Posts Tagged ‘Work’

One of the activities my team at Victoria University Library recently has been carrying out is  the digitisation of the Robert Stout Pamphlet Collection.  We have been steadily working through uploading them into the NZETC and now nearly forty volumes are available. If you want to spend some time heading down a rabbit hole then have a browse.

An example of the eclectic mix of Pamphlets in the collection

An example of the eclectic mix of Pamphlets in the collection

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout

This project aims to digitise the Sir Robert Stout Pamphlet collection currently held by the J. C. Beaglehole Room. The Stout Pamphlet collection contains around 1000 early primarily New Zealand pamphlets collected by Stout and donated to the Victoria University Library. The pamphlets were then bound into their present volumes.

The collection represents Stout’s interests at the time which included evolution, land reform, law and the temperance movement.

To complement the pamphlet collection we have digitised K. A. Coleridge‘s catalogue with indexes. This catalogue contains valuable information on the history of the collection, the process of binding the collection and Stout’s relationship with the Victoria University library. You can find the catalogue here.

Some notable ones I have read:

Is Man An Automaton? A Lecture Delivered in The City Hall, Glasgow, On 23rd February 1875

Science and the Soul Telepathy Scientifically Demonstrated


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One of the elements I really like in my position is seeing new resources go up on the web.

Fifty years of Victoria University’s The Spike student magazine is now online. The University Library has digitised the complete run of The Spike Victoria College Review which ran continuously from 1902 – 1949, then in 1954, 1957 and 1964.

From the editorial in Issue one:

“We be wayfarers together, O Students, treading the same thorny paths of Studentdom, laughing at the same professorial jokes, grieving in common over the same unpalatable “swot,” playing the same games, reading the same indigestible books. Let us also pause for a few moments together and stretch out a hand of welcome to a small white stranger, that has come amongst us with little preliminary under the name of The Spike. Hast thou The Spike, fellow-student? If not, I pray thee make all haste to procure it, less worse things befall thee, and thou art impaled on its venomous point.”

The Spike is a fascinating view into student life at the University during the first half of last century. In particular we have found some interesting and moving pieces published during the World Wars. With the coming centenary of WWI in 2014 approaching these will be invaluable for researchers.

From the October 1916 The Spike in Extracts From Soldiers Letters;

Wellington,21st September, 1916.

Dear “Spike,”-

Extracts from Alan MacDougall’s letters will be of abiding interest to his old friends. These will be pardoned for thinking that when he died, Victoria College lost its most perfect student. In tribute to him, will you publish some extracts from certain recent letters of his which tell of the work he was engaged in and how he viewed it, and which unconsciously body forth those qualities of perception, faith, humour, generosity and noble courage which will keep his memory ever green in the hearts of those who loved him. At the end, with his friends in the line stricken down, he was lonely; and we do well to believe that he has passed into an immortal Fellowship.

I am, etc.,


“We are well fed and clad; frequently well housed in billets, as now, and always pretty happy. It’s just as well to try and be happy in the face of the ever present possibilities of this life. The way we look at the facts is that if a Jack Johnson or whizz-bang is addressed to you, it will find you. The goods are always delivered-fatalism of a cheery sort. How one finds out the real men in this sort of work! the cool quiet ones, the gasbags, the dare-devils, the paralytic, the shirkers. From what I know of other battalions I conclude that we are to be reckoned fortunate beyond most in our personnel, both officers and men. We trust each other and we shall back each other.”

The Spike joins Hilltop in the collection of Victoria student magazines found in the NZeTC .

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Some readers will have noted, if they follow my personal blog, a recent post where I discussed, in fairly unambiguous terms, the fact that I manage a mental illness. I don’t place this into a separate category to “work/life balance” – if such a thing is possible, except in terms of shifting tensions for us all. I know nothing makes me grumpier than a holiday or social occasion that has passed its prime!

