Monday, 27 June 2022

Blogjune Day 27 - I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints

And like that, I've somehow missed three days of #blogjune. In my defence, I've been in the midst of moving into a new space, and there's still a *lot* of unpacking of stuff to do...

Today's question: If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?

I think so many of our important life decisions are forward-looking, based on assumptions about how our life will go... whether we start a family, or need to hit particular career goals, or want to be able to retired with a sizeable nest egg to keep us comfortable and secure in our final years.

And really, with a life expectancy that's *hopefully* into my 80s and beyond, that's a lot of preparation. Usually in the form of getting a mortgage, and having a salary where I can sufficiently put enough into my super so that I'm not retiring in poverty.

If we only expected to live until 40, my life would be much different. I'd certainly work less - enough to live comfortably within my means without feeling the need to earn more than I necessarily needed to. Probably around 3-4 days a week. I'd spend less much accumulating 'stuff', and spend more time exploring and appreciating the world that I live in. I'd learn to be grateful with living a simpler life, accepting its temporary nature, and come to terms with my mortality sooner.

I mean, I like to think that I'm getting good at this stuff already, now that I'm into my 40s. I have a minimalist attitude to 'owning stuff', and currently work four days a week, which has in a way forced me to keep 'downsizing' my regular costs and lifestyle. I can't remember the last time I bought clothes, let alone new ones. if I needed to, I think I could comfortably fill a suitcase with just the things I need, and walk away from everything else.

Yesterday, a friend of mine was talking about the book Die with Zero, by Bill Perkins, which admittedly I had not heard of, but the premise resonated with me: that we need to make the most of our lives while we're living them, rather than trying to save up riches for our so-called golden years. I feel like I've already embraced this idea, albeit unintentionally, but for the last five years I've started falling into this trap of feeling like I need to 'catch up', in being a real grown-up, so that I don't end up with nothing to live on when I retire.

But I also think back ten years to when I started doing volunteer assignments with Australian Business Volunteers, and there were so many retirees taking the opportunity to continue to get out there in the world, and live their best lives in amazing places around the world, sharing their knowledge with communities and having enriching experiences in the process. They weren't living particularly exotic or fancy lifestyles, but they didn't need much in the way of possessions to continue to have fulfilling experiences.

I hope that these kinds of opportunities are still around thirty years from now.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Blogjune Day 23 - I'll share your load If you just call me

So, let's get stuck into this next question: Should parents in the workplace expect non-parents to make concessions for them by being more flexible with work shifts / project deadlines?



I kinda get where this question is coming from, but I have issues with the way it is presented.

Firstly, it shouldn't be about one group of people 'making concessions' for another group of people. We all have commitments in our lives - one of those commitments is our work, another might be our families. If family commitments collide with work commitments, then that worker's supervisor should be managing them in a way that is understanding of their needs, but still fair to their colleagues. This might be in the form of reducing hours and bringing on additional staff. Or it might be in the form of taking their annual leave when they need it.

But that manager also needs to be conscious that there are other staff who may feel like they are 'taking up the slack' from another staff member taking, say, twice the leave at half-pay. Or always getting priority treatment in approving leave during school holidays. If these things are left unchecked, you're going to end up with a team that is resentful of one another.

I guess my point is, ideally as a manager you should build and foster a team that is respectful and supportive of one another's needs, who will be all too happy to support a parent's need to take leave and reduced hours at certain times - and of course the parent would be all too happy to return the favour at another time. That's just good teamwork, after all.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Blogjune Day 22 - When I grow up, I'll be stable

Today's question: If I could learn anything, what would it be?


I'd like to learn how to be an established, self-sustained 'grown up'.

I feel like it was a lot more straightforward for previous generations. Finish high school (or not). Get a trade, go to uni, or just go get a job with long-term security. Get married (or not), buy a house and car. Pay off enough of the mortgage to have equity to buy another property. (Hope that you're established enough when the recession hits in the 90s.)

The rules have changed now. No jobs are necessarily secure - not even 'professional' roles. HECS debts add extra financial stress to our stagnating wages. If we're fortunate enough to have a mortgage, then we have to face the possibility of going into mortgage stress once interest rates go up. The rental market is more competitive and expensive than I can ever recall. And wage increases are minuscule compared to inflation which affects the cost of living - basically, we're earning comparatively less money than our previous generation.

So, what are the new rules of being a 'grown up' now? Work harder, longer hours, pushing for that job further up the hierarchy as the only way of possibly keeping up with rising costs? Don't have kids? Ride a bike instead of a car - assuming that you work cycling distance from home? Live on 2-minute noodles and peanut butter sandwiches like you did when you had to live on a casual job? Move into a rental share house?

