Public libraries: local, global, and everything in between

Some of the most dramatic changes in recent history have been in how we develop, seek, obtain, and disseminate information. Libraries, sometimes originally established as repositories for physical books, have evolved to keep pace with today’s needs.

The advent of ebooks and other digitalizations has opened many offerings to library users. Services such as Overdrive, Kanopy, and Pressreader, to name just a few, make millions of ebooks, audiobooks, databases and online courses readily available to library patrons — often from great distances. Many libraries also work toward creating their own digital archives, exhibits, and resources.

While one might think that library physical locations would become less important as a result of these changes, many systems have discovered the opposite is true. Library systems and their branches are often uniquely positioned to encourage the development of groups and serve needs of specific populations. Members of public libraries can learn more about a new location and meet other area newcomers, enjoy meals with discussion groups, participate in events designed for children and families, use space and equipment for telecommuting and developing entrepreneurial initiatives, familiarize themselves with up-to-date technology and research, and take advantage of many other newer offerings designed to advance knowledge and build local community.

Here are four public libraries from around the world that offer a wealth of resources to their users:

State Library Victoria

Melbourne, Australia

Founded in 1854, State Library Victoria is Australia’s oldest public library. It occupies a full city block, and its space includes The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas.  Membership is open to residents throughout Victoria. While State Library is not a lending library, its members can access over 5 million books, photographs, documents, and other materials — and borrow from a library of 16,000 ebooks. State Library also maintains relationships with public libraries throughout Victoria and abroad, and hosts communities and activities for all ages and interests. Many talks and presentations held on site are later available to the general public for viewing online, as are exhibitions, research guides, and even open data sets.

New York Public Library

New York, USA

Perhaps best known for its location on the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue guarded by two large stone lion statues, NYPL also serves 17 million patrons from another 91 physical locations throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island. (While Brooklyn and Queens residents are welcome, these two boroughs of the city have their own library systems.) More than 93,000 programs are offered annually, including English language education, job search support, technology skills, art classes, hobby clubs, after school programs for children, and even exercise. Many are free of charge. NYPL patrons also have access to other services. SimplyE allows for quick and easy downloads from NYPL’s collection of over 300,000 ebooks, movies, and periodicals. Culture Pass offers free admission to area cultural institutions. Ongoing public projects, such as transcribing of audio recordings and text on digital images, are among many volunteer opportunities. Membership to the NYPL is open to those who live, work, and/or pay property taxes in New York State, and temporary memberships are available to visitors from elsewhere

Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Twenty-six branches of the OBA serve Amsterdam, Diemen and Ouder Amstel. In addition to robust online and media collections, the OBA has much to offer its members. English language programs and groups are available throughout the system, as are programs for Dutch language education. The central library, located on the Oosterdokseiland in Amsterdam, has cultivated partnerships with Alliance Francaise and Instituto Cervantes. It also offers a unique program called Studyshare. Modeled after the popular “Pomodoro” method of time management, Studyshare participants enter a shared quiet space for a three hour “block.” Each block consists of three periods of study lasting 45 minutes each, with 15 minute breaks between, with each change marked by the ringing of a bell.

National Library Board


The National Library Board oversees 27 national, regional, and local libraries throughout Singapore. Memberships are available to residents and to foreigners. Materials and programs are available in the country’s four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. The NLB offers in-person and online exhibitions, regular research about national reading habits, and recommendation guides for children, teens, adults, and seniors. Courses and activities focused on professional skills, history, creative arts and business topics are frequently and widely available throughout the system. “Play@Library” is a series designed for children and parents, and “STAR” (Seniors Tech and Read) courses help older members to advance their computer and Internet skills.

These examples are brief summaries! When evaluating the libraries to which you have membership, keep in mind that some advice has stayed the same: often, the best guide to a library is a librarian who can listen to your needs, and point you in the right directions.


Let’s get moving!

There is no doubt about it – international assignment experience is a boon to anyone’s resume.  The numbers show that only about 20% of international assignees are women, yet the percentage of interested parties is almost equal for both men and women.  In many companies, going on international assignment and having extensive international experience is essential to reach senior executive positions. Low numbers of women in the assignee talent pool disrupts gender equality at leadership level.

