My 2012

Inspired by Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity I offer you a review of my 2012.

It was a fruitful year at work. After three years in a leadership role I feel the library team are functioning happily and effectively. This is positive and noticed and commented upon by our customers.

On a National level the National Year of Reading and love2read campaign provided a brand and focus to work around. Our locally organised and funded events were successful and included: an entertaining talk by David Astle of SBS’s program Letters and Numbers; a Dr Suess Olympic Reading Relay Challenge; a visit and talk by author Kathryn Fox; a short story competition with the NYR theme for November “What makes you cry?”; book reviews; and competitions. It must be said that for our small rural region the NYR offered nothing except a logo. We provided everything all the planning, funding, organisation, seeking and paying for authors, staffing. We should have used our own logo!

NYR12

On a State level Tomorrow’s Library and the Victorians Love Libraries campaign prompted passionate discussion. The Stage 1 Report has leapt to a ‘solution’ that needs quite a lot of detail IMHO. Hopefully Stage 2 will fill in the gaps, especially for small libraries on the remote fringes of the state.

The VALA Conference held in Melbourne in February was a professional highlight and I was particularly interested in the presentations by Jason Griffey, Eli Neiburger, Eric Miller, and Tim Sherratt.

The Local Government Rural Management Challenge was held in Renmark and I was part of the team. This experience was intense, challenging and worthwhile.

As a technology lover I enjoyed using my new devices to access information for work and play. I am adept at sourcing and reading eBooks, e-journals, and multimedia. I listen to a variety of podcasts from around the world on my iPod as I drive to and from work. I watch TV programs, podcasts and other videos on my iPad. I sync my devices to my work email and calendar to stay on track. Facebook is a horrid and deceitful form of communication that has lost its value since being infiltrated by advertisements, organisations, and payment for sharing. Twitter I ignore now that it has become too big and unwieldy. Free Apps are king. I read blogs via the Google Reader app and this is a very convenient way to spend down time. Pinterest and Goodreads are top of the tree in terms of social media I think.

I began a Master of Information Studies via distance education at Charles Sturt University. With just four subjects to complete, the first two subjects are Strategic Planning and Project Management. The reading of academic papers on these topics has been interesting and rewarding and I hope will assist me as I lead the library into the strategic planning process in 2013.

On a more personal level I have been meditating and practicing yoga and hope to increase my involvement in these.  Leadership for the disillusioned by Amanda Sinclair provided a useful model of mindful leadership that supports my own attitudes. I read her book then was lucky to attend a seminar at the SLV.

My eldest son was married earlier this year and my youngest son gets married early in 2013. My daughter was married some years ago now – can’t think how many! My mother continues to respond to all the cancer treatment they throw at her and my father does everything in his power to support her. My husband continues to cycle with the local cycling club, as well as working with the local Council.

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How does your library grow?

In keeping with the National Year of Reading, I continue to write about the monthly themes, and for September it is “grow”. My focus is on public libraries.

Many people assume that public libraries keep all of their books, and when not being borrowed, they sit on the shelf or are kept in storage somewhere. However this is a myth. In reality public libraries have very limited space and books don’t often remain in any one spot for very long at all. It is a dynamic process of purchasing, processing, sorting, shifting, distributing, displaying, shelving, re-shelving, retrieving, loaning, issuing, returning, re-shelving, repairing, evaluating, sorting, boxing, and at the end of its use – selling in a book sale or sent on to some other need. There is often not a mysterious “stack” of old books preserved for prosperity, unless the library is the National or State Library.

Public libraries attempt to manage this dynamic process with a Collection Management Plan that addresses the demographic of their users to try to predict demand. This plan offers guidelines to manage donations, weeding, purchasing, and when used in conjunction with a clever Marketing Plan, should maximise the collections full extent.

Often people generously offer their pre-loved books thinking the public library will cherish them as much as they have, whilst in reality they are often boxes of dog-eared, smoke-saturated, food-stained paperbacks that only add workload and obstacles to an already jam-packed library work space and work load. The local public library does not have the capacity to “grow” to this extent. There are exceptions of course, and sometimes the books donated are real treasures.

