After 21 years…

November saw me celebrate 21 years in libraries with South Taranaki District Council. I started as a casual in Patea, moved to full time in Waverley, then Patea and in 2002 took on the Customer Services Librarian role for Patea and Waverley when we went “Plus” – combining council services into our libraries under new District Librarian Lynne Walker.

In that time I have married, had major surgery, completed a degree then Post Grad Diploma in Sociology, travelled to Italy to exhibit my art, done an Advanced Diploma in Art & Creativity, nursed my mother for 14 years, spoken at conferences, been Power of Attorney for a much loved Aunt who developed dementia, joined various national working groups and committees. Through it all I have had the support of my (late) mother, wonderful husband, wider family and friends, and some amazing staff and colleagues.

It is time for a change. Yesterday was my last day as CSL Patea and Waverley.  I will miss direct contact with the public, miss my special customers, miss seeing teenage boys raise an eyebrow at me as they pass my desk, mumbling “S’up Miss?”.

On Monday I take over from Lynne as Libraries and Cultural Services Manager. I’ll be managing 7 libraries, the museum and arts. I know I’ll miss some of my old role but I feel ready for the challenge; both nervous and excited. Bring on the next 21 years.

Here’s what I am leaving behind:

room 4 room 9 teen 1 017 030 032 patea  lib photos 150  room 5 SRP 2011 The battle 045 room 8

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Kindness was my 2014 word

I don’t very often post the same thing on my personal and professional blogs but in this instance it fits.

Every year I choose a word that is my keystone. In previous years I have had – mapping, balance, determined and, last year, learn. Each has served its purpose, constantly bringing me back to what I want for myself for the year, both at work and at home.

2013 was not an easy year for us; Mum died in mid-December 2012 and then Tony retired in January 2013. We both had some health issues, mine caused by an accident with a drunk driver the year before. There is some hard stuff in 2014 for Tony and me, starting with major surgery for him on the 13th of January and, hopefully, a knee replacement for me later in the year. My job continues to grow, as do my professional commitments and, as always, I want to grow my art life.

In 2013 I took an online library MOOC through San Jose University which helped clarify my values and what drives me. The word I came back to time and time again is kindness. I even spoke about kindness in the workplace at our annual LIANZA conference in Hamilton. So that’s my word for 2014. Kindness: to myself, to my husband, to others in my personal life and in my professional life.

It has been exactly the right word for me this year. In my own time I have been studying the intersection between management, leadership and kindness. I am more and more aware that kindness is at the heart of my values. By kindness I don’t mean some woolly-headed ‘let them run wild’ softness, but an inherent concern with people, justice, personal development etc.

Have I been kind all the time? Heck no. Have I tried? Yes, usually. I hope over time that kindness becomes more and more entrenched in what I do and in how I think; in who I am.

So what will my word for 2015 be? I’m thinking on it…


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Do you know your purpose?

I was reading a Cody McFayden book recently – wonderfully terrifying stories btw – and Agent Smoky identified someone’s higher power as “she lives to be useful”. Smoky talked about people’s higher power a couple of times; the idea that there is an ultimate driver for each of us interests me.

Sometimes I see people who are so incredibly focused and know  they understand without a shadow of a doubt what their higher purpose is. I follow American hip hop artist Brian Breach and he’s one of the most focussed people I know. He has fun, spends time with family, pays it forward by doing the occasional food drive to the poor – but really everything he does is focussed on building his music career and the things that go along with that goal. Brian knows his higher power.

What is my higher power, what is the thing that drives me? I don’t think this is about having a clear vision, by the way; my vision has to do with customer service in my libraries & growing my staff etc, but that’s not my ultimate motivator. So what sits underneath that?

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I can articulate it … yet, but I am getting there. I have been doing a lot of reading about leadership, kindness, inequality and so on. I think when the moment of clarity comes it’s going to be something to do with seeing the value in ALL people and acting with heart.

Do you have an ultimate driver? Do you know what your higher power is? I’d love to hear your thoughts.




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Finding balance

Found on

Found on

I’m what my new boss calls an integrator – I don’t mentally switch off from work stuff the moment I get home, I check my emails while I’m on leave, and so on. My new role starts the week before Christmas so I am taking 17 days leave, in two batches, between now and then. I’ll check my emails daily, as there is a lot happening including staff recruitment, but I’ll also be painting, cleaning out my art room (which the mice have apparently moved into over winter, when I don’t use it – it’s attached to the carshed and freezing cold), reading a lot, napping a bit .. and spending a day in Wellington doing Christmas shopping.

Some people think it’s bad to not cut yourself off completely from work while on leave, but I like staying in touch with what’s happening. I prefer a quick email sort every day than coming back to hundreds of them; they multiply like the mice! I love my work, and don’t find staying in touch at all stressful. How about you – are you an integrator too?


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Kindness, & recording thoughts

Once again I have been thinking about kindness and what it means in the workplace. I’m reading “Leading with kindness: how good people consistently get superior results” by William Baker and Michael O’Malley. It talks about how kindness is regarded as a weakness but “true kindness demonstrates a powerful confidence in oneself and those one leads”.  They also say “By kind, we do not … imply a warmly permissive leader whose underlings run wild. Kindness, like many other traits, has an optimal level that makes it a virtue as opposed to a vice”.