What can HR Managers do?

•    Do not assume women (or their partners) are not interested in international assignments.
•    Select the very best person regardless of gender.
•    Provide diversity and cultural training for female expats, their entire families, and colleagues in the host locations.
•    Make sure the company policies have evolved to better address the issues of female expatriates.
•    Offer in-country support networks, women’s expatriate groups, and mentor programs.
•    Support the entire family throughout the assignment.
•    Offer detailed destination information on the host location.

What can women do?

While businesses must remove barriers, women can also take positive steps to improve their own chances for an assignment.

•    Raise your hand and let the company know that you are interested in an overseas assignment.
    Build strong and rich social networks within the office and outside of work through networking groups.  Establish a strong network and develop social skills to build connections and cultural bridges.
•    Seek out the truth about challenges in moving internationally in advance.
•    Find a mentor or champion within the company or, if need be, outside the company.
•    Focus on the attributes that make many women successful overseas, such as:

-Confidence and self-reliance
-Flexibility and problem-solving skills
-Tolerance and interpersonal skills
-Skill at handling and initiating change in a collaborative manner

Currently, new types of assignments with more flexibility are making it easier for women with family responsibilities to go on assignment. Through the combined actions of talent management teams and the practical assistance from global mobility teams, there will likewise be more opportunities for women to be offered assignments.

The company that actively seeks the participation of women into its global workforce and then sufficiently supports them in their work and life is the company that doubles its potential for growth and productivity. Women also need to be equally proactive in making sure to express their goals.

Is Homeschooling for You?

What do two million children in the United States, 60,000 in Canada, 48,000 in the United Kingdom, and 30,000 in Australia all have in common?

They are all homeschooled.

Roughly four percent of students around the world are homeschooled. Families choosing to educate their children at home are growing. The number of homeschooled children in the UK rose 40% from 2014 to 2017, according to the BBC.

Families cite several reasons for choosing to homeschool. Many parents want to include religious instruction or some nontraditional element to their children’s education. Some children have mental health issues that parents feel are not adequately addressed in school. Others are bullied or negatively influenced by peers. A significant number of parents feel their school options are poor and that they can serve their children’s educational needs better at home.

Some countries – such as Germany – make it illegal, while others like Canada, the U.S., and Australia allow for homeschool regulations by province or state. In some countries, it is legal only for non-residents, such as in Kazakhstan where homeschooled children are mainly expatriates.
For relocating families, homeschooling can be an option worth exploring. Children already being homeschooled can keep the continuity of their curricula while abroad. Students for whom enrollment in a local school doesn’t make sense – due to length of stay, educational offerings, or other considerations – may find homeschooling is a solution.

Along with legality, information and resources vary. Residents of some regions can access well-organized information online, such as the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents (OFTP) which makes parents aware of provincial regulations, supports their right to educational choices, and provides all sorts of homeschooling resources.

The UK provides a starting point for parents looking to homeschool on this government website. You can search for local council information (England and Wales only) by entering your postal code.

In South Africa, the subject of homeschooling was contentious beginning in the early 1990s and through iterations of policy making it legal. Today, various Homeschool Associations operate around the country.

In the U.S., the Home School League Defense Association (HSLDA) has info on each state’s stance on home schooling. It also details, by state, how to go about withdrawing a child from traditional school, what sort of records to keep, and how to keep up with state assessments.

For parents interested in homeschooling, where do they start? First confirm legality and local requirements. Beyond that, assistance with organization, scheduling, curriculum, testing, reading lists, and creative lessons abound. Online courses can be invaluable. For some families they form the core of an educational day, while others use them to supplement parental lessons. Khan Academy is one source of free online coursework.

This very personal, important decision can be made once the family is educated on all requirements and choices.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group

What’s served on special occasions in Holland?

Dutch cuisine highlights hearty dishes.  On special occasions, the Dutch serve ________ as a cocktail snack before dinner?

  1. Stamppot
  2. Zuurkool met spek en worst
  3. Gerootke paling
  4. Uitsmijter

Click here for the answer!