I mean, I can do all of these things - and have done so for much of my life. But at the time, it felt like it was all a rite of passage until I got to become a 'real adult' and 'have it all'.

Maybe that was the lesson all along - that this is the new normal of being a 'grown up', and the old Australian Dream is just an unsustainable risk for those who can afford to bail themselves out when they need to.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Blogjune Day 21 - When she talks, I hear the revolution

Today's question: Do I consider myself a feminist?

I will answer briefly: Yes, I am a feminist. I believe there is a need for feminism due to gender inequalities that are endemic in society. I believe we need to constantly create initiatives that address gender inequality through interventions that support equity in our homes and workplaces.

I also don't want to talk about this at length, because there is so much excellent literature out there that explains I much better than I could, and I don't wish to take up that space with my overly simplistic drivel.

However, we need to move beyond "just" being feminist. Flavia Dzodan once famously said, 'My feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit.'

That means that it's not enough just to consider the gender inequalities - especially if we're not considering  how race, class, disability, sexuality, age and cultural/religious background affect our level of privilege in society.

I recently went and saw a production of the musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Musically, it was excellently put together, and the set, lighting and costumes were amazing. This show is intended as an empowering statement of queer pride, occasionally addressing hard truths about Australian's acceptance of its LGBTQ+ communities. The version I saw even updated the content so that the characters walk around Ulruru, rather than climbing up the rock. So, I was bitterly disappointed that they still kept one horribly misogynist line - an insult designed to get a big laugh - and the infamous 'ping pong' scene where a character's Filipino bride goes off the rails in an over-the-top stereotype of Asian women on a par with Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's. My point? It fails as a celebration of queer pride, if it needs to use oppressive techniques to put down women - particularly women of colour - in the process.

Looking back at the library and information industry, it's wonderful to work in a sector where I get to support so many women in leadership positions. Though I would still say that there is a higher percentage of men in executive/leadership roles than there are in entry level / operational roles. And through some online channels that I inhabit, I regularly hear women of colour sharing their experience of being in the vast minority of their team, being forced to do everybody's emotional labour when it comes to addressing diversity in the workplace, and burning out.

Entry level initiatives are one thing, but we need to do more to recruit and support women of colour at all levels of the library sector, but particularly those leadership positions. If you think it doesn't apply to you, take a look at your organisational chart.

Monday, 20 June 2022

Blogjune Day 20 - Funny how time flies...

So, on Saturday I packed away my desktop computer for the move, and have been without one for a number of days. I considered blogging from my phone, but it's not the same as being able to sit down with a keyboard. All of my stuff is still in boxes - including my computer - but then I remembered that there is another place, where you can use a computer for free...


(Yes, of course, it's a library)

So, the latest three June Questions are all library-related, so I'll launch straight into them.

Did you decide that you wanted to be a librarian? When?

Yes I did, and it was a conscious decision. There comes a time for every Bachelor of Arts student, when they are about to graduate, and they have to decide what they're going to do next. For me, I'd already been working at a university library as a casual for a few years, so it was definitely an option. I'd actually arrived at a short list of three potential career paths: teaching, librarianship and arts administration. A teaching qualification felt like too much work with no way to support myself, arts admin seemed like a very competitive field and very niche - as did librarianship, but less so, and there were government-subsidised places to study it. So, librarianship, it was. Within six months of starting the course, I got a full-time job as a library officer at a public library, and within 2 years, I was working as a professional librarian.

Do you still consider yourself to be a librarian?

From a professional standpoint, yes. I am a member of my professional association which has accredited my qualification, and through which I continue to maintain my professional status through professional development.

In terms of my recent and current employment - no, I don't. I currently work as a Marketing Coordinator for an Arts Organisation, but it's important to acknowledge that everything I do in my current work uses skills that I gained from professional librarianship work.

From an existential perspective - no, absolutely not. I see so many librarians who have unhealthy attitudes to their identity, seeing librarianship as this thing that they are 24/7, tied to the core of their very being. It's toxic, grounded in vocational awe, and will lead to burn out. It's just a job. so stop it already.

What other careers did you consider beside being a librarian?

As I mentioned, teaching and arts admin were initially on the cards. I've worked in roles adjacent to these... I've worked long enough in high schools to know that they are not for me (but I am in eternal appreciation of the work that teachers do!). I've also seen what arts administrators do, and it's not all cultural festivals and hobnobbing - there are so many reports, budgets and grant applications involved that I'm not sure if I could do that for the long term... but I'd still be willing to give it a go.

