All the feels

Some days my heart is more tender than others. Yesterday I wept for Orlando. Today I have wept for all the places in pain that are not Orlando and are going unmourned. I have dealt with staff suffering family issues, and a family member who is sick.

Heart sick? Yes. Productive? Yes. My job is to model the way – and today was about caring but also bringing balance to my life so I work to the full capacity my ratepayer wage demands of me.

On days like today I often look to the Tao te Ching sayings on my wall – one of which is “I am that I am”. What is my “I am”? A caring librarian who won’t let the hate win – for me, or for those around me if I can help it…


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Love, hate & Orlando

I wept as I read this morning’s news, as I checked Twitter during the day, and as I watched the news tonight. I wept from sadness, frustration and anger. There are a couple of things I want to say; probably nothing different to what others are saying but I need to express it anyway.

This was not just a hate crime. It was a hate crime against the LGBTI community. There is a difference and if you can’t see that, then you have never been afraid to kiss your partner in public.

 On the other hand, we can’t lose sight of the individuals. These were not ‘just’ gays. The victims were/are waitresses, nurses, teachers, lawyers, accountants…aunts, uncles, sons & daughters…

This is personal to me on many fronts, and personal in a professional sense too. One of my staff, Cameron, spent a year in the USA studying. Cameron’s gay. (I have his permission to write this) He came home safe, but I can’t help thinking it could easily have been him. And that if something happened to him, the world doesn’t just lose a gay male – it loses a son, brother and uncle, museum archivist, pianist, actor and much, much more.

Today hate robbed people of their lives, families and friends of loved ones, and the world of the awesome potential of each victim. I can’t describe how sad that makes me. Please – reach out with love and acceptance, not hate. One final thought; libraries need to be havens of love and acceptance for all people – are we? #BeKindToEachOther


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Weekend reading

My weekend reading is a mix of semi-leisure (Red thread thinking, Mind maps) and books on communication for a project I’m involved in at work. What’s on your weekend reading pile?

a1 a2 a3 a4 a5 a6


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Amidst the chaos

Today was calm and productive until I got back from lunch at 2pm. From there till 5.30 was okay, with brief periods of weirdness and chaos. Nothing really bad, or really dramatic – just odd and unsettled. I have calm on my wall as a reminder. I also have a few quotes by Lao Tzu on a poster on my wall, including I do nothing, and nothing remains undone.

When things are difficult I look at my calm postcard and slow my breathing. When I am feeling suddenly overwhelmed by what needs doing, or time pressure, I read the Lao Tzu quotes and refocus my thinking.

I think the energy we send out to others matters, and having those words around me helps me to keep my energy right much of the time. Does it always work for me? Of course not! But, as with all things, trying is important…




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When communication fails

I got involved in a coversation today around lack of communication. I’m not going to bother going into great detail, and some of you will know what sparked this, but I do want to say a couple of things.

  • Talk to people before there is a problem, not after.
  • To maintain a good relationship be honest and respectful.
  • Don’t assume you know what others want.
  • Never try to cover your tracks with bullshit – people will see right through it.
Crossing out Lies and writing Truth on a blackboard.

Crossing out Lies and writing Truth on a blackboard.

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Making time to be organised

It’s easy to run from task to task, barely stopping to think, or to put stuff away, before tackling the next pile of whatever. It can be a vicious cycle that leads to rushed decisions, poorly worded emails and distracting piles of paperwork that prevent you from really concentrating on the job at hand.

I allow time in my day. For thinking. Tidying. Filing. Chatting with staff. I’m not talking huge amounts of time – it might be a 10 minute slot between meetings, or half an hour before lunch to tidy up. Twice a week I have a two hour slot booked out so no one can ask for a meeting with me in that time; it’s my time to reflect and plan ahead.

I kept my desk very clear. The task I am working on is in front of me. Anything else, and it’s a small pile, sits to one side, sort of behind me on my L-shaped desk so I can’t see it while I concentrate on that one thing. Otherwise I suffer from squirrel brain. Most things are put away in folders, stored within arm’s reach of my desk on a bookshelf and when I need them, I grab them. The photo shows how my desk looks at the end of most days. They don’t clutter my workspace. Simple, cheap, and easy to set up. Currently it has a few piles of books on it, which drives me nuts!

One of my staff recently attended a training course about how to organise stuff for maximum efficiency and it’s been interesting talking to them about the changes they’re making. How do YOU organise your workspace?


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When a teen greets you

I mentioned this on Twitter but wanted to expand on it a bit. A young teen, who I have known for a few years now, appeared in my office the other day. He flopped down with a “sup Cath?” and settled in for a chat. He’d been working at the local meat works but left because, in his opinion anyway, ‘it’s slave labour’.  

I asked what he wants to do – he said “I’m an artist, I want to make art”. We talked about The Learning Connection, a New Zealand art school he can study by distance with, and how they have scholarships. We talked about a couple of local people he knows who are doing the same study, also on scholarships, and he’s getting in touch with them.  I’ve been talking with Tony about giving him access to my very under-used art room and supplies – with some strict guidelines so I don’t end up with every teen in creation here. I like the kids, but value my privacy and need my quiet time.

I was thinking about him again this morning, wondering how the library can help teens like him. Did I offer him a book or two to explore different style and artists? Umm, no. Or suggest we look at courses online? Umm, another no. Someone needs to take my library badge off me…

But of course it’s about more than the books. It’s about helping him make connections, thinking about possibilities … and feeling comfortable enough in the space, and with the staff, to have the chat in the first place. A raised eyebrow (a very Kiwi greeting) and a “sup?” might be all a teen can manage, so don’t let the opportunity to engage pass you by.

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People are awesome

Last night I blogged about my ongoing thinking around how we care for people. It sparked some wonderful online conversations. Kim Tairi, @kimtairi, mentioned that they have parent rooms – how cool is that?  Jo Barnes, @librarygirljo, mentioned some research she’d done and said “Advocacy and kind, equitable socialscapes are @ the heart of my library practice too” which I loved. She also talked about uncovering biases. Yes! 

Baruk, @feddabonn, said he’d been talking to a library who commented “maybe we should run a play pen for kids so mums could get on the computer in peace rather than complain they spend time on the computers while the kids run amok”. Again, what a simple yet life changing idea.

Two things stand out for me from today’s conversations. Making changes which matter to our communities doesn’t have to be huge; it just has to be done. And, in a world that can be difficult, there are awesome people in our libraries who really care, and who act on that caring. Heart-warming stuff.  

a empathy


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At the heart of it all

I was talking to an architect the other day who said “if we build libraries with society’s most vulnerable in mind, they will be awesome for all our users“. (paraphrased due to my poor memory)

My reaction? Yes! Is there a quiet corner or a comfy chair with someone sleeping in it? Great! A fire or heating that brings comfort to the homeless or those who can’t afford decent heating? Terrific! Maybe a $1 coin shower so people can get clean? Excellent!

How can you relax into a book if you’re bone tired, freezing cold or worried you smell? I have no answers really, but the questions are gathering … and the call to #kindness.


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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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