I’ve also been thinking about how we record all the thinking we do about our work, values, management style  and so on. I often write about work in my art journals but don’t share it. Why not? I don’t know really – maybe I think people will see it as less serious (or something…) than a written blog post. So, here’s an art journal page I did today while thinking about my values as I count down the weeks until I take up my new role.

journal page

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My struggle with Te Reo

I passed SC maths with 51%, and failed UE maths with 49%. In my 20s I decided to try again and did an intro paper through Massey Uni. I completed the first couple of chapters and thought I’d cracked it. Then it got hard – too hard – and eventually I realised my brain has a limit when it comes to maths. Same with physics, even though a good Schrodinger’s Cat t-shirt always makes me laugh. And then there’s Te Reo Maori…

I have tried learning on my own, tried learning with others, and tried a Wananga distance course. I’ve failed, failed and, you’ve guessed right, failed again. Sure my pronunciation’s not bad, I can Kia Ora and so on; heck, on a good day I can even introduce myself with my mountain and awa. But that is not fluency, it’s nothing like fluency. It’s rote learning to plaster over the gaps.

Does that matter? In today’s world do I have to keep trying? Or can I cut myself a break?

One of the two libraries I manage is in a town where 51% of the population is Maori and I think we provide a pretty good service if the foot traffic and use our service gets indicates anything. All the kids at the local schools know our staff by name, the teens lift an eyebrow at me as they wander past my desk and ask me “‘s’up?”, and the older Maori teens sometimes hang out with us to use the APNK computers after they finish night shift at the works, while their mothers are some of the most prolific readers we serve.

Recently I told people on my FaceBook page that I have accepted my bosses role (she retires in December) and got comments like congratulations Cath tu bloody meke,  and I will miss your friendly attitude Cath, go well from Maori males in the community. I think Maori and Pakeha feel welcome and respected by me and my staff.

But here’s the thing; that doesn’t feel good enough. I have this  constant nagging feeling that I am failing by not being proficient at Te Reo. That it indicates, I’m not sure how to express it, a lack of commitment to the Treaty maybe? I’d love your thoughts on this. Is it time to quit or is the language something I *have* to conquer?



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#digsig14 Unconference

I went, shared & learned, and then Storifyed. Here you go:


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Hating on librarians

Trigger warning: talks about sexual harassment, picture has very graphic language.

I have been semi-following the #teamharpy saga – if you want to know more, hop on Twitter or Google it. Today the Librarian in Black, who I have admired and followed for years, posted about the sexual harassment she has suffered in her personal and professional life over the years. Sarah was brave to speak out and is being made to pay for it. I can’t begin to tell you how sad and angry that makes me.

This is the kind of feedback Sarah is getting already:


I presume the person who commented is connected to libraries in some way, otherwise how did they come to be reading her blog? The fact they have chosen a revolting pseudonym means nothing except that they are gutless.

I know those associated with #teamharpy have suffered a lot of this type of backlash. If this is how librarians treat each other, it’s a sad day indeed. Librarians should be backing each other, and being each other’s strongest advocates in times of need.

I have talked a lot in the last couple of years about #kindness. Please people, in a world where journalists get beheaded for doing their jobs, and the word ‘segregation’ is trending, can’t be just take a deep breath and be more tolerant? Kindness matters, try it.

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To Cutt or not to Cutt

I’ve been talking with colleagues recently about Cutters. You know, the letters at the end of the Dewey number; helps to bunch like things together and so on.

A while back we got rid of the Cutter on our junior non-fiction and most staff have not missed them at all. Our collections just aren’t big enough for it to make a lot of difference.

We’ve been discussing the idea of removing them from adult non-fiction too. It saves materials, processing time etc. It simplifies things for the public who probably have no idea what they mean. If I think about our densest sections, say 635.9, we might have one shelf, maybe two at the most. So there’s not a lot of books to look through for holds etc – yes the Cutter would make it quicker to search, but not by much.

Do you have an opinion on Cutters for smaller collections? I’d love to hear from you.


By the way, the photo is from Google, not from our library.
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Hitting unfriend – when your values are challenged

The other day I commented on this story on my Facebook page and commented “This is such a sad story – I wish Christchurch could have more extensive social services. And that society as a whole cared more“. I got into a debate with an ex-colleague, who recently moved to Christchurch and works as a (newly trained) nurse. Essentially we have quite different views and I was happy to debate it with her.

Her husband posted this on my Facebook page “why can’t the parents who are taking her child look after her? or baby daddy or any other relli? and theres heaps of empty houses in chch so no need to sleep on grass, jobs galore, in chch. 4 kids! how about a snip, I could go on, but come on, how about she helps herself? we found a house on our own and jobs.”

The person the news story is about is an older prostitute, who suffers from bi-polar, and is trying hard to stay off drink and drugs whilst pregnant after the pill failed. My ex-colleague’s husband has a good job, so does the wife, nice kids, etc etc. His reply smacks of middle-aged, middle-class, uncaring white privilege.

My online life represents who am I, both personally and professionally – this is authentically me. Essentially he pushed my values button! I could not let his remarks go without comment, and have unfriended her so it can not happen again. As a librarian I care deeply about the people I serve – and not just the well educated clean “nice” ones. I try hard to care for all of them, even though I don’t always get it right. If you can’t care, and won’t respect those less fortunate than yourself, that’s your choice – but don’t spew your poison on my page.


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