My current career trajectory in Arts Communications seem to be serving me well for the time being. It's a nice balance between being creative, managing operations, and engaging with people in the community.

Friday, 17 June 2022

Blogjune Day 17 - Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road

Today I'm breaking my self-imposed rules, and I'm not answering any #JuneQuestions. Instead, I'm actually going to blog about the stuff that's actually happening in my life!

I've been in the middle of moving house - from my little two-bedroom apartment in the Inner-South, to a much bigger house in the Inner North. So, tonight is my final night in the place that has been my home for a little more than four years now.

Four years - that's the longest I've lived in the one place since moving out of my childhood home, half a lifetime ago.

It's a strange feeling - bittersweet even. I fell in love with the space when I first moved in, with its courtyard view of birch trees, and stylish architraves in the living room. I had high hopes for this apartment, and the lifestyle that it might afford me, being cycling distance from work, in a popular and exciting suburb. I've been a minimalist at heart for many years now, and it was definitely spacious for one - yet once once became two, it definitely became crowded.

In the beginning - 16 June 2018

It's also where I spent both COVID lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 (plus the unofficial Omicron lockdown of January 2022), and where my west-facing windows were pulverised by the notorious hailstorm of January 2020. I am no longer in love with this space.

So, when a recent opportunity arose to move, I decided to jump at the chance for a change. I'm looking forward to having more space and, importantly, having dedicated me-space. I'm looking forward to having a yard, and the opportunity to cultivate and grow a new garden. I'm also looking forward to being less financially stressed, and alleviating personal tensions that have been growing for some time now.

But still, I walk around this apartment this evening, and I wonder about the lives that might have been - in the Andrew Multiverse - had circumstances been different. I am sad that it hasn't worked out, and it does feel a bit like a breakup of sorts. I just hope it brings some joy to the next people.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Blogjune Day 15 - Another day, another night, has taken you again

Today's question: Do I procrastinate?

I don't procrastinate - I prioritise. I don't leave things to the last minute - I work to deadlines. I often feel like I'm too busy to be able to procrastinate, and if I'm not working on something, it's not because I'm avoiding work - it's because I've decided to stop working for now.

This may all seem like a case of semantics, but the very concept of procrastination has a lot to answer for. It's indicative of a society that values productivity over mental health - and when we don't heed the call, we get guilt tripped for it.

Well, no, I will avoid doing today what I can put off until tomorrow if my brain tells me that's what I need to do... but I will first check that I don't have too many other things scheduled to do tomorrow. And if I decide to spend an hour having a nap, or watching tv, or doing random chores around the house, then I'm not going to feel guilty for it.

That said - and this goes back to my earlier post about wanting more time - there are things that I wished that I did, if I had more time and energy. I'd like to write and perform more. I'd like to exercise more. I'd like to socialise and get out into the world more... but I don't. And I feel bad for that - even guilty. Sometimes I can snap myself into action by telling myself, 'Just fucking do it,' and then I do. I feel like the last couple of years have taken its toll on my energy, though, and the urge just to take another night off, and watch tv and sleep, has taken precedence over Doing Stuff with my Free Time. Okay, so it's not procrastination, but it's also not a sustainable lifestyle choice.

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Blogjune Day 14 - the precious moments are all lost in the tide...

Today's question: What would I like to tell my 15 year old self?

I was something of a conflicted teen. I had the brains to do all of the maths, science and a bit of language, and I also had a passion for music and theatre performance. However, the pragmatic approach to my education was to do the subjects that would get me the best score - and the best options after school - which meant focusing on maths and science.

In hindsight, that was absolutely the right decision for me, and I wouldn't change any of that, but at the time... well, it felt like I was at something of a crossroads, feeling like I had to choose one over the other, and that was a source of angst for me.

So, if I could speak to my 15 year old self, I'd tell myself that there will be time to follow my passions in the future. That I should do what I need to be secure, but that there will also be wriggle-room to make adjustments, find creative outlets, and career options that allow these worlds to intersect. Sometimes it will be hard... sometimes I will feel like I've taken the safe and secure option at the expense of aligning work with my passions, and sometimes I'll have amazing experiences but with the risk of insecure or low-paid work. There will be peaks and troughs, but I'll find a careful balance along the way, and that will be enough to stay afloat whilst feeling fulfilled. It will all be worthwhile.

Monday, 13 June 2022

Blogjune Day 13 - I'm looking forward to the future, but my eyesight is going bad...

My moving preparations have taken precedence, and I've missed two days of BlogJune... but I shall press on!

Today's question: What am I grateful for?


I often seem frustrated, overwhelmed and discontented. But that's not to say that I'm not grateful.

