Thinking about spine labels

I’ve been thinking about spine labels (I have such an interesting life…) – why do we have them, how did we choose the format we use, who are they for? Last week we closed our 7 libraries for half a day and had an all-staff training session. It’s the first time all staff had been together since I took over as Manager, and it was great to chat to them about my vision.

We spent about half an hour talking spine labels. I took a bunch of books along and handed then out round the tables. We talked about how the spines would look without the labels, whether it would be harder to shelve, what impact it would have for customers. Some staff were instantly all for going label-free except for genre stickers, because some branches inter-shelve, other were adamant the sky would fall if we didn’t have those four wee letters up the spine…

I did a quick SurveyMonkey that afternoon to see if people had found the morning useful and to gauge final thoughts on spine labels, stack books and a couple of other things. Staff are split almost 50/50 on the value of spine labels.

Having listened to all the opinions I’ve decided they are as much, or even more, a staff tool as they are a customer one. I’m okay with that. Staff have a job to do and tools that make it easier to get their work done make perfect sense.

So, the spine labels stay; at last now we know why we have them and what purpose they serve. The stack books – well, that’s a whole other issue!

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Tangentially connected

Sometimes my leisure reading takes me down a rabbit hole and I become interested (read – oddly obsessed) with a topic. I’ve just finished Bones of the lost by Kathy Reichs. In it, her forensic anthropology works brings her into contact with human trafficking. I had a bit of an interest before but – bingo – I’m down the rabbit hole…

Thanks to the wonders of Massey University Library for alumni, I’m working my way through a stack of books on human trafficking and relaed topics. It makes me weep, and it makes me angry. To think that is 2016 there are more slaves in the world that at any other time in history is just so utterly wrong.

And that’s where tangentially connected comes in, because what does this have to do with librarianship? For me, it *is* related. Libraries should be a safe haven, and it’s the librarians, not the institution that can make that happen. We have the ability to create a safe place for displaced people, for those vulnerable to human trafficking, for the poor, homeless and sad, for the LGBTI kids (and adults) who worry about which toilet it’s safe to use. It’s not enough that I weep over the news, or the books … what’s needed is action. I hope my team and I are creating safe places in a troubled world.


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A little bit of STEAM

Writing about STEAM always makes me think of Tim Curry in the Rocky Horror Picture Show singing “I can make you a man“. Not sure why, but anyway….

We’ve been investing in some fun technology over the last few months, as we introduce more STEAM activities to our programmes. This week we held two half day training sessions for some staff; part of that time was spent playing with BeeBots and LittleBits. Pam, our District Children’s Librarian, has developed a pre-school session using The very hungry caterpillar and staff tried it out. There was much laughter as they tried to programme the BeeBot to go to the apple etc. Some got it right first time, some needed a couple of goes, and one managed to get their BeeBot doing everything backwards!

A quick SurveyMonkey has shown staff enjoyed learning about what we’re getting into, and why, through play rather than “being told”. It’s a good reminder than play really is learning.

One staff member has already run a couple of sessions using the BeeBots and QR codes on books – you can see part of one child’s feedback below.

Next up? 3D pens, Papertronics and maybe some Hama Beads. We’re offering a series of lessons to local schools next term, and some STEAM events during the next school holidays. We’re also planning play sessions for our Councillors so they understand what we’re getting into and why. I’d love to hear what others are doing in this area. Feel free to share! 

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Measuring our progress – 21st century libraries

In a recent Local Government article Tim Antric, Executive Director of Public Libraries of NZ, talked about 7 criteria for 21st century libraries. We’ve made a few changes over the last year or so, so I was keen to see how we rated. We rate fairly well on 6 of the 7 criteria – where we fall down is in being economic catalysts. This is an area where we’re starting to work more closely with Council’s Community Development Advisors to assist local businesses.

So do we get an A+? Hell no! There is work we need to do in all these areas. For instance, we subscribe to some databases but people don’t really use them. We need to investigate why not and probably promote and educate more. I doubt we do enough story telling, either of our history or of the stories of people who are newer to our communities.

It’s good to know we’re doing ok, great to know where we can improve, and timely to be reminded this is an ongoing journey not a final destination.



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One of those “aha!” moments

Sometimes I know things and can articulate them. Sometimes I know things and I can’t articulate them. Do you know that feeling? Sometimes I experience something and it’s the utter embodiment of what I haven’t been able to articulate.

I know how I want the libraries I manage to feel. We’ve been working towards it and things are great, but I’m not so good at putting into words what I’m trying to achieve. I can throw a lot of buzz words at you – collaborate, STEM, community etc – but what’s the vision?  

Recently Pam, our District Children’s Librarian, purchased some Little Bits. I had a play and thought they were cool. Zade, our summer student, made a cardboard dog using Little Bits. When you press the pressure sensor his nose twitches, his tail wags and his eyes light up. Now he’s turning him into a dinosaur the kids can make in our “prehistoric” school holiday programme at the end of term 1.

Last week the Bee-Bots Pam had ordered turned up. I brought one home to play with and again thought it was pretty cool.

On Friday I was playing with it on my desk with a couple of staff. We were all engaged in what we were doing, talking about ways to get kids excited, and different challenges the book club kids can do using them.