Apps with lasting power!

In an era where new smartphone travel apps are released daily, sometimes the best usefulness indicator is how often one uses an app over time. Here are three apps I downloaded six months ago that have remained on my smartphone’s front screen:


Transit offers one of the most comprehensive ways to decide on the best travel route, and what transportation to use to get there. Entering one address provides a detailed list of nearby mass transportation routes and stops, as well as taxi and rideshare options. Entering two or more addresses offers all available travel options between them, with estimated journey times for each. As of this writing, Transit is available for 191 regions in 10 countries on four continents — a list of them is available here.


While primarily designed to support remote workers around the world, this is also a useful app for business travelers who need to find spaces that meet their needs. Searching by destination yields entries for cafes, libraries, workshare services and public spaces, which include photos and user-reported information about operating hours, Wi-Fi availability, cost when applicable, and even noise level. (A good complement to the Workfrom app is your preferred Internet service provider’s Wi-Fi hotspot finder app — as well as always remembering that public Wi-Fi connections can make your data more vulnerable.)


This app is invaluable for business travelers who drive within the United States. Do you know what you need when on an unfamiliar highway, but not where to find it? Search for a highway — or let iExit find you via your phone’s GPS — and you’ll be provided with a list of nearby notable destinations. These include gas stations (with current prices per gallon), restaurants, lodging, rest areas, medical services, shopping, and even just where to find a cup of coffee. If you are on a highway, your results will include exit names and even what’s available at upcoming rest stops.

What’s your favorite travel app?  Email us and we’ll post the results next week!
Living Abroad’s Global Business Travel Center 

Designed especially for business travelers, Living Abroad’s Global Business Travel Center works in all smartphone browsers. In just a few taps, you can quickly get what you need to maximize your global travel success. GBTC includes travel requirements, health and security information, transportation options, and key resources, as well as business and social customs for your destination.

Click here to try it out!

Staying Strong Abroad

When relocating abroad, there’s much that changes in your work and home life. Anticipating, learning, preparing, accomplishing, adjusting, and assimilating are some of the positive action stages of a move. Each of these stages – which often overlap – require energy and focus. These phases can also involve anxiety, resistance, trepidation, isolation, frustration, and stress – states that drain energy and cloud focus. Your well-being depends on balancing these elements to a healthy degree.

Even when you are home, in familiar surroundings, exercise can help relieve burdensome emotional states. When you move to a new, unfamiliar place, exercise can be even more important.

Some people are gratified to find they can keep their fitness routines while abroad. Running, gym workouts, yoga, and other mainstream activities can be enjoyed almost anywhere. Activities requiring more specific equipment and spaces – like swimming pools, squash courts, horseback riding trails, and even golf courses and soccer fields – are not available everywhere.

Therefore, many newcomers face a choice: Do you continue (if possible) with a tried-and-true routine? One benefit of doing so is the connection and consistency it brings from your previous lifestyle to your host country. Your workout is familiar, and so serves the dual purpose of physical fitness and engaging in an activity that – unlike other aspects of your new life – does not require a major shift or learning curve. That can make it a source of relaxation and peace.

On the other hand, learning something new brings at least two benefits, too: A different area (or areas) of your body is developed and strengthened by a sport you’ve never tried before. A new activity may also assist with your assimilation, helping you meet new people and make a personal, physical connection with your new home.

For example, someone from landlocked Hungary may revel in ocean sailing or surfing if relocation brings him/her to a coastal city. A native of Kuwait on assignment in Canada may discover the joys of cross-country skiing. In neither instance would these activities be possible at home.

And there are some interesting sports to be tried. Did you know that Quidditch, the game from the popular Harry Potterbooks, is played around the world? Yes, there is an International Quidditch Association established in Middlebury, Vermont and with leagues in 26 countries – including Argentina, Canada, Korea, Spain, and Uganda.

Trying something new can also help you learn about yourself, too. A lifelong runner and biker, I recently took up Pilates and barre classes, and found that certain aches and weak points were not unavoidable aspects of aging but were rather the result of too little attention to certain muscles and joints.  Feeling stronger – in both body and mind – is a worthwhile goal no matter where you live.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group

What should you never do in Thailand?