I'm grateful that I chose a profession and career path that has created so many unique life experiences so far, and continues to open up new and interesting opportunities - and for all of the memories of these experience.

I'm grateful that, even though my professional field is a shrinking sector, I've still been able to expand on my professional experience through every role I take on.

I'm grateful that I live in a country where I can live comfortably, with a roof over my head, food to eat, and freedom from war and tyranny.

I'm grateful for my health, and for health services that are accessible to everybody in the community.

I'm grateful for my community of friends and professional peers who both support me and hold me accountable.

Most of all, I'm grateful for living a life where I have options - where even if I lost everything, I could pick up the pieces and start again - and create new memories. It feels like a privilege that I really don't deserve, but I'm certainly grateful for it.

It doesn't mean I won't complain, of course. You can be grateful, but want more from life.

Friday, 10 June 2022

Blogjune Day 10 - Out on the wiley windy moors...

Today's question: Recommend something to read for a weekend away.

Here's a clue:


No, the book isn't Wuthering Heights... it's Waking Romeo by Kathryn Barker.

It's one of my favourite books from 2021, and I'm glad I can finally talk about it, as I was recently a judge in the Young Adult category of the Aurealis Awards, and as such, I needed to keep my trap shut until the winners were announced - which they were last month.

I read a total of 40 novels in my judging commitments, and whilst there was plenty of excellent contenders, this one shone above it all. I'm not going to talk about the plot, as I feel like I can't say too much without ruining the plot... but imagine if time travel was possible, but you could only go forward in time, what would you do? If the world's going to crap, do you keep jumping forward? (Oh, and if you jump forward into a space where matter exists, you die horribly.)

From this premise, Kathryn Barker has crafted an intricately layered time travel adventure, peppered with references to Shakespeare and Wuthering Heights, touching upon themes of sustainability, and considering how we want to leave this world for the next generation. It's also very funny. And very nerdy - especially if you like closing off causal time loops.

Not only did it win the Best Young Adult Novel category, but also Best Science Fiction Novel, so it was highly regarded by judges at all levels - don't let the YA audience put you off (and really, you shouldn't anyway).

Speaking of Wuthering Heights, I start rehearsal this weekend for a group that will be performing Kate Bush's iconic dance at the National Portrait Gallery on 2 July - the Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever. We'll be raising money for the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, and you can donate here. There are performances all over the world, so keep an eye out for one near you!

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Blogjune Day 9 - Stereotypes

Today’s question: Do I fit the librarian stereotype?

But first – some Eurotrashy goodness. Can you spot the theme here?



So, I want to respond with another question: What is the librarian stereotype nowadays? Is it the same as it was 10 years ago… 20 years ago?

Is it still the cardigan / pearls-and-twin-set / plaid wearing codger / spinster who like sipping on tea and having a house full of cats? Is it the tragic alternate-reality fate of Mary in It’s a Wonderful Life, who, shock-horror, never got married and is closing up the library on Christmas Eve? Is it the stern stickler for rules, order and quiet – ready to give a death stare and assertive ‘shh’ to anyone who violates the sanctity of their realm?
 
Stereotypes are often grounded in elements of truth, based on shared experiences. But do people still think that’s what librarians are like, now in 2022? 

I'd like to hope that the general assumptions of who a librarian is and what they do - based on people's experience of working with librarian - has changed substantially over the last decade, just as libraries themselves have changed. The value they bring to society should be evident.

Then again, the ABC just announced that they were to axe all of their librarians and archivists - and yes, that article acknowledges that 'the stereotypes of librarians and archivists remain (inappropriately) grounded in a presumption of work happening in dusty bookshelves and basement collections'. If librarians can’t prove our professional value to its national broadcaster and public information network, then they have a real problem on our hands.

So, do I fit the librarian stereotype? I am bookish, I own multiple cardigans and tweed suits and I have dark-rimmed glasses, but that’s about as far as it goes.

If anything, I do try to debunk the stereotype where I can. I’m a strong communicator, I’m good with technology, and I’m a people person. I’m progressive in my social views, and a fan of breaking rules. I try not to take myself too seriously, and let my achievements speak for themselves.

I don’t care much for the stereotype – but I still enjoy poking fun at it. Anybody who’s seen the recent film Gunpowder Milkshake will agree – it was mostly awful (or maybe you enjoyed it?), but its saving grace were the three kick-ass ‘librarians’ who stole the show in the final act.

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Blogjune Day 8 - If I could turn back time...

I missed a day, which was bound to happen at some point this month. I won't make up for it, but today's question is: What superpower would you have if you could have one?

