Leadership, huh?!?

Recently I’ve been asked a lot about where I see myself career wise in 5 years. I always find that a difficult question as I know where I would ultimately like to go but don’t really know how to get there.

I believe I would like to go into management and team leadership but I feel like I don’t know why.


For this post I really want to unpack the idea of leadership, basically the hows, the whys and the what. I’m a little worried this may come across a little too job interviewy so please feel free to offer that in the comments.

I think as workers we all have an idea about what a leader or a boss is as we all have had the experience of having one; be that a manager or just as some body we are accountable to. For instance, the library manager is my boss while the CE of the council’s boss is their staff, their community and the elected members. If either of us, do not deliver what is expected of us we will be accountable to these people and they have the power to remove us from our position.

So why would I want the responsibility of being in a leadership position?

Without any modesty I can say I think I would be a great leader.

I believe that the best organisation have a bottom-up model and actually listen to those on the group floor as they are the ones dealing with your user group every day. From their daily experiences they will know what your community likes about your library, what they don’t like and what they would like to see more of. While, I am quick to admit that all criticism isn’t constructive it definitely pays to listen to those at the coal face as this sort of feedback is invaluable.


Staff should be given praise when they go above and beyond and constructive criticism when necessary from their managers. This does not mean we should foster a culture of blame. If a small mistake happens sometimes it’s okay to let it go. I do not believe its ever appropriate to email a whole team about a small uncommon mistake made by one team member. This sort of thing does not encourage openness and as a leader its important that your team feels comfortable talking to you without fear of inaction, shaming tactics or outright dismissal of their concerns.

Let it go

As someone looking up I believe its important that a leader be someone both liked but respected. This is a difficult to accomplish but very worthwhile if you can manage it. This means no gossiping and leading by example. Be the kind of employee, you want them to be. It’s harder to slack off when you see your leader is giving a 110%.

I want to be a leader so I can effect positive change for me, my employees and my user group. I am the sort of person who fights for the things that I believe in and am passionate about. Our industry does not need yes men who are just willing to be good enough but never put in the extra yards needed to achieve greatness. This means really pushing for staff development opportunities and training budgets. These sorts of things matter to employees and fosters loyalty to a manager and organisation.

In my experience good leadership is instrumental in have good workplace morale and staff retention. No one wants to stay at a place when you’re boss is dismissive of your ideas, never praises your good work and is gossipy about your fellow staff. So I would like to be the change I would like to see and stand up and be a leader in an industry that I’m deeply passionate about.

Please feel free to like, share or add your comments. We love to hear what you have to say. Do you agree, disagree or have a story to share? If you would like to post please email: theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz


Opinions and Puns

Hey folks. Perhaps somewhat late to the regatta, this post is going to wade into the discussion taking place around the age restriction review (and interim ban) of Ted Dawe’s book Into the River. The mainstream opinion is that the book should not be banned, nor have an age restriction. There are countless reasons why this course of action, in 2015, is like paddling upstream.

There have also been confusing messages surrounding why the review has been called for, but generally the contentious topics seem to be sex, drugs, bullying, and use of the ‘c’ word.

Either way, you can’t protect people – children or no – from their own realities. And thus our two bloggers’ explore the murky waters of banning books.


It should come as little surprise to you that I work at a library. The other day I got to feel the joy of removing a book from our stack room to the main collection as the age limitations were removed. However, this was quickly replaced with despair as less than 24 hours later I had to remove it again to its new home – my desk. If you’ve been following the news you would know that this is 2013 New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, Into the River.

First things first, I need to admit that beyond a few choice paragraphs I have not read this book but I am terribly opposed to the banning of it. To me the complaint is wholly down to the depiction of sex. I did skip to those parts and the sex is used to advance the story so was neither exploitative nor gratuitous.

Throughout my life as a New Zealander I’ve been encouraged to partake in New Zealand media, be it movies, music or books. The reason being, I thought, was to both see and embrace my people and culture and be able to relate to people and places like my own. This isn’t a new rhetoric for our country, but to me it now seems hypocritical. It feels to me like the censors decision has told our kids that it’s alright to read New Zealand stories as long as they aren’t too close to reality.

How naive are we are as a country to think our youth aren’t engaged in sexual acts? I know I was, my friends were, even my parents and grandparents. It’s a tale as old as time. Sometimes even teachers and students engage in unprofessional relationships, it actually happened at my school. I don’t understand why this should be our dirty secret, that people talk about in whispers and behind closed doors. We should have more books like, Into the River that openly talk about the New Zealand teenage experience, because maybe if more people saw themselves in our books this sorts of situations would become a minority instead of the norm.  



I haven’t read Into the River either. Normally, I wouldn’t consider someone who had not partaken in the consumption of a medium to comment, but I feel that our experiences with the book is reason to indulge. Last year at the LIANZA Conference I attended a talk about censorship – much of which discussed this very topic. It was insightful, infuriating, but also entertaining. The speakers did a great job of explaining the situation, what efforts had been made to ensure it remained accessible in some way, and why having a censorship body in New Zealand is important.

Not long after that we started this blog, and I thought maybe I would get it out from my local public library and write about the experience – that of having to ask permission, as an adult, so borrow teen fiction. But I never wrote that post. Because I never got out the book. Because I didn’t know what kind of reaction I would receive. I didn’t want to get a lecture, or a reproachful look, which I’m sure would have marred the experience.


Whether we like it or not, librarians have to power to censor too, through disapproving looks, the curation of book displays, or purchase decisions. People trust our judgement and our opinion. I experienced this as a child. The exact details escape me, but I remember hearing about and wanting to read George Orwell’s Animal Farm. I think I was probably intermediate aged – I’ve always been a big reader. So my mum took my to our public library. She asked the librarian, who looked me up and down and told her that it would be too adult for me, I wouldn’t understand it, and would I like a child’s version instead. Of course I didn’t, so I left empty handed.


I still remember to this day the anger and embarrassment she made me feel. What was this book that I’d requested to read? Was it really that bad? Or was she just being a typical adult and assuming she knew me because of a uniform? I ended up reading it a few years later in English. I probably wouldn’t have understood all the concepts when I was younger, but there was nothing offensive in it either. I still can’t understand what made her think she had the right to deny me this book, and I’ll never forget it.

So let’s take this latest saga with Into the River as a chance to reflect on our own practices.



As this topic has been well covered in listservs, in the news and around the water cooler, we’d love to see comments instead about books you read when you were young that maybe weren’t so appropriate, we’ve all been there and turned out just fine I’m sure!

As always if you would like to contribute please write to us at theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz – write a post, ask us to write about something, or give us feedback!

“Do you have a book I remember reading once? It had a red cover and it turned out they were twins.” Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

Oh my.  It wasn’t just a library joke.  People really did say this and mean it.  And then expect you to find the book for them.  As in, possibly right then.  At that moment.  Pronto~! 

Their faces fall if you can’t.  It’s a little bit heart-breaking, and one is left with a keen sense of failure in having been the Depository of all Literary Knowledge, and let an enthusiastic reader down.

The first time someone said this line to me, I thought they were taking the mickey and laughed.

Oops, no: serious.  Quickly back paddle.

You know, we should forget about classifying the books by the