In Thailand, what should you never do?

A.  Sit with both feet firmly on the ground
B.  Criticize the royal family
C.  Wear a red tie or scarf
D.  Wear a hat indoors

Click here for the answer!

Tips for Dramatic Winter Weather Challenges

This year, locations all over the Northern Hemisphere have experienced dramatic winter weather. High snowfall, strong winds, and dramatic shifts in temperature over short periods of time have made winter unusually challenging for people in many locales.

Here are some tips for weathering wild winters:

1. Take time to assess agility.
Just as it is important to consider preferences and experiences when you are in a cross-cultural environment, it is also important to do this when your overall experience of seasons is different from the climate you are in. For example, an American Midwesterner visiting the United Kingdom should be aware that a blizzard that deposits six inches of snow presents a number of challenges to local infrastructures. They should try to keep any frustration or impatience in check. Those from moderate climates who face harsher weather can seek out advice from locals – often, they are happy to oblige!

2. Store items where you will actually need them.
While it may be a great idea to keep an ice scraper in your car, keeping a second one in your home or garage can be useful with a cold car that has become encased in ice overnight. Snow shovels, sand, salt, car starters, and even extra outerwear are just some of the other winter items for which to consider best placement, and possibly even duplicating.

3. Plan ahead to prevent panic.
Even experienced winter warriors deal with the unexpected. Buying a supply of staple items, such as shelf-stable foods, toiletries, and other items, can help you avoid pre-storm crowded markets. Charge electronics you may need, such as lights, telephones, and radios, in advance. Pay ongoing attention to forecasts, and know what you will do in the event that weather prevents travel at a time when it is usually needed.

4. Remember that all water can cause winter woes.
Snow, ice and water may all consist of H2O, but each form presents unique challenges in winter. Snow can hide objects on the ground, making it easier to trip or run over them. Ice can mean damage to many things, including cars, homes, and power lines. Water can cause flooding and also buckle road pavement. In addition to keeping an eye on forecasts for storms, watch for rapidly plummeting and soaring temperatures.

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager

Expat Fatigue is Real

Nearly all assignees and global road warriors experience times of extreme fatigue, exhaustion, and feelings of hopelessness from time to time.  Some common symptoms include anxiety disorders and depression, which can be a result of bombardment with a series of changes in quick succession and little time to process these changes.  According to the World Health Organization, there are nearly 322 million people globally living with depression and 260 million struggling with anxiety.

Duty of Care is very important in supporting the health and well-being of your global employees.  The first step is to recognize that every one of your mobile employees may experience burnout due to the constant pressures of their day-to-day home and work life.  Companies must protect their most valuable assets – their employees.

What are some actions you can take to improve travel and assignment health and help employees to achieve a better work-life balance?

1.  Let your employees know that being flexible can go a long way.  All moves have a sense of uncertainty and they should try to leave room for things that may not work out as planned.

2.  Encourage them to set realistic goals with realistic timeframes. Completing the many tasks this way will build confidence instead of creating overwhelm.
3.  Schedule time to relax.  Some may even need to add their downtime to a calendar.  This allows the mind to focus on something other than the issues or stresses at hand.

4.  Encourage employees to eat well and try to add in time for exercise.  Creating set habits lends stability to a new situation.

5.  Find a trusted person to share feelings of overwhelm or even more extreme cases of depression. Remind your employees of programs your company has that offer access to telephone, online, email, and face-to-face counseling.

6.  Make sure to offer employees access to an online cultural learning tool and access to excellent destination information before they travel or move abroad.  Perhaps learning a few words in the language before traveling will eliminate the fear of not being able to communicate upon arrival.

7. Promote acceptance of host country culture.  Those who reject the host culture tend to be the employees that have the most problems.

Ultimately, empowering your global employees with tools and resources will add to their happiness abroad and yours.  “Companies that build a culture of health yield greater value for their investors.”(1)

(1)Source:  The Link Between Workforce Health and Safety and the Health of the Bottom Line, Fabius et al.  Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Vol 55, No. 9, 2013

For additional reading, click here.