Direct request from customers for popular books and other resources proves to be a useful way to grow the collection while responding to local demand. But it can’t be the only driver because often there are fantastic things that exist that people aren’t aware of, or know that they want – yet. This is where the librarians craft comes into play and they can shape the collection with their expertise, worldly knowledge and creativity.

The Long Tail is a concept coined by Chris Anderson in 2005 and when applied to the library collection is easy to understand. If a library were to buy copies of the latest popular release in quantities to supply the demand and responded each time to every best seller, the shelves would soon be lined with multiple copies of last year’s bestsellers and little else, and look like a short stumpy tail. It would be like a drinks refrigerator filled with one brand of beer, or just beer. Which might be fine for beer drinkers, but not so for those who prefer champagne or tea or green smoothies. The Long Tail theory shows that by offering an array of many different titles on a diversity of subjects that often the quirky niche subjects get a space on the shelf that will be justified when it is inevitably matched with the diverse and quirky interest of a customer. And to paraphrase Tim Flannery, “The continued existence of the species depends on diversity.” When you apply this to humans then our existence depends on a diversity of attitudes, interests and knowledge that can only be gained by offering a wide range of topics for investigation. A browse along the shelves of the non-fiction section  will show books about beekeeping, how to work a room, bushcraft, Hagar, heavy metal music, the cats pyjamas, work abroad, survival, ideas, Shakespeare (of course), Henry Lawson, travel, art, architecture, computer help, languages, pregnancy, health issues, etc, etc.

The serendipity of browsing library shelves is a well-known and enjoyable pastime and many have commented on this human behaviour. Bryan Loar of Brave New World says that by using the online catalogue and reserving items ahead of time then “self-directed discovery has been lost”. Professor Todd P. Olson of Berkeley in California values the experience of browsing the library’s shelves so much that he has launched a fundraising campaign towards the “continuation of library collections to ensure that the joy of discovery will continue for generations into the future”. Steve Penn talks about how “you walk around the shelves and suddenly find something that you weren’t looking for but seems just right for you.”  Maria Popova of Brain Pickings worries “that we are leaving little room for abstract knowledge and for the kind of curiosity that invites just enough serendipity to allow for the discovery of ideas we didn’t know we were interested in until we are, ideas that we may later transform into new combinations with applications both practical and metaphysical.” And I could go on…

So eBooks and other electronic resources seem to offer a solution to the problem of relieving limited physical spaces in libraries, but restrict the valuable and enjoyable experience of browsing for the serendipitous find. Again I try to imagine the library space where much is only available as an electronic file or online. An electronic collection can grow beyond imagination, storing and preserving every book forever! Of course the preservation of electronic files is another complex issue altogether. But as Seth Godin tells us “Librarians who are arguing and lobbying for clever ebook lending solutions are completely missing the point. They are defending library as warehouse as opposed to fighting for the future, which is librarian as producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario.”

Well Seth Godin doesn’t have to convince me that libraries are not just warehouses for books, but if our buildings are not growing with new physical materials, and our collections are “hidden” in the “connected” cyber-world, then who and what is in the building? And how can the average Joe Blow discover, develop and grow with that serendipitous ah-ha moment of stumbling across that book that will change his life? I think it was Og Mandino who told the story about how he was destitute, homeless and was on his way to buy a gun to kill himself when he stumbled into a public library and this “saved” him and turned his life around. That weird unkempt, smelly, apparently homeless person who visits your public library every day might just stumble across his/her saving grace.

In the past I have thought that perhaps the library could display images or video on large screens of these hidden resources. Libraries do this now and have been for some time. And although it might create visual interest, it is just another screen in a world where screens proliferate. And the images would be limited and could not portray the full extent of the collection. And these have tended to be rather static displays even with the inclusion of video segments. Library catalogues could be (and perhaps are being) developed whereby the screen is used to display current catalogue items in a way that is more dynamic and interactive, uses multi-media, and has the ability to display at random or by selection, when not in use by a customer.  Perhaps the items displayed could be recommendations that respond to the person who passes by based on their past loans. I am sure the current technologies in Library Management Systems and RFID could already do this, however then we get into the murky waters of intrusion and privacy.

