Leaving Library Land

After 24 years in the industry I have left the Land of Libraries. It has been a busy, interesting, and rewarding time that has passed by in the blink of an eye.

Back in 1996 when I began my first job in a public library there were still card catalogues about. The automated library system used DOS and I remember using the keyboard prompts to operate the green cursor on the black screen. The World Wide Web was just emerging and Hotmail soon became the wonder of communication. Mobile devices were still a long way off. Social Media and ebooks were not things yet.

Now Google is the place everyone goes to for information; not a book in a library. Amazon is where people go to buy books either in print or as an ebook. We all carry our computers in our pockets for 24 hour connection. We go to iTunes for music, Netflix for movies and TV, and news is sent to us.

I have done everything in libraries: helping customers, handling the books, system administration, website design, reports to local and state government, presenting to groups large and small, social media, photo setups, organizing events, author talks, book launches, trivia nights, school holiday activities, budget management, recruitment, staff management, moving large collections, cataloguing, buying shelving and furniture, making ads, videos, and promotions, and much more.

My career highlights have been:

  • Involvement with the IFLA Global Vision
  • Involvement with the Victoria’s Libraries 2030 strategies
  • Library Manager at a regional library service
  • Presenting at a School Libraries Association of Victoria Conference
  • Presenting at a Red Cross Conference
  • Being involved with the Public Libraries Victoria LibMark Special Interest Group and helping to organise and deliver the Annual Conference.

I have worked with some great people and excellent teams. I have also worked with some less than satisfactory people and poorly functioning teams. It has been a profound learning journey that has been satisfying intellectually and ethically. This work gives back to the local community and is appreciated every day.

For me it is the perfect time to step away. I feel the continuing decline of public libraries and wonder how long they will operate on goodwill. For me a “community hub” is a poor replacement for what was a Library. My soul feels the affront.

On my first day away from the industry I was surprised to feel that at heart I remain a Designer. This was my first love, first pursuit, and I have dabbled over the years as a hobbyist. But I also applied the design thinking, creativity, project management and problem solving skills to all that I did in my work in libraries.

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Reflections of 2018

Once again, prompted by Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity, I look back on the past year to recall what went well and what didn’t go so well.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_8651

What went well:

  • My days that I spend with my granddaughter are filled with exploration, discovery and fun. We walk, read, swim, play, tumble, ‘cook’, sing, draw, and play the piano.
  • Our new granddaughter arrived in November and the calm I feel when I just sit and hold a baby is so full of love and peace.
  • A warm holiday in the sun at Noosa with my husband, where we caught up with family.
  • The 2Cellos concert in Melbourne.
  • MOMA exhibition at the NGV with my daughter.
  • Returned to Portland for the launch of their refurbished library. Caught up with colleagues and friends. Remembered how far it is to drive there!
  • Netflix
    • Secret City
    • The 100
    • The Bodyguard
    • The Killing
    • Line of Duty
    • Animal Kingdom
    • Lots of others
  • Books read
  • Podcast favourites
  • Author Talks that I organized as part of my work at Frankston – the highlights:
  • Completed the Branching Out Certificate with the State Library Victoria.
  • Local champion for the Libraries Change Lives campaign and attended the launch at North Fitzroy Library in September.
  • Finished my personal Family History Scrapbook.
  • Continue to enjoy retreating to my house, surrounded by native birds, I feel like I live in a bird aviary. The sea breezes carry the sounds of the sea to blend with the birdsong.
  • Playing my piano.
  • The team of people I work with are supportive and dedicated.
  • The recruiting process for new staff is an experience I enjoy, especially when the results are beyond expectation.

What didn’t go so well:

  • Work continues to be unstable, changeable, and challenging. This is partly due to the changing nature of public libraries and how people consume media. Also state and local government priorities change in response to community needs.
  • I have little free time due to work commitments and the daily commute.
  • I have not exercised enough.
  • Road cycling is not something I do much of now.
  • I had several Basal Cell Carcinomas removed from my neck.
  • A winter cold resulted in a persistent cough that has been hard to shake.
  • I have not done enough yoga, meditation, or walking.