Today's musical classic:


I never feel like I have enough time to do everything I want to - thus missing yesterday's post. So, for the sake of picking a 'superpower', let's just say I'd like to have the power to turn back time.

Not to change any of my past decisions, mind you - I know better than to mess around with causality and risk creating time paradoxes. I'd just like to be able to go back and do the things that I missed out on, because I was too busy doing all of the other things.

Monday, 6 June 2022

Blogjune Day 6 - Our castle and our keep.

Today's question: Why do you live where you do?

Today's song:


I moved to Canberra in October 2016. It's now the city where I've lived the longest since first moving away from my home town of Melbourne in 2006.

At the time, it was the right place for me. After living overseas for a number of years, moving back to Melbourne didn't feel right for me. I wasn't ready to live in a big city yet, but at the same time I was keen to move back into the cultural sector. Canberra is small, yet has many cultural institutions - perfect!

It's also not the first time that I thought about moving to Canberra. I very seriously considered moving there in 2008, but the time was definitely not right for me, and Canberra was also a very different place back then. I'm glad I didn't - my life would have been very different if I had.

But in 2016, the timing was absolutely right. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to step into some great job opportunities. I've enjoyed a moderately active social life, it's so easy to get around (especially if you have a vehicle) and I love how close it is to parklands and the bush, if I just want to escape the urban environment. Of course, even the urban setting here is pretty magical at times with the local birdlife saying hello every morning.

I also live in the inner suburbs. The main reason for this is because I always wanted to be cycling distance from work, and right now I ride about 25 minutes each way every day. My whole life, I've always preferred inner-city living over a house in the 'burbs - I like being close to the action - though Canberra is unlike most other cities in that sense. Much of the action happens in little pockets here and there - more often than not in one of the suburbs rather than the city. So, I'm getting to the point where I'm ready for a change - somewhere with a yard for a garden, and room to be creative and make noise without disturbing neighbours with adjoining walls.

So, I'm moving!

We've been planning the move for a little while now, but in two weeks I'll have vacated my little apartment where I've lived for the past four years. It's an odd feeling, especially given all my complicated memories of this place through that time, but I'm looking forward to some new adventures.

Sunday, 5 June 2022

Blogjune Day 5 - Now though we're all here, we're not all there!

Today's question: What have you learned about yourself as the result of the pandemic?

To get us in the mood, let's sing along to this modern classic:

This current pandemic (and I feel like I need to keep reminding everybody that it's still going) has challenged me in new ways - in particular, adjusting to working-from-home conditions when required.

The thing that actually surprised me was: I really don't enjoy working from home.

There were plenty of things that I missed:
  • A comfortable work environment with adequate heating / air conditioning, lighting, and insulation from outside noise (such as leaf blowers and 7am-4pm construction work).
  • Regular social and work-related in-person interactions with colleagues. Whether it's getting somebody to sense-check an idea or piece of work, chatting about common interests, or taking a break to wander down to the cafe together, it's these interactions which can make all the difference in a workplace.
  • The variable nature of a standard in-person job, whether it's at your desk, in a meeting room, attending a presentation, travelling to different sites.
  • Interacting with clients and visitors in person - professional relationship-building takes a whole different skill-set when you're doing it via email or teleconference, and I realised that I'm much better at connecting with people when I'm looking them in the eye.
  • Space in my domestic relationship. I'd only moved in together with my partner a couple of months earlier, and was still adjusting. Cohabiting whilst working at home full-time could be a challenge, and we needed to find ways to work around one another.
  • The ability to physically leave work at the end of the work day. My work space was my home space, and as much as I tried to create effective boundaries, I realised that I was not actually good at this. The simple acts of switching off the computer at the end of the day, turning off the light and leaving the room - never happened.
  • The commute to and from work. I realise that I'm the outlier on this one, but riding my bike to and from work has been a constant for me over the many years that I've been working, and removing that from my daily routine had an impact.
Of course, I realise that there are plenty of people who really enjoyed working from home, and that the pandemic finally created the opportunity for them to find new and productive ways of working that worked better for them.

And of course, during the current pandemic, we need to uphold measures to keep each other safe.

But to choose to work at home in physical isolation is just not for me. Even when, in the past, I've worked on personal projects, I've almost always done this in a non-domestic space, such as a cafe, library or public park.

I enjoy moving through a living world of people, whether it's travelling through the chaos of traffic, dancing in the thrum of a crowd at a live music performance, sitting amongst an engaged audience at the theatre or in a conference session, watching a library reading room full of people searching, studying and delving into their work. I love watching people, observing each person's unique traits, and then getting to know and understand them through their through their stories and questions.