Discover July

The National Year of Reading focuses on “discover” for July. What have I discovered through reading?

Dream

When we think about the topic of dreams we can go in two ways: the dreams we have when we are asleep; or the dreams we have when we are awake.

The dreams of our sleep consciousness tend towards the surreal that can stir our emotions in all of their complexity. We know they are not real. and have no control over them. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is a perfect example of a weird dream. Psychologists try to interpret dreams in an attempt to know the human psyche. Books on this subject vary from superficial to a far deeper enquiry. The work of Sigmund Freud and Jung has led this field.

The dreams of our waking hours are what interest me. What are they? How do we cultivate them? Why are they important? This stream of enquiry reveals our hopes, desires, inspirations, and what we do in order to bring them into reality. There are many authors who choose this topic as their mainstay of material, and there continues to be a hungry readership for this work as it continues to sell well and often. I immediately think of Deepak Chopra, Joseph Campbell, and Wayne Dyer. Their books serve to inspire us, instil the notion of possibility, and show us practical steps that we will make our dreams our reality.

A whole army of self-appointed gurus have followed this trend and spruik the message of self-actualisation. If it works then why do we need to keep hearing it? I suppose that our daily routines bring us back to reality. The bills need to be paid. Our employed work might not be fulfilling. Our personal life might be challenging and/or in disarray. So our dreams get a back seat. We remind ourselves that “one day” we will be able to realise that dream. One day…

In the meantime we can read those books that maintain our dreams. That trip to France, the time to paint, the space to develop, the freedom to find stillness or creativity, that yacht to go sailing off into the sunrise untethered.

Whatever your dream might be the local library is the place to go to fuel your passion. @love2read #NYR12  National Year of Reading 2012.

Escape

“And all I can do is read a book to stay awake,
And it rips my life away but it’s a great escape.
Escape, escape, escape. ~ No Rain by Blind Melon

The National Year of Reading theme for May is “Escape”

So what kind of “escape” are we talking about?

  • Escape from incarceration
  • Escape from oppression
  • Escape from a noisy mind
  • Escape for a holiday
  • Escape from the rat race
  • Escape from something else….

You can check out a great list of books on LibraryThing that have been tagged with “escape”.

To me “escape” means travel to exotic locations. Here are a couple of my favourite books about “escape”

  1. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  2. The Happy Isles of Oceania by Paul Theroux

This relates to my personal favourite genre – Travel with a twist

10 books to make you think

Think” is the theme for March on the National Year of Reading calendar and to support that topic I offer my shortlist of books that have made me think and changed the way I think. @love2read

Do you think? Or are you a slave to habitual thought patterns instilled in you from your ego, your body, your upbringing, society? Are you willing to challenge and change your thinking? Do you want to be an original thinker? Be the creator of your own life experiences? Or are you content to follow the herd?

I have always enjoyed challenging and testing my mind and feel a personal need to reach for greater awareness and understanding. Some would say I think too much. But I disagree and tend to think most people don’t engage their mind in original thought enough.

So here are some books that have been instrumental in raising my awareness from one level of thought to the next. They are in order of when I read them.

The Road Less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck 1983

This is an oldie but a goodie and a “Number 1 International Bestseller”. Dr. M Scott Peck practised as a clinical psychiatrist and offers anecdotes from his psychotherapy sessions with patients to explain his thoughts about the concept of “love” and then provides meaning that is not what many of us think of as “love”.

When I read this book many years ago it certainly changed my thinking and gave me some new ideas to test. My old copy looks dated, and even some of the style, prose, and premises seem old fashioned now.

