Listening with respect

This is a quick thought to end the week on. Last week there was a *lot* of talk on the various library listservs about the TPPA and what stance, if any, LIANZA should be taking on our behalf. There are clearly some very strongly held opinions on this quite emotive topic. What impressed me was that people got their point across but stayed respectful. No name calling, no subtle put downs – just passionate debate. I love our profession and am glad people spoke up. I’ll be interested to see where the debate takes us this week and what we do with it.


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Truth, value & stats

On Friday I started filling in the annual APLM (Assoc Public Library Managers) statistics spreadsheet. APLM collect a wide variety of stats about issues, people through the door, staff numbers, budget etc. All good stuff, and useful in all kinds of ways.

Of course there’s a but, more than one in fact. Take staff numbers for instance. We have 7 branches for a relatively small district because that’s what our ratepayers want.  Also, we do full council services, so between the two things we look seriously over-staffed if someone looks at the stats without the back story.

My biggest concern,though, is that stats don’t tell people’s stories. The life changing things that happen in a library, and the small triumphs. Kids learning to read, men giving up drugs with our help so they can get a job, people finding a relative through our resources. That’s the true value of what we do. I’m grateful that LIANZA helps us promote our true value, but we have to do our bit too. It’s an area my team and I need to put more effort into… How about you; are you telling feel-good stories?


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Future of Libraries Summit 2015

I attended LIANZA’s Future of Libraries Summit in Wellington on Friday with two of my staff, Maria and Ann-Louise. As one of this year’s K?tuku cohort, Ann-Louise had the opportunity to facilitate at one of the tables – well done!

I’d like to thank Joanna, Ines, Jess, Kris, Corin, Christine (and no doubt many others) for bringing people together from all over the country, and from a variety of backgrounds and roles, to look at our future and how we can make it even better.

There was some blue sky big picture thinking, and some small gems which I’m taking back to talk with my team about. Do we focus enough on the high needs areas in our district? Do we celebrate our achievements? Are we providing opportunities for all our staff?  Would our kids love Arduino?

There was a bit of frustration expressed that people were bringing up the “same old concerns we always talk about” and some people didn’t feel they could raise some issues. It was noted that LIANZA have been working on some of the “same old concerns” with K?tuku, Brand Libraries and so on. Perhaps LIANZA needs to be even more vocal about the good work it’s doing and shout it from the rooftops? As librarians we’re not helpless though; maybe as individuals we need to take more responsibility for knowing what our supporting body is up to.

Many librarians do seem to have a problem with speaking up and saying anything that might be controversial – are we just to damn nice? Or do we worry about the professional consequences in such a small country? I don’t know, but it’s a shame.

There’s nothing wrong with strong opinions as long as people are respectful, prepared to listen to others and so on. As a teen I loved the The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson. In an epic war of good versus evil, the good people of The Land realise they have lost a lot of their power because, in giving up all violence, they also gave up their passion. (paraphrased from reading 30 years ago, so loose…)

I hope New Zealand librarians can find their most passionate, articulate voices for the good of our profession while avoiding (verbal) violence!


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NDF barcamp; so much to learn

Ann-Louise, Katherine, Rob and I  attended the NDF Barcamp in Palmerston North last week. Thanks to NDF Ambassador Amanda Curnow and her crew for making it happen. It was well organised, and the lunch was yum! It was also good to say a very quick hi to Debbie Duncan as she rushed to a meeting.

What did I learn? That there’s a lot I don’t know, that I need more play time and that I can’t do/learn everything. I also discovered:

  • I’m not as excited about 3D printers as I thought I’d be; too many fails, too expensive, just not “wow” enough for now.
  • Wikipedia is more useful and interesting than I thought; and worth editing to improve.
  • Maker Spaces need more power points than you could ever believe, and a sink/wet area is always a good investment.
  • Some people are still discovering the professional value of Twitter.
  • Artists are using 3D printers for really cool projects.
  • There’s some real potential for collaborative projects around mobile digitisation.
  • There’s huge power in good professional networks.
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Keeping kids interested

Today we talked about school holidays and what kids really enjoy doing. We talked about football in the library, broken windows, lack of space – and trying different things. We’ve been talking in recent months about ensuring we tie what we do into books in some way, and about getting the community involved in decorating for big events, and in delivering programmes. So. Much. Thinking. 

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So many tears

On the news tonight there was a story about African refugees being rescued and taken to safety in Italy. One man said something like “I want to go to England. In England they care more for human beings”. That made me cry (not just my normal news time weep) and I managed to choke out to Tony that “I hate to think what he’ll find, that’s just not true”.

I’ve been dealing with some tricky things at work and home so am more easily moved than usual. All the same – the plight of these people breaks my heart. And I can’t fix it. What I can do is ensure that refugees and migrants who come to South Taranaki are welcome on our libraries and that we provide a safe haven for them, and a place to connect with other people.

My tears might seem ‘soft’ but they remind me of what matters to me and encourage me to take action. If I ever lose my capacity to care it’ll be time to quit.


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Just do it

I have had three tasks sitting round for a week or more that I have been avoiding. Why? I had mentally put them in the too hard basket. This morning I decided to just get on with it. and you know what? I got two of the three things done in under an hour. I could have saved myself a lot of angsting! Only one to go, and sue it’s a bigger thing, but once I get started it’ll be ok. Are you a procrastinator? My new motto: just get on with it!


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Photo time: at my libraries

room 4

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The quiet zone

My office is right beside the main issues counter and staff workroom in our biggest library. I like being available to the staff and public, and seeing what’s going on, but there are times when I need a little peace and quiet to get things done. That’s when I close the door. I know a lot of librarians in management roles struggle with getting this balance right – being available versus getting ‘stuff’ done. I try to be as available as possible and hope the payoff is that when I am unavailable staff will realise I’ve got good reason. I wouldn’t be doing my job, or my boss any favours, if I got behind in my work for lack of privacy and quiet sometimes. How do *you* juggle your time?


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Connecting with people


A young man appeared in my office door, tablet in hand, and asked if he could leave it with me while he went down town. To keep it safe you mean? Yeah. Sure.

It was in a bright pink case and the glass screen was seriously broken to the point where the edges are sharp glass.

When he returned he knocked politely on my door. It’s had a hard time, I said, what happened? Games, you know, he said, making car driving motions with his hands. I laughed and said got too excited huh! Yeah; he grinned and was gone.

It was a small interaction, but positive – the kind we can have countless times a day if we try – but the difference it makes in how librarians, and libraries, are perceived is huge. Connect with people. If it’s exhausting for you, get time out too, but connect…

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