscreen, portable fans (2 kinds). Okay, so they overpacked, but we were prepared … for everything (and still got bit by bugs and burned by the sun.) 

What were some trip highlights?
It was a fantastic trip, both in Singapore and Borneo, though as northern U.S. residents, we did melt a wee bit in the tropical heat and humidity. Highlights included feeding elephants and birds at the excellent Wildlife Reserves Singapore, seeing so many animals in the wild on the Kinabatangan River, watching a baby sea turtle make its way to the sea at Turtle Islands National Park, and adopting adolescent orangutans Archie and Tombie at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.

Do you have any traditions for the conference and your trips, aside from photos and bathrooms?
For the last few years, Betsy partnered up with Dave Allen (IGeLU SC) to welcome new attendees. These welcome events usually involved some sort of costuming like hats and shirts. Sadly, and much to Dave’s dismay, there was no room in Betsy’s suitcase this year for costumes. Still, the IGeLU reception did go on with traditional Ex Libris product-oriented songs, performed by Mark Dehmlow (IGeLU SC) and sung by Ex Libris staff, Dvir Hoffman and Yaniv Cohen, Laura Morse, and others. Look at those VPs collaborate!

Let’s sing along!

Five years ago a new tradition was started during their IGeLU travels. On their trip to Scotland, following the Oxford IGeLU meeting, Laura discovered that Betsy had an immediate, abnormally strong reaction to hard liquor. The annual sequenced photos of the “downing of the beverage,” including the face flush, stomping of feet, etc. has become an event that some of our friends can’t wait to see on Laura’s Facebook page. Laura has yet to capture the steam coming from Betsy’s ears, but there’s always next year. Laura will just need to find something as bad as the Scotch whiskey with the strong dirt taste dirt or the moonshine in Romania (something stored since Vlad Dracul’s time, no doubt). The rum in Singapore, while still strong enough to put hair on your toes, was not Laura’s “worst” effort. The game will need to be elevated for next year.

What’s next?
Laura is busy reading books on Wales and putting together lists of potential sites to see and local foods and drinks to sample.  Maybe they will find some adventurous food that Laura will try. Betsy liked the haggis in Scotland; Laura not so much. We welcome suggestions for sites, food and drink!