I've often considered myself something of an introvert, but the thing that I really learned about myself is that I actually thrive on being in proximity to others as we continue to move through this world.

Saturday, 4 June 2022

Blogjune Day 4 - Though you're miles and miles away, I see you every day...

Today's question: How important is an online presence for an information professional?

But first! Today's song to set the tone... press play and read on.



As today is my nominated, the rules dictate that I must first answer these questions three:

1. What do I currently do for a living?

I am the Marketing Coordinator at Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres, located close to the heart of Canberra's CBD. I've been there for three months now, in a maternity leave backfill role. Like my previous communications and marketing roles, my work is primarily involved in delivering online communications, such as web content, electronic direct marketing and and social media. It's a great mix of writing, editing and proofreading, and I'm constantly learning a lot, especially when I collaborate with designers and, lately, web developers. I also find that these kinds of roles allow me to work across many sections in the organisation, as well as a cross section of the community and stakeholders, and in doing so, I build a broad understanding of what my organisation does and how people can best connect with the organisation.

2. What three words would I use to describe my role?

Connection, community, stories.

3. What is my biggest achievement to date - personal or professional?

It would have to have been in September 2006, when I made the decision to move by myself from Melbourne to Darwin, to take on my first professional role at Charles Darwin University. It was the first time that I challenged myself well and truly out of my comfort zone, having never lived away from Melbourne until that point. Had I not made that decision, and developed both professionally and personally through that experience, I might not have made other consequent decisions that have continued to create lifelong memories and professionally valuable experiences. It taught me to be comfortable taking risks, push through the challenges, and not to be discouraged by failure. It made me a better person.

And now, for the main question... the importance of online presence for information professionals.

It's interesting that I mention 2006, because it's the year that Twitter was born. When I moved to Darwin in September, the Twitterers was still a little-known entity. However, for me, it was all about the biblioblogosphere - the world of library bloggers. It was then that I encountered Libraries Interact - self-described as 'a thali of library treats', it was an online hub for library bloggers - many of whom I still connect with to this day - and some of whom are still blogging for #blogjune! For me, as a new librarian living a relatively professionally and socially isolated life in Darwin (though, to be fair, the local librarian network was incredibly active and supportive!) the biblioblogosphere was a lifeline for me to connect with librarians around Australia and the world through our blogging. So, in that context, an online presence was incredibly important!

Jump forward five years to 2011, and I took something of a hiatus from the library world online. I was frustrated with aspects of the professional sector, and was exploring new opportunities and adventures. It was strangely easy to disconnect from the library-related online channels - though I still remained socially connected through blogging (particularly a year of video-blogging around Asia!). It wasn't until 2016 that I started reconnecting with the library world, on my return to Australia after living overseas on and off for years, and found that the online library world was now all over the Twitterverse.

For me, Twitter was for connecting with the professional world, and Instagram was for connecting with my personal world. I maintained my Facebook account only to stay connected to a number of close online communities that I participate in. Twitter, in particular, was an intense channel for immersing ones self in multiple parallel and interconnecting conversations all at once - particularly in unpacking central professional principles, and challenging the status quo. I loved it, but it could also be overwhelming at times, being swept along in the virtual wave of radical ideas. When this was good, it was amazing. When it was bad - it was horrid. For me, it reached breaking point amid the height of the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, which in itself was the low point in a series of personally challenging events. I had to switch off, and whilst it was hard to resist switching off at the time, two years later I feel little FOMO or a need to really engage in this channel.

So, to answer the question - yes, information professionals need to understand how to manage an online presence. This is the world we live in, and if we are to understand this world of information-seeking behaviour, then we need to learn by doing and interacting. As a new professional, this was essential in making my mark in the professional world and connecting with my peers. But now, more than 15 years on, I'm quite happy to stand back and prioritise other aspects of my life. I do still stay connected - after all, I'm still writing here - and the thing that I 'currently do for a living' is primarily about maintaining an online presence for my organisation. But I also know when to switch off, and maintain a comfortable balance.

For the most part, I'm content (pun intended) to post semi-regularly on Instagram to remind my networks that, yes, I'm still here, life is good, and I hope that you're all doing well too. However far it seems, we'll always be together in electric dreams.

Friday, 3 June 2022

Blogjune Day 3 - Teach them well and let them lead the way.

Day three's #junequestion is a doozy: What is the most important thing to teach new librarians?

Continuing yesterday's retro musical interlude, let me set the mood...

Maybe Whitney Houston is onto something. Perhaps the most important thing to teach new librarians is to learn to love themselves - the greatest love of all - but probably not.