It was an important work at the time but maybe many of us “got it” and have since evolved. The concept of “love” continues to be pedalled through popular media with the same old neurotic premises though, so maybe it’s time for a new version on this topic prepared for a new audience.

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach 1977

As I have stated before this book rates as my Number 1 favourite of all time, and has never been knocked off that pedestal in the many years of reading since.

I like its simplicity, the gentle tone, the story about pilots and flying, the spiritual lessons, and the overall message that life is far more complex, mysterious, and full of possibilities than we can ever imagine.

The Master in the story teaches the student that all is not what it seems and that to see more you have to be able to see through the veil of existence. This requires a shift in thinking, perspective, and common notions of reality.

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: if you’re alive it isn’t.”

The idea about manifesting things – physical things – into our life I find magical and compelling. The image of the blue feather became a lovely experiment in manifestation that remains with me to this day. And this no doubt led me to look closer at the book A Course In Miracles when it appeared one day.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance  by Robert M. Pirsig 1974

Pirsig seduces the reader into an apparently simple tale about a father and son who go on a motorcycle trip with some friends across parts of the United States of America. To pass the time the father, who is the narrator considers the deeper meaning of concepts such as “quality” using examples they see along the way such as the geysers at Yellowstone National Park.

It forms an interesting gentle conversation that is soon disturbed by the returning fragments of memory of the narrator. Things are not what they seem at all. The narrator has a past that he is recalling bit by bit and this clouds the story with an unusual twist. He has had mental problems, a breakdown perhaps. He is drawn to discover his past with his son, reluctant now, in tow. And who is this Phaedrus character in this story?

A second reading of this book was necessary for me because I became lost the first time. Once understood though I loved the depth of discussion and the analysis of concepts that were cleverly woven into a simple tale of a motorcycle trip. The descriptions of practical motorcycle maintenance and how the right attitude can improve the overall performance and experience of owning a motorcycle, was the defining message that can be applied to all of life’s tasks.

The Celestine Prophecy: An Adventure by James Redfield  1993 and An Experiential Guide by James Redfield and Carol Adrienne 1995

The Celestine Prophecy: an Adventure is a simple tale of a quest to find some ancient manuscripts that contain the insights about human existence and how to steer humanity from its destructive path. It is a quaint and predictable story that has since been made into a movie.

The companion book An Experiential Guide guides the reader towards finding the deeper meaning of our lives and to discover our main life purpose. Using the nine insights as a framework questions are posed that assist us in examining our own life story. We can then understand the key issues within the context of our own life.

I like this tool for analysing and understanding why we behave and think the way we do. Our past, especially within the context of our upbringing and our families, has shaped us to be the person we have become. To really understand this in context helps to free us towards our own individual life experiences. It releases us from blaming our past and liberates us towards an original journey.

Echoes of the Early Tides: a Healing Journey  by Tony Moore 1994

Tony Moore wrote Cry of the Damaged Man after being involved in a near fatal car accident. Suddenly his work as an emergency room doctor ceased and he became the patient, like so many he had attended before.

Echoes of the Early Tides continues his personal exploration of the healing process as a sequel to the former work. It is a compelling, beautiful and sometimes abstract description of how he steers his mind from being drawn towards a black abyss of no return. He wanders the beach and coast seeking solace and healing; his seaside analogies enrich the explanations with elegance and reality.

He explores in depth “self-harm” and why some people seem powerlessly drawn to repeat behaviours they know will cause themselves and others further harm.

He concludes with:

“Human existence has moments of trickling ease, and other times of unmanageable chaos. Both are flows we must go with if we are to manage the tides of our lives.”

I have read this book many times and my copy has yellow highlighter marking passages on nearly every page.

A Course in Miracles by The Foundation of Inner Peace 1975

If I had never read Illusions then I would never have lifted this book off the shelf at the new-age style shop that sold books, crystals, incense, etc. For me it was Illusions that planted the seed of a thought of the possibility of manifesting things in one’s life. So the idea of undertaking an actual course in miracles seemed a way forward if there was one.