Books Read in 2018

Here is the list of books that I read in 2018 with my ratings.

goodreads_challenge_2018_pic03

FICTION

  1. The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton – 5 stars
  2. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak – 5 stars
  3. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George – 4 stars
  4. Black Rock White City by A.S. Patric – 3 stars
  5. Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord – 3 stars
  6. The Vegetarian by Han Kang – 3 stars
  7. My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent – 3 stars
  8. The Quiet Side of Passion by Alexander McCall Smith – 3 stars
  9. The Other Wife by Michael Robotham – 3 stars
  10. The Nowhere Child by Christian White – 3 stars
  11. The Little French Bistro by Nina George – 3 stars
  12. Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham 2 stars
  13. Six Years by Harlan Coben – 2 stars
  14. The Lucky Galah by Tracy Sorensen – 2 stars
  15. Scrublands by Chris Hammer – 2 starsgoodreads_challenge_2018-pic01

NON-FICTION

  1. Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari – 5 stars
  2. To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret by Jedidah Jenkins – 5 stars
  3. Staying: A Memoir by Jessie Cole – 5 stars
  4. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson – 4 stars
  5. The Plant-Based Solution: A Vegan Cardiologist’s Plan to Save Your Life and the Planet by Joel K. Kahn – 4 stars
  6. The Great Spring: Writing, Zen, and This Zigzag Life by Natalie Goldberg – 4 stars
  7. The Hidden School: Return of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman – 4 stars
  8. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising by Marie Kondo – 4 stars
  9. The Alzheimer’s Solution: A Revolutionary Guide to How You Can Prevent and Reverse Memory Loss by Dean Sherzai – 4 stars
  10. Shining: The Story of a Lucky Man by Abdi Aden – 4 stars
  11. Random Life by Judy Horacek – 3 stars
  12. 8 Keys to Forgiveness by Robert Enright – 3 stars
  13. Living as a River: Finding Fearlessness in the Face of Change by Bodhipaksa – 3 stars
  14. The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi – 3 stars
  15. Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Best-selling Memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert – 3 stars
  16. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris – 3 stars
  17. The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight by Valter Longo – 3 stars
  18. Lovelands by Debra Campbell – 3 stars
  19. Unequaled: Tips for Building a Successful Career Through Emotional Intelligence by James A. Runde – 3 stars
  20. Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss by Joel Fuhrman M.D. – 3 stars
  21. The Vegan Starter Kit by Neal D. Barnard – 3 stars
  22. OMD: Swap One Meal a Day to Save the Planet and Your Health by Suzy Amis Cameron – 3 stars
  23. Marcia Langton: Welcome to Country by Marcia Langton – 1 stargoodreads_challenge_2018-pic02

The numbers are not adding up

I love number crunching, gathering statistics, looking at the trends over time, converting to graphs and charts, and then interpreting this into a narrative.

Tim Sherratt is a Master Data Visualiser and has created some exceptional work that illustrates a beautiful narrative. As a leader in his field the University of Canberra is lucky to have him and someone I can look up to when I feel my geeky tendencies are weird.

The Public Libraries of Victoria have kept data over decades and it is freely available online for all to see and interpret. Of course questions arise when you look at this data, such as, how were the ‘visits’ data counted? And does that data count both in and out, or just one, one leg or both, a baby stroller? Has the counter been knocked out of alignment or is the system for the gates not working?

The overall narrative that emerges from this data is important when communicating to others the messages about what is going on; especially for those in government who control the funds and share out the cash for public services.

The numbers tell us that: physical visits are decreasing continuing to follow a trend over many years of tracking. Loans of physical library items also continue to follow a downward trend. Memberships too continue to fall and so not as many people in our community think it is important to join their public library.

And yet by observation we see that story-time sessions are overflowing, reservation lists for the latest item are long, every chair has a body sitting on it, and the public computers are full all day every day. So what is going on here?

This is where the data interpretation leads us – to ask more questions. To find out what the data gathering might miss.

We hear that people in difficult social and economic circumstances will come into the library spaces, but not join or borrow items out of fear of fines or loss of materials.

We know that people are staying longer in our spaces and that the questions people ask take longer to answer and satisfy. So far this had not been adequately accounted for in the data analysis.

The impact of the Internet and the corporate giants of Google, Amazon, and Apple, is a major factor for public libraries. eBooks are cheap and easy to access online. So too is information and ‘facts’. Books hiding on dark shelves arranged in systems only Librarians understand is a model long gone.

So what?

Library leaders have been proactive over many years by creating gorgeous new public library spaces, offering electronic collections, making library websites and catalogues dynamic and easy to access, highlighting collections through displays, exhibitions, programs and events, and interesting and relevant collaborations with other organisations.

Academic research by industry leaders have resulted in some excellent work that describes the library work in context and with hope.

