Archive for September, 2013

The Wellington Library Coalition (of the infamous “Are Libraries worth saving?” debate) surveyed Wellington ward and mayoral candidates on a number of questions regarding Wellington City Libraries.  They’ve released the results for us all to look at. Appendix 3 includes the candidate comments as well as commentary from the Coalition.

Kudos to the Coalition for this work.


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This is a report back from the SLIS Wellington meeting on 5 September 2013. The three speakers each talked about an aspect of career management/development.

Lynley Stone talked about the results of the career survey which she ran on behalf of LIANZA in 2012 in order to “gain a solid understanding how library careers evolve in our rapidly changing world“. There was a good response from librarians across the sector, including lots of thoughtful (and thought-provoking) comments. Lynley decided she’d include the comments in the report – which is partly why it’s so long. For this presentation she focused on some of the things she thought were important for librarians in special libraries to know.

  • “Reality check: there is complacency from participants in traditional roles in larger libraries.” Special librarians by contrast were more aware of the need for a proactive attitude towards up-skilling, multiple roles, and the need for professional networking and support. (Apparently there were times during the analysis of the data when Lynley felt a bit depressed. I’m not surprised.)
  • Themes around qualifications – lots of comments around this. Librarians need a qualification but it alone does not make you a good librarian; it needs to be current but does not need to be in Library and Information Services. Individuals need to know the most appropriate Library and Information Services qualification for the role they want to get.
  • Themes around recruitment and applying for jobs – what to do, what not to do. Section 12 has more information on Career Development.

Kat Cuttriss, Campus Librarian at Massey University’s Wellington Campus, looked at career planning for staff. She used a very good metaphor about  career flight paths, and described four types of staff. (She was looking at career planning from a manager’s point of view.)

  • Eagle – is focused, ambitious, tenacious.  Provide opportunities for them to use that in their current role, expect them to leave.
  • Godwit – takes time out from libraries to do something else. Recognise and value their diverse experience.
  • Kiwi – know what works for them and is happy where they are. Keep them challenged and engaged using opportunities in their current role. (Includes elsewhere in the organisation.
  • Kea – enjoys difference and diversity, usually the first to volunteer for something new. Give plans and frameworks in order to help them focus.

There was lots of nodding during this section as people recognised themselves. Then she talked generally about having a fulfilling career.

  • Aim for high job satisfaction as well as career progression.
  • Look for opportunities for learning- including transferable skills.
  • “Build your bridges, don’t burn them.” (The Library world is quite a small one.)
  • Remember – if you don’t like something – Accept it OR Change it OR Get out.

Courtney Johnston, currently Director of Hutt City Museums (The Dowse) described her career to date. This includes working at the City Gallery, National Library, and Boost New Media. She said that there were two characteristics of her career – addition (adding other roles onto her official role), and following charismatic leaders. She had this advice:

  • Be aware of the leadership style of the person you’re working for
  • In a management role – prepare to get your kicks out of your team’s enjoyment of their jobs
  • Aim high – jump for the jobs you think you can’t do.
  • ‘Frame yourself’ – know what distinguishes you from your colleagues (or other applicants for the role)
  • Do stuff around the edges – e.g. blog about your interests etc.
  • Make sure your Position Description is up to date and reflects what you are actually doing

Themes from the evening:

  • Know yourself – your skills, how you work
  • Know others – their skills, the way they work
  • Think strategically – you don’t need to get a new job to change what you’re doing.
  • The importance of this kind of meeting to share information. (Other GLAM sectors do not have it as regularly.)

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Who’s the enemy here?

I received an email from LIANZA last week saying that I might be interested in a event. It was being organised by a coalition of library supporters concerned about budget cuts to Wellington Libraries. So far – fantastic! A group from the community who “coordinate efforts against the steady deterioration of library services in Wellington, advocates for users and staff of public libraries and brings together groups” (who also support libraries). The teams looked like an interesting mix of people with a variety of experiences. They looked like they would be very entertaining.  Brilliant.

Then it all went horribly wrong.

The moot was “Are libraries worth saving?

I was unequivocal about my reaction on Twitter.

No. I am not interested in a debate on “Are Libraries Worth Saving?” Thanks though. #FarCough

— librarykris (@librarykris) August 27, 2013

I am ashamed to say that I didn’t send this to LIANZA. I’m telling myself that it was best that I step away for a few days because it made me so MAD. Both the moot, AND that a professional library organisation would send it round to their members thus legitimising the debate. As someone said “May as well just ask: “is culture worth saving?“” What I’m interested in doing now is unpacking one of the opinions expressed by the affirmative team and how they might have come to those conclusions.

Here’s a tweet from @wizzyrea reporting on those arguments from the affirmative team. There are a few more on her account regarding the debate.

Focus on a library as a physical space, warehouse, not as a community learning centre or gathering place.

— Liz Rea (@wizzyrea) September 3, 2013

Further discussion with Liz indicates that the lack of focus on the library as a community learning space or gathering place was more by omission than statement. She had to leave early, so the concept of library as ‘third place’ may have come up later in the debate. Extrapolating wildly from this  comment, I think that the affirmative team regards the public library as a giant bookshelf for physical books.

Is that all Wellington City Libraries is?

Maybe…of course not. Every time I go in I see people sitting at desks and chairs. Their laptops are open or they are reading books – to themselves or to others. I don’t know how long they stay there to assess whether they are using the library place as anything other than somewhere to pause. However, they are there, using the space as a place. So how does the idea of ‘library as warehouse’ persist?

Library circulation stats were reported in the paper recently (they’re rising, as is the percentage of active library members) but there wasn’t anything about foot traffic. The library blogs are heavy on promoting books, with different formats thrown in occasionally. A couple of recent exceptions to this are the winter game night and Amanda Palmer ninja gig posts which describe how the space is being used. (That’s as far through old posts as I got before being overwhelmed by the book-iness of them.) The sheer number of book synopsis posts reinforces the notion that libraries = books. I know why they’re blogging like this, I get that… Sometimes I think we’re our own worst enemy. We don’t demonstrate all the facets of our operation.

I’ll be at #LIANZA13 if you want to chat further about this. I’ll welcome you with open arms because I need to learn how to articulate the ways in which libraries are essential to a healthy community without getting inarticulate with rage over misguided events from library supporters.

In the meantime I’ll be reading Why are New Zealand libraries letting their enemies write “the final chapter”?* by Matt to remind me why libraries need to be ubiquitous in our communities, educational institutions, and businesses.

*tl;dr “Libraries are about helping the public to explore the world of knowledge and culture on their own terms.

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