I moved the blog…

Daft timing I know, but right in the middle of #BlogJune I’ve decided to move my blog. I just needed to get it done and today was the day. You can find me here

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What makes up our professional identity?

Since surgery last month, when I had to be intubated and put in ICU due to severe aspiration pneumonia, I’ve had a very hoarse, quiet voice. No problem. Today the ENT specialist informed me my left vocal chord is paralysed but “should” heal in time. If it doesn’t they can’t fix it, but can help me have a better voice.

Still no problem? Actually it is. I feel … something … but can’t quite fully articulate what yet. Speaking is part of our professional identity. I’ve always thought I have an odd voice, but didn’t mind. I’ve spoken at conferences, and speak up at meetings.

Now I can’t get a full sentence out in one go and can’t always be heard. Yet my voice, my thoughts, are part of who I am as a librarian. What does this mean for my identity? I guess I’ll figure it out in time.

Special thanks to Penny (@greengecko29) for sharing a story on Twitter, I appreciate it more than you know: My Dad has a paralyzed vocal chord from a surgery done in the 80’s. He is 75 now, can’t sing but lectured at Uni his whole life with it. He was really worried he would lose his job at the time. Did speech therapy which helped. But yes, didn’t give up.


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Thinking about delegation

Yesterday I talked about delegation, and how I need to do more of it in order to grow my staff so they can move into more senior roles. I’ve been thinking about what else I can delegate because it has to be manageable for them, something they will learn from, and something it’s okay to hand over. Not as simple as it sounds…

Every 6 weeks I write a report to Council outlining what we’ve been doing and provide stats on issues, door count, online activity, membership etc. One of my manager writes a particularly good report, so maybe I hand this over so she learns to write to a new audience?

I’ve already got one staff member learning how to do the consolidated monthly financial reporting, but this isn’t something I can just hand over responsibility for.

We have a monthly meeting; I chair it and the same person minutes it each time. Perhaps I could move the minuting around so everyone learns to do it, and have someone else chair it every second month?

I can see this is going to take some figuring out, but will be worth it. Often we don’t delegate because we can do things quicker ourselves, so I’ll have to keep the end game firmly in mind.

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Thinking about retirement

I’ve been thinking about retirement. Not mine, everyone else’s. Quite a few of my senior team will retire in the next 10 years, and some may leave before that of course. One has already signalled she’ll retire in 2020. Succession planning…

It can be hard to attract great staff to smaller districts like ours, even thought it’s awesome affordable living, and we have a supportive vibrant Council to work with. What’s the answer? Grow our own.

We have a Cadet who started with us in December, and we’re supporting her to get qualified while she works. This follows on from a previous successful Cadetship; that staff member is still with us and doing really well. But we need to grow people in the in-between layers too – which really means I need to be supporting staff to take the next step when opportunities arrive.

That means grabbing training opportunities, sending them to conferences, encouraging membership of LIANZA and professional registration, and accepting that sometimes you grow great people and they move on. It also means I need to delegate tasks I could do quicker myself, because otherwise how do people learn? I think I just set myself a new challenge!


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When #BlogJune comes around

This is not the first time I’ve done #BlogJune, where people try to blog every day. Of course I’m off to a great start because it’s already the 3rd of June and this is my first post. Why am I doing it?

Writing is good for me, and getting into a habit of writing regularly is even better. As a thorough introvert, I need to think through what I am going to say before speaking. On the other hand, extroverts tend to speak in order to clarify what they are thinking. Writing helps me clarify my thoughts and understand what’s in my head; oi helps me think through complex work issues and plan ahead, especially as Long Term Plan time omes around.

Why do I stop writing? I’m not sure to be honest, probably just lack of a good routine and more than a hint of laziness. So #BlogJune 2017 is my annual attempt to reinvigorate my writing habit. Wish me luck!


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Training disaster averted!

We were fortunate to get a $43,000 grant from the TSB Community Trust towards eight 3D printers and the accompanying bits ‘n bobs. Each branch will have one, even the smallest which is only part time, because all our residents deserve equal access to information and learning opportunities.

We had two days of training planned, the first full day with Tim from @Mindkits and then train the trainer with other staff on the second half day. And then it happened; Tim’s flight circled for 30 minutes before being sent back to Auckland because of bad weather in New Plymouth. Argh! Now what?

What happened next is the result of couple of years of training people, encouraging them to have a go and feel confident, and not sweating the small stuff. With an hour until staff were due to arrive, Sue and Katherine said “We think we can train them. We’ve found an app on the net and had a look at the printers”. How awesome is that!

They did a fantastic job. Sure, not everything went smoothly, but staff went away excited and confident to give it a go. It was a good reminder of how our users can feel when things don’t go to plan. I love that my staff are happy to try things out, and put their hands up.