TOTAL LIGHTBULB MOMENT! That’s what I want in our libraries. A place where those *aha!* moments happen – for staff, kids, adults, business people, tourists … for anyone who steps through our doors. Now I just have to turn all this into a sentence, not an essay!

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First week back done & dusted

Well, my first week back after the Christmas break is done and dusted. I had a few reports and financials to sort out, but I had plenty of thinking and planning time. It’s all too easy to spend all your time on doing, sometimes even work that isn’t important, because sitting around thinking feels unproductive. Am I right?  

I try to allow time in my schedule each week for reading, thinking and planning for our future. If I don’t do it, who else is going to … and it should be part of my role. This week is fairly meeting-light too, so hopefully I can keep imagining our future.

How do you find time for imagining the future? Do you allow yourself time at work, or spend the wee hours of the night thinking about it?


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Reviewing 2015 and setting goals

At the start of the year I set myself a range of work-related goals. This was my first year as Manager Libraries and Cultural Services so the calendar coincided nicely with settling into my new role.

One goal eluded me yet again – learning Te Reo, although I did improve. It remains on my goal list. Unfortunately for me learning a language is right up there with quantum physics; interesting but damn hard!

I am not being as ambitious this year, and am not even up dating my personal learning plan. I know – gasp! I spend a lot of time telling people to be kind to themselves and the others. This is me being kind to me.

Tony is having major surgery on February 2nd and the outcome is uncertain, as is the healing time. In March I am taking over as Chair of the Profession Registration Board with LIANZA. And we are getting into the serious planning stages for a new central library/combined facility in Hawera.

I think that’s enough to be going on with. So, in 2016 I will continue to learn Te Reo, keep up professionally via Twitter, and take learning and development opportunities as they come. Thanks for being with me in 2015, and here’s to an awesome 2016.  


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My word for 2016 is…

Each year I choose a word that centres me, a word I come back to when I need reminding of my focus and of what’s important to me. I put a lot of thought into my word and surround myself with it; in small artworks, in my art journals and on my office wall. In previous years I have chosen calm, kindness, learn, determined, map and balance.

I have been a follower of Dr Wayne Dyer for many years. He passed away this year just as I was finishing his latest book. He always spoke of the power of intention, so this is for you Dr Wayne. In 2016 it is my INTENTION to:

  • stay calm and act from a place of kindness
  • continue making changes at work that create a positive atmosphere
  • use my time efficiently so I can achieve all that’s in my head
  • schedule my time effectively so I contribute well to the wider profession
  • be receptive to the possibilities all around me
  • spend quality time with Tony and the furkids
  • nurture my creativity


Looking back on 2015, my word was CALM. It helped align my actions with my intention to achieve with kindness. As a guiding word it served me well because when I am CALM:

  • I respond rather than react
  • I hear people out and think before speaking
  • I consider the consequences of my actions
  • I balance the urgent with the important
  • I get a lot done through being prepared and not rushing
  • I take life’s ups and down in my stride
  • I ensure I have art time to keep me balanced
  • I make time for Tony and I so we stay happy
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Conference for introverts

On Friday a group of us redid our MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator); I’d last done a facilitated one 9 years ago. I am, as before, an INTJ – the I and J are strong. To give you some perspective, here are the actual scores:

  • Extroversion 1, Introversion 9. This is different to last time – then I was 10 out of 10 for introversion. I’m not shy though, that’s different. Okay, I am a bit…
  • Sensing 7, iNtuition 13.
  • Thinking 11, Feeling 9. This is considerably different to last time, when the F was very low, and has changed through a conscious effort to be kinder.
  • Judging 16, Perceiving 4.

That strong ‘I’ is a key driver for me. As the worksheet says, I need to think before I speak (extroverts often speak to think), prefer a calm atmosphere, and find too much interaction stressful. Introverts have a measured approach to change and prefer to start the problem solving process individually.

I have a postcard on my wall that I can see all the time. What does it say? Calm! So, yes, a calm workplace matters to me. I dislike being made to answer on the spot and if I need to, I ask for thinking time before answering.

The LIANZA conference #shout15 is less than a week away. What does that strong ‘I’ mean for me at conference? Each day I work at engaging with people; by midday I’m feeling tired and need some quiet time. It means presenting is difficult (okay, terrifying) but I recognise it’s important and do it anyway. I need to allow myself time out, remind myself constantly that meeting people matters, and acknowledge I’m going to be uncomfortable.

Why am I writing this, when it’s quite personal? 30-50% of the population is introverted, although not many are as extreme as me I guess. It means many of you heading to conference are anxious, a bit scared and worried about how you’ll cope. Be kind to yourself, allow yourself time to recharge and seek out others to sit quietly with. I’m always happy to sit in silence with you for a bit :-) See you at #shout15

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We pulled things apart!

The school holidays were amazing; the libraries were busy and the staff cope incredibly well with a full programme of events. With the help of Connor from IT, and a whole heap of donated old stuff, we pulled things apart at the libraries during the holidays. The kids loved it, and it really got them thinking about the technology we use.

We also has 3D printing sessions with Vik Olliver from Diamond Age. Vik was great at talking with kids of all ages, and they made some very cool things. These were fab sessions and I hope we see Diamond Ag back down our way – lovely, lovely people.

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