Written by Cathy Heyne –  GMS-T, Managing Director, Living Abroad 

Be Safe Out There!

Nearly 1.8 billion people are projected to shop online in 2018 *

Approaching the holidays, we all tend to accelerate this practice. And if you have recently relocated, online shopping can be a comfort and a time saver. In many cases, you can get the same gifts you would have purchased in your native country, without having to leave your new home and navigate an unfamiliar retail landscape.

But what about safety? Data breaches, identity theft, credit card fraud, and stolen packages are real concerns. Here are some tips to keep in mind before, during, and after ordering anything online:

Before shopping

Be sure you’re connected to a safe Internet connection, whether at home, at work, or in a public space. Avoid public Wi-Fi and shared computers; you can’t tell how data is stored and what could be accessible to other users. Wherever you are, identify a secure connection before sharing your personal information.

On your own computer, keep your security software and anti-virus program up to date. Be careful about opening emails from retailers, and don’t click any links or download an attachment before making absolutely certain where it came from. Double check the email address; scammers will often change one letter or use a name nearly identical to a legitimate business.

Beware of incredible offers of low, low prices. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always use trusted websites. As with emails, sham websites can look like the real thing, but might use .net instead of .com, or make some other minor spelling change that’s easy to miss. Many major retailers have mobile apps, making it easier to be sure you’re buying from your trusted seller.

If your search for an item leads you to a retailer you’re unfamiliar with, check it out before placing an order. Search the company, make sure there’s a physical address and phone number available, and review any ratings or complaints with the Better Business Bureau or equivalent organisation.

Finally, more than half of global Internet shoppers purchase items from other countries. Know your host country’s customs regulations, duties, and taxes associated with an inbound purchase. If you’re shipping packages abroad, know the destination country’s rules, too.

As you shop

Once you’ve determined that your connection is safe and you’re on a legitimate web seller’s page, what’s next? If you decide to create an account, make your password a strong one. Using a password-generating tool is one way to create and manage random passwords for multiple logins.

When shopping on mobile platforms, take advantage of any additional authentication steps that can protect your identity and your funds. Before committing to a purchase, check the return policy. Note that buying far in advance – shopping for Christmas gifts in October, for example – may be risky if the seller has a 30-day return policy. Also confirm shipping times to assure that your package will arrive when you need it to.

Plan ahead for items that take longer to arrive, such as personalised goods. When shipping to another country, there may be a wider window of arrival estimates.

After your choices are made and you’re on the check-out page, make sure it indicates a secure payment platform, displaying SSL and HTTPS in the URL. The Secure Socket Layer (SSL) safeguards sensitive data; you may also see a lock icon. For one more layer of security, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN encrypts your connection, masking your identity and activity. It can be used across devices, so your smartphone, tablet, and computer can remain anonymous to trackers and thieves.

Finally, choose the most secure form of payment available to you. For example, credit cards are safer than debit cards. Credit card issuers offer protection from fraudulent purchases, while someone with access to your debit card could directly drain your bank account before you’re aware of the loss. Many shoppers use digital wallets like Apple Pay or PayPal. Again, keep passwords to these accounts strong and in a safe place.

After ordering

Keep track of what you’ve ordered, perhaps in an email folder for orders and shipping confirmations. In a flurry of shopping and the busy season, sometimes you can lose sight of what packages are arriving when. Take advantage of package tracking and delivery notifications. This allows you to take the package inside immediately when it’s delivered. If packages will be arriving to an empty home and security is a concern, consider shipping to your work address or to a trusted friend who can hold them for you. Certain items require – or have the option – for a signature upon delivery. This will further safeguard your packages, ensuring they won’t be left outside, but it can be a challenge to meet the delivery in person.

Check your monthly statements, review credit card transactions and any digital payment source you use. Report any fraudulent activity immediately for the best chance of reimbursement and damage control.

For more tips on a broader range of Internet safety – like charity donations and booking holiday travel – consult Get Safe Online. Following these precautions can reduce your risk of unpleasant surprises and give you peace of mind this holiday season.

* Statistica (July 2017). Number of Digital Buyers Worldwide 2014 to 2021.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group