For the second day we’d invited staff from Puke Ariki down to have a play too. They seemed to enjoy themselves and it was great to spend some time with our near(ish) neighbours. I suspect they’ll be asking their managers for 3D printers too now.

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Learning new things can be uncomfortable

A group of us at work are working on our Asset Management Plans (AMPs) and ensuring anything in our business plans, and the Long Term Plan (LTP), is backed up by evidence and supported by the AMPs. I understand how it fits together and why we need to do it. However, it involves getting our heads around stuff we might never have tackled before.

For instance, one of the tasks is to get Condition Reports done on our buildings, and I have seven of them. We’re probably going to get an external company to do the assessments and reports but I need to decide on the level on componetisation. I thought they’d decide that for me, as the experts, but no – because the level I want to manage to, is the level they need to report to.

Let me explain so you can see why my head is struggling. We can break down the building into components – roof, walls, floors, etc. Or do we want to condition report on windows, floorings, paint & wallpaper, electrics and plumbing so we can forecast maintenance and replacement in the LTP? But what if one building has vinyl and carpet, or wooden and aluminium windows. Do I want it broken down that far because they’ll have different useful lives so I need to allow replacement in different years of the LTP? Do some buildings need a different level of componetisation to others?

I was talking to my boss about it. She laughed and said “well, at least you’re learning new things I guess, so that’s good”. So true, and once the AMP is done, I’ll be pleased with myself. In the meantime, it’s hard going, and reminds me to be patient with staff who are learning new things.

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Thinking ahead to #open17

I’m already thinking about this year’s LIANZA conference, who to take, and how many. I have generous staff training and conference budgets, but need approval from my manager in terms of individuals attending and overall cost. We take spending ratepayers money seriously, so neeed to demonstrate the benefits. It used to be that we only took qualified staff to conference, but I think that’s outdated and discriminatory. Here’s my initial thinking on benefits from attending this year:

  • Staff can visit some new builds, ideal when we’re in the early design phase of a new main facility.
  • Staff who have been before can renew professional friendships
  • There’s a wide range of keynotes, so somehting to inspire each of us.
  • Some staff want to present and, if they get accepted, it’s a great opportunity.
  • Two staff are part of, or have graduated from, Kotuku so it’s a chance to catch up with their cohort.
  • It gives us time away from work to think about what we do in fresh ways.
  • We get to bond as a team by travelling and staying together.
  • We’re able to judge what we’re doing against the work of others, providing us with a useful yardstick.
  • Oh, and attending is great fun! ?
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Providing training opportunities

I’ve got about 30 staff, including casuals, so providing external professional development opportunities for everyone isn’t an option. Mind you, I have a reasonably generous training budget, and manage to send quite a few staff away each year. We’re also taking up LIANZAs training package offer, so all staff can participate. I know training and PD makes staff feel valued, and I want them to grow in skills and confidence.

The solution we’ve come up with is in-house training; we do 2 half day sessions twice a year so as many staff can attend as practical. In a four-hour session we cover a few topics. This coming week Sue will do a ‘tips & tricks in Koha’ session, Pam will refresh their skills with tot time and they’ll have a chance to plan out some sessions they can share with each other. I’ll do a Post-It note session with them about what we want in our new main library.

I’ve also given two staff a 15-minute slot each to talk about what they’re doing in their branch that’s successful, and how they have gone about it. It’s a small group each time so a non-threatening way of learning to present, and it’s good for them all to realise they each have a lot to offer their peers.

If anyone has other ideas for in-house training that’s inexpensive, doesn’t use up too much time, and builds people’s skills – I’d love to hear about it.

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As I started writing, the horrors occurring in the USA were very much on my mind. Then I deleted it and started over. I’ve realised I need more time to process what I’m seeing and hearing before I can say anything coherent, let alone useful. That’s one of the things about deep introversion; I need time to think things through – quick answers are not my forte!

Then I remembered my dear library friend Justin Hoenke (@JustinLibrarian) had asked us to #shareGoodstuff on social media. Sharing good news is a reminder there *is* still a lot of good in the world, and we can each do our bit to keep it that way.

Every year at South Taranaki District Libraries we do the Summer Reading Programme, and incorporate an entertainer into our finale parties. This year we had Adrian Kirk perform his Reading Rocks session. It was brilliant; there’s a strong emphasis on the joy and value of reading, and a great deal of fun and laughter thanks to juggling and a unicycle. I can’t rate him highly enough.

This year more than 400 kids did the programme and the feedback has been great. My staff did an amazing job and I’m so proud of them for the effort they put in. Kids and parents alike have enjoyed it, and the completion rate is high. It’s good to know all those kids are going back to school with a summer of reading behind them.

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