Outside of my “just getting things off my chest” space, I think there is a particular set of self-management issues that are invited, created and addressed by our profession. Libraries are like the spice of Dune to those of us with unusual brains. Which of these describe a strong aspect of your personality:

  • Putting things in order! Whee!
  • Once upon a time there was a little pandy-wandy named Gerald, and he lived in a little (etc.)
  • These are the rules. These are the principles. These are the outcomes.
  • I feel good from helping people.
No, they don’t mean you have a mental illness; for a start, the DSM-IV “diagnosis by tick box” is a blunt tool. The best analyst in the long run is the self (although outside support sure helps), and I’ve only presented four ‘boxes’ to tick that I hope suggest continua of behaviours. In the first example, some are routinely tidy; some are obsessively tidy; some people are helplessly untidy. They also tick four broad categories of library activity – which I’ll define here as operational, creative and strategic and service. Those terms aren’t actively considered, but I think they’re of value.*


So if we have a tendency to a particular personality type, and if that tendency can at times dominate other needs to the point that wellbeing can become affected arguably that is when we become “mentally ill”. I’m projecting four of my personal areas of “work for extra credit” into the ones I’ve pulled out of a hat – I’ll let you project you own. We are therefore, I suggest, drawn to our profession because of the opportunities to exercise sometimes distressing aspects of our selves in safe contexts. Sometimes it works out in a wonderfully healing way, and sometimes not.


People who have mental illnesses have passion. Boy, do we. All those pent up feelings? There’s your real distillations. There’s your drive to produce realworld changes to the benefit of a community. When we allow ourselves to be well enough to manage them, and ourselves well.

I’ve been adjusting my routines over the last few months. All part of transitioning to this wonderful job I have. It’s been a very good journey , while not always comfortable.

Previously similar amounts of external, uncontrollable change (whatever the source, however functionally difficult it is for me to acknowledge the concept “uncontrollable”) have risked what one of us geeks might term a “catastrophic failure”; that is to say, my approach to resource management has been to throw things (projects, relationships) out and build up from as close to zero as has been necessary to “start over”.

Here’s why this is a good move: There are times on the learning journey when the amount of resources available demand that for survival to occur. In those situations, to do so quickly and cleanly allows the process of rebuilding to happen more rapidly and efficiently.

Here’s why this is a bad move: Grieving adds to the pain of change. I don’t know about you, but I grieve everything.

I do advocate clear signals between yourself and those who hold the responsibility for extracting the good oil out of you as the best path, but to reach for a longer goal I believe motivation for the professional has to come from within.

At this point I’m willing to suggest the tentative conclusion that I’ve crashed as much as I’ve going to crash, I’ve changed some things but I don’t feel I have had to throw anything out.

What’s been different this time? Sure, a few things around proactiveness in the workplace; being upfront about certain discussions; but I’ve been working within full disclosure for some time now. Learning to understand personal communication styles in key working relationships is not a paradigm shift for me, as important as it is in any context.

Given mine’s a communicating role, the decision to openly communicate about my condition as one strategy for decreasing my day-to-day anxiety has been  remarkably effective. Nothing is more relaxing than one’s “worst secret” being found out and this, along with modifications to diet and exercise, has delivered progress in my ability to sleep reliably I haven’t had since first being diagnosed a decade ago.

The solution I’m secretly most pleased by was my attention to my creative side. Children’s librarianship was a hugely satisfying context to explore my inner Walter Mitty and be legitimately paid for it, and I learnt a few other useful things about “the real world” during that time. When I recognised the transition to come would result in losing that creative outlet, I started looking for other creative projects.

Auckland Libraries‘ music librarian, Marilyn recommended I look  a project she felt would be ideal for my interests, tying together as it does my solid grounding in classical music theory and practice and love of electronic instruments. My two hour-a-week storytelling commitment thus turned seamlessly into a two-hour-a-week practice commitment, and while I miss some of the magical friendships with children and families I’ve had, I’m glad to have the opportunity to further explore creativity and performance art in other contexts.

There has been another benefit to all this, beyond having the opportunity to maybe, just maybe, do some interesting things with a great job. This morning, Sally noted that my stomach had flattened as a result of the aformentioned stress, diet and exercise. I picked up her current reading, which had a besixpacked warrior, rogue, rake or somesuch on the front. Apparently I don’t quite measure up to the ideal just yet. Bring on the stress and watch out cheesy book covers!**

*For a start, I think there’s a huge amount of ground to explore in the gaps that can arise between “activities and structures intended to create service outcomes” (eg strategies and policies) and “service as it occurs”

**Oh, lord no.

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Tag as in we didn’t have a blogjune tag until I just did it now and in actual fact I’m it because it’s my turn, which I’ve known since exactly yesterday thanks to a small email-related hiccup.

That’s the joy of the digital age. We had a round of emails as to how we might do this over the last week or so with an iterative series of models worked on until we felt we had a robust method of assigning rostered days. A google spreadsheet was generated, and here we are. When I lost track of my commitments the work was there to slot me back in with confidence.