The copy I bought is a hefty hard back volume with light weight paper. It is divided into sections: I Text (669 pages); II Workbook for students (488 pages); III Manual for Teachers (69 pages). First published in 1975 it is now well known. Created originally by two doctors Helen Schucman and William Thetford, Professors of Medical Psychology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians in New York City, it was a response to “angry and aggressive feelings” associated with their field of work and a desire to find a “better way”.

I have not read the whole book. It is hard going. The 365 daily lessons for students are mind-changing and I have only ever made it to about Lesson 7 before I start to wonder if these exercises could really cause one to release ones grip on reality entirely. It certainly makes you think because it unhitches all habitual thought processes. The text is biblical in style and although the authors were “anything but spiritual” the presence of God is there in every passage.

Maybe one day I will read the book through.

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle 2004

In recent years Eckhart Tolle has emerged as a leading voice in the quest for spiritual development and connection. His book The Power of Now is an exceptional exercise in urging us all to just live in the now.

Your mind is an instrument, a tool. It is here to be used for a specific task, and when the task is completed, you lay it down. As it is I would say about 80 to 90 percent of most people’s thinking is not only repetitive and useless, but because of its dysfunctional and often negative nature, much of it is also harmful.”

One paragraph in this book had that effect on my mind where it immediately raised my comprehension to a totally new level. At the time I clearly remember the “Ah-Ha!” moment as this new understanding became clear. Now, I can’t remember what that was, or where in the book it is. And I didn’t mark any passages with yellow highlighter or pen. I would need to re-read the entire book to find it again. I will. But sorry, for the timing of this blog post you will need to read it to find your own “Ah-Ha!” moment.

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle 2005

Eckhart Tolle followed The Power of Now with a more urgent plea for us all to evolve spiritually for the sake of the future of humanity. He delves deeply into the ruling power of the ego and shows us how to break free from this tyranny.

He concludes with:

“The meek are egoless….They live in a surrendered state and so feel their oneness with the whole and the Source. They embody the awakened consciousness that is changing all aspects of life on our planet.”

He proffers that a purposeful shift in the way we think is not only self empowering but a necessity for the continued existence of our species.

Living as a River: Finding Fearlessness in the Face of Change by Bodipaksa 2010

Like many people who choose the Buddhist path Bodipaksa changed his name. He was born Graeme Stephen in Scotland and runs an online meditation centre Wildmind. Not that any of this has any bearing on his book that explores the overlap of science and spirituality.

I was introduced to this book at the meditation centre I attend. Anyone who has tried meditation knows the value and power of ceasing all thoughts and stilling the mind. So perhaps this book should be mentioned under “unthink” instead of “think”. I choose to list it under “think” because Bodipaksa challenges us to examine our habitual thought patterns and change them.

He begins:

“Here’s a very “queer thing” about life: sometimes the things we think will make us miserable actually make us happier….Ironically, when we do happen to experience the fragility of existence, we often find our appreciation of life enhanced rather than diminished.”

The overriding metaphor in this book is to consider your existence as if you are an eddy in a river. If you look at an eddy it appears to be an actual physical form, and yet we know that it consists only of the river flowing through, responding to the formation of the river bank and bed. The eddy changes in every instance. It may be transformed completely over time depending on the river flow, water levels, formation changes along the bank and river bed, but essentially the eddy is the river flowing through a point.

Just as our bodies/minds/selves are manifestations of Life flowing through the physical world. Of course Bodspaksa explains this far better than I. He invites us to try the Six Elements Practice which is a meditation that assists our thoughts towards a feeling of being alive as part of the river of existence.

Get reading about thinking now!

These books offer some answers to questions such as:

  • What is thinking?
  • Why do I think this way?
  • What are the methods to constructive thinking?
  • How can I change my thinking?
  • What keys or switches will assist my mind in this process?

Afterward: How could I leave out The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale? This was the first book of this type I ever read. My father suggested it to me when I was a teenager. It is a classic and still relevant today.