  • Libraries Work! The socio-economic value of public libraries – 2018
  • Reading and Literacy for all: A strategic framework for Victorian public libraries – 2015-18
  • Creative Communities:  The cultural benefits of Victoria’s public libraries – 2014
  • Victorian Public Libraries 2030 Strategic Framework – 2013
  • Dollars Sense and Public Libraries The landmark study of the socio-economic value of Victorian public libraries report – 2012
  • Being the Best We Can framework and toolkit- 2011
  • Libraries Building Communities – 2005

These reports can be found here.

My own number crunching and analysis provides positive stories too, and these I share with the team I work with in order to make advocates of us all.

And yet the library industry remains under threat. Precious public funding goes elsewhere.

I believe that “libraries change lives” or I wouldn’t have worked in this field for so long. Especially when it was not my first choice for a career.

So what choice is there than to continue to work hard, go with the flow, and find inspiration from the good stories we hear every day, knowing our work is of value.

Portland Library

Portland Library in Victoria’s southwest was recently refurbished and the reopening event was on Saturday 4 August 2018.

I went along to see the new interior and it is a real improvement from the past version. And something the local people can enjoy into the future.

The footprint and the exterior of the building is unchanged. However the interior spaces are changed and more windows allow more natural light inside. Window seats invite people to sit and read.

Portland_Library_20180804

This building always had a small view of the port and sea and the windows at that end of the building are unchanged, but new tables and chairs provide more spaces for people to sit, have a coffee, read the newspaper and relax.

As a former Manager of this library service I was aware of the associated problems with the heating and cooling system, the leaky roof, public computer spaces, and other things. It is fantastic to see that the new Manager has solved a lot that was wrong with this building.

Spaces have been reallocated and what was once the staff work room is now an open space with a full size slide for children. Not something I would put into a small library, but something the new manager is proud to have achieved – and good on her.

While I worked there we all coveted the History Room of the neighbouring Mount Gambier Library, and so a small version of this has been added to the delight of the librarians. Portland has many historical stories and this addition serves as a lovely access point for everyone.

It was great to catch up with the library team there, who I once worked with, and to see how proud they are of their new library. Congratulations and excellent work!

The Creative Library

Annie Talvé and Dr Sally Gray presented a workshop at Dandenong Library that I attended. The Creative Library builds on the work they presented in their 2014 report Creative Communities: The cultural benefits of Victoria’s public libraries. This report can be found on the Public Libraries Victoria Network website.

A room full of library professionals enjoyed a fun and informative day “thinking with our hearts, heads and feet” led by Annie and Sally. We challenged our presumptions, analysed our actions, and debated about our work.

As a designer in my early years, and a lover of art, design and all creative endeavours, no one needs to remind me that ‘everyone is creative’. My attitudes are creative. I always think outside the box. Flexibility of thought is an asset in all we do in this life.

Annie runs Project SiSu which “is a creative consulting practice specialising in tackling organisational transitions and framing the benefits of culture in all its varied forms”.

I recall attending a workshop led by Annie at Waurn Ponds Library several years ago. She was then embarking on her research for the resulting Creative Communities report. The New Nirvana on her website sums up the conversations from those workshops.

Author A. (Alec) S. Patric

Alec Patric spoke at Frankston Library this week as part of the Australian Library Week events. And despite the small number of people in the audience, it was a lovely event. Maybe because of the small audience it was more of a conversation rather than a presentation. Alec Patric

Alec appears as a dedicated and humble writer who loves his craft. Growing up in the then barren western suburbs of Melbourne he sought enrichment through poetry. Becoming a ‘writer’ was a foreign concept in that era in that community. Working on weekends in his dad’s engineering factory he found beauty in words.

The conversation at the library meandered lyrically, involving us all, we spoke of poetry, literary fiction, genre fiction, winning awards, work in the local book shop, Black Rock White City, his soon-to-be-released collection of short stories The Butcherbird Stories, immigration, book clubs, libraries, the writing life, and more.

When Alec observed that fiction novels are the zeitgeist of society, I understood completely. This is a notion I have explored on occasion, my thoughts flailing about trying to reason why fiction is important. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas is a perfect example of a story that portrays a particular, time, place and culture: ‘the spirit of the times’.

The conversation about literary fiction brought the novel Eucalyptus by Murray Bail to mind. A book I love and is hard to place into a rigid genre. Alec was aiming for a literary page-turner with his book Black Rock White City and by receiving the Miles Franklin Award in 2016 for this novel, he obviously succeeded.

He mentioned the Long List for this year’s Miles Franklin Award and this has prompted me to have a look at those books. The one that appeals at first glance is From the Wreck by Jane Rawson.