So back to the question. This feels like a variant on the usual, 'What's something you wish they'd taught you in library school?' or 'What new things do new librarians need to learn as part of their training?' After all, it's an ever-changing field, and we need to lean into that change.

In terms of the most important thing? My feeling is that it comes down to the principles and ethics that are at the heart of the profession.

There's one in particular that strikes a chord with me, above all others: The understanding that libraries are not neutral.

To be honest, I've always had an issue with this phrase - not the underlying message, but the way that it's presented, in opposition to the traditional idea that libraries should be neutral.

We don't identify with what we're not, but rather by what we are. So we need to start accepting that libraries are inherently political. And so are librarians.

To facilitate access to culture, knowledge and information in society is a political action.

To decide which information does and does not go into your collection is a political action.

To set guidelines on which groups can and can't use your library spaces is a political action.

To decide which cultural festivals you do and don't celebrate in your library is a political action.

To waive or uphold a library fine is a political action.

To choose which words you use to describe your collections is a political action.

To decide the terms by which people can or can't enter your library space is a political action.

To manage your library teams - and the ways you support them through pandemics, restructures and ever-changing times - is a political action.

To decide which collections you digitise and make available to the world online - and which collections you don't - is a political action.

And so on.

As much as librarians claim that they are no longer exhibit gatekeeper behaviour with your collections - you still do. All the time. And it makes a difference.

Libraries are political. Library work is political. Librarians are political.

New librarians need to realise this, and ask themselves: How will you choose to behave in your day-to-day duties, knowing that your actions will have a political impact on your library community, and the ways that they access information, gain knowledge and build their worldviews.

What could be more important than that?

Thursday, 2 June 2022

Blogjune Day 2 - On inspiration

Today's question: Who inspires you?

So, to get us in the right frame of mind, let's start with the silky smooth falsetto tones of Peter Cetera...

Now that we've got that out of the way, I must say that I hate hate hate the idea of people being 'inspiring'. So often, we use this label to describe somebody who manages to achieve something extraordinary - particularly if it's something that we can't see ourselves doing ourselves.

It might be somebody who's managed to forge a successful career to the point where they have a secure six-digit salary. Or somebody living with a disability who has still managed to achieve success in some form. Or somebody who's defied expectations, and taken the path less taken to follow their dreams and find personal satisfaction.

I've certainly crossed paths with these people, and I've felt... something. I don't know if it's inspiration, or perhaps jealousy or resentment. Because the reality is that, generally speaking, they are just people. Not worthy of putting on a pedestal as being extraordinary. In most cases, they worked bloody hard - and a bit of privilege never went astray as well.

Because there are also many many more people who also work bloody hard, but never see the same level of success.

So, who inspires me? For me, personally, it's those closest to me who see the best in me and actively encourage me to do more and to do better, especially when I doubt my own capacity. They know who they are - I don't need to name them.

And in return, I try to do the same for others. Goodness knows we all need some positive encouragement from each other from time to time.

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Blogjune Day 1 - Some useful advice.

I almost didn't sign up for BlogJune this year. Not that I'd necessarily forgotten that it was June... nor that I was lacking in things to write about. Whilst I find blogging to be a valuable exercise in reflection, it also feels a little like screaming into the void.

However, the wonderful Kathryn Greenhill has created #JuneQuestions, which has posed a question for each day of the month. Whilst the exercise encourages participants to take on one of these questions, I quite like the idea of having a shared prompt for these kinds of blogging exercises, so I aim to try to answer them all, and maybe reflect on others' answers.

So, the first question of the month: What is the most useful advice you have had from a mentor?

Firstly, I've never been one for following advice from mentors... I'll certainly listen to people describe things that have worked for them in their situation, and I definitely feel like mentorship relationships are more about sharing experiences of challenges and successes (and failures), and finding strength and encouragement through those shared experiences. But no mentor is going to have the perfect solution for their mentee / protege.

However, there was one particular moment that has stuck with when I was catching up with a former colleague over a coffee. At the time I was experiencing some level of frustration with work and career planning for the future. I knew exactly the kinds of jobs that I was good at and enjoyed doing - but such jobs were rare and extremely competitive with some substantial cultural barriers to employment. At the same time, there was plenty of work available that I was very capable at, but struggled with and didn't necessarily enjoy at the best of times.

Describing this to my (unofficial) mentor, they said to me, 'Maybe the right job for you is the one that you haven't thought of or found yet.'

It wasn't 'advice', per se, but they were absolutely right. Since I started working in the library and information sector, there has been so much emphasis on the status connected with holding a specific job title, and even though I've managed to finally shrug off the anxiety of being a 'real librarian', there are elements of this attitude that had pigeon-holed my approach to job seeking and career planning.