One thing I’m wishing to introduce to environments I work is the concept of shared notetaking using cloudhosted documents instead of minuting. I’ve been playing around with google docs for some time, and saw the process at a dizzying level at Webstock with individual docs to support notes collaboratively created live by a space the size of the Wellington Town Hall full of geeks collated by an interesting group called Waveadept on their site.

The most interesting insight was the realisation I was getting the mnenomic benefits of notetaking without need to type every word, because I was reading other’s notes with an eye to agreeing/supplementing and thus actively engaged with the process. One’s more free to engage in the thinking work of the meeting, but one comes away more engaged in the detail of the discussion. It’s win-win.

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With just over a week until I finish and head off to Victoria University I have been busy beavering away trying to clear my back-log, and to leave documentation on what I have been doing. It is time for the exit plan to take effect! As is often the way when you leave work, there are lot of tasks that will just flow onto the next person, however there are many other tasks that may not. Especially when the driver for that work is you.

I am particularly thinking of our Social Media strategy. It would be fair to say that I have driven our blog, Twitter, Facebook presence. It would also be fair to say that I have been less than successful in promoting buy-in from colleagues.  Being aware that it may be difficult to replace me with someone with similar skills and passions (and that that may not even be desirable), I am worried that what I have built over the last three years might just fade and die. The social media tasks will be built into the job description for whoever replaces me, but for them it might take a lower priority.

I think the best I can do is leave lots of documentation, and also to offer my assistance. But that will be the hardest part of leaving. Letting go.


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Not quite the same as the summer of 69, but then I couldn’t really use that as I wasn’t even born then.  😉

Tomorrow is the first day of summer, and I don’t know about you, but around here in public library land we are really starting to gear up for the school holidays and the holiday season.  We received our shirts advertising the reading programme “Dive into Books”, and the rewards came last week. Registrations started, with all the Readplus (for teenagers) spaces taken, and most of the dive into books places also gone. Also the last splurge of pre-holiday bestsellers are arriving and hitting the shelves, although most of the Christmas themed titles seem to have already come. 🙂

It’s a funny season this, as a lot of business’s wind down for the holidays, and people look to take their big break, we in the public library land are building towards the busiest time of year. The summer reading programme is a big deal and takes a lot of co-ordination and work. Everyone who wants to relax on the beach or under a tree in the back yard is in for books, so our figures go up. The bored teens have lots of weeks to come a haunt the library and use the free Internet . I sort of enjoy the buzz you get, but at the same time I thinks “but I want to be on holiday”.

That’s one of the troublesome bits for public libraries. Everyone wants to go on holiday over summer with their family (well lots do), so holiday leave is often rationed. I think though that one of the really annoying bits, is that for nearly every public library, everyone else in the larger organisation is on holiday. The council offices and service centres all close down from Christmas eve until after New Years, but not the library. A lot of councils have Christmas functions that all staff are expected to go to, yet library are also expected to be open. That must give the librarian in charge a headache. I have done relief work for book vouchers to cover such events. I guess it’s a complaint you find in a lot of service industries, and I take comfort that at least we are not like the poor saps in the fast food industry working on the holidays! Heck back in my student days I worked New years eve at a KFC until 2 in the morning, what a nightmare! This year I am getting the week off, which is a happy thing. 🙂

But the bizarre thing for me, is that often this week is the slowest of the year. We can’t be closed as people will want their holiday reading, but they are so busy being on holiday they don’t go to the library! Go figure.

Anyway, for those of you who are heading off on holiday this summer, have a great break! For those working through the long hot summer days, may the air conditioning work and the punters be happy! And remember if visiting your local public library, and finding chaos and bedlam, smile. The poor soul behind the counter could probably need it!  

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Well that was a busy week.

I had a fabulous conference, meeting up with many colleagues, including several co-conspirators from here at The Room of Infinite Diligence. I also had several productive chats with the vendors, attended interesting and stimulating presentations, and attended the LIANZA AGM. The keynote speakers were thought provoking, I especially liked the last one by Tim Spalding from Librarything.com, as he made a number of observations about library catalogues that I agree with.

Thursday found me still in Christchurch, at the offices of the 3M Award winning team from the APNK, learning about the Kete we will be implementing. Even though it will mean a lot more work for me, I can’t wait to get our Kete up and running, and to start talking to our local community about getting their unique and precious content up and out there for everyone.

Then it was back to the normal day job on Friday and Saturday, with a large number of books waiting to be catalogued. Sometimes it seems difficult to implement or process all those fabulous ideas when you hit the office.  

So this weeks post is shorter one, and Blonde singing Living in the Real World.

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