Over the past nine months, my focus has shifted away from a specific job title, level, or the idea of 'professionalism' that it implies, and instead looking at:

  • What kind of organisation do I want to work for? In what sector?
  • What can I tell about the people who currently work there?
  • Are there any roles on offer there that I could do?
  • What exact work does that role entail, and would I be able to do it well and enjoy it?
  • What working relationships are involved in that role, and with whom (both internal and external)?
This kind of approach has been huge in opening up the way I see the range of opportunities available, and encouraged me to apply for jobs that I would have otherwise not considered (including the job that I'm currently in).

It's also encouraged me to be open to suggestions from my peers. On several occasions, people who I know and respect have approached me about considering jobs that I wouldn't have otherwise considered, but think that I would be good in them. And it's an important reminder that I'm not always the best judge of what would be a good job for me - sometimes there are others that see my skills and strengths much better than I see them in myself. It takes a leap of faith to say 'yes' to those situations, but so far I haven't regretted it.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

We don't talk about COVID (no no no...)

Today, in The Australian Capital Territory, we had the highest number of cases reported since the peak of the Omicron wave on 19 January. And it will probably be even higher, if the recent trends of Thursday reporting the highest number of the week continues.

Not that it's really a topic of discussion anymore. Welcome to the latest stage of the pandemic - where many have simply stopped talking about it. 

It wasn't always this way. We've been through many different phases of our relationships with COVID-19, which we've been very much engaged with and responded to. Whether it's mask-wearing and sanitising, providing contactless services, limiting our travel interstate (or indeed beyond our immediate neighbourhood), getting vaccinated and then our booster shots, and limited our workplace interactions with people who are unvaccinated.

We've gone through a long list of interventions, which has limited and in some places successfully (if temporarily) eliminated the spread of COVID-19. We've been vigilant, attentive and responsive - particularly in our workplaces and in our daily interactions with each other in the community.

But at some point over the past month, it's kind of... stopped.

Since mask-wearing became optional, it was almost like engaging with the risk of COVID-19 is also now optional. And my observations from attending moderately large-scale events, such as markets and live theatre/music performances, is that the majority of people won't take up that option.

I mean, yes, I get it. We'd all rather pretend that we're now in a post-COVID world. But we're not. We are still living in a global pandemic with widespread local transmission. We currently have a dominant strain that is more than four times as infection as the original. Thankfully, due to vaccinations, we've been able to limit the incidence of hospitalisation and death, but this is a strain that is not susceptible to immunity from previous strains, and often breaks through in cases where the person is vaccinated and boosted. And then there are the elderly and immune-compromised who are still at a very real risk of serious illness and death.

One thing that's also really struck me is that, in the last few weeks, there are more people that I know who have caught it, than in the previous two years. It's here, and it's hitting people who are within my social circles.

And yet, many of us are strangely blasé about it now. We've done all we can. Apparently we can't keep living like this, and we certainly can't go back to the lockdown days of 2020 and 2021.

So, this is what it means to live with COVID-19. It means that COVID-19 is something that happens to somebody else - until it happens to us. It means that the best thing we can do is try to live our best lives and keep our fingers crossed and stay quiet, because god forbid we should try to be proactive and ready for the next necessary intervention.

Nope.

I want us to keep talking about COVID. I want us to be able to have candid conversation with our colleagues, our clients and stakeholders, about what we can all do to maximise each others safety. Not just some standard words about adhering to government guidance - but an actual conversation to acknowledge and address people's fears about what it might actually mean to be 'living with COVID'.

I want businesses who are, understandably, keen to get their customers and audiences back through the door, to take responsibility for the safety of their workers and communities. Let's stop trying to avoid our duty of care by saying 'oh, we'll let you decide what's best for yourself' - take the initiative to say, 'here's how we're taking care of your health and welfare'.

I want dance schools to take a duty of care so that I can feel confident to go into a room with 30 other strangers, and hold their hands, knowing that we've all had a frank and open discussion about how we're going to keep each other safe.

And that goes for you too, conference organisers! If you're going to invite hundreds (or thousands) of people to a physical venue during a pandemic, then your messaging about COVID safety needs to be front and centre. There are a few upcoming conferences on my radar, and from what I can see, this is not adequately being addressed.

I do understand that this stuff is hard, but we've been doing it for the past two years, and communication is essential for managing any kind of relationship. So, let's keep talking about it.

And if we don't feel comfortable talking about it, we need to ask ourselves why. Is it because in doing so, we might be acknowledging that we're taking risks by opening up - risks that we're not ready to accept yet? But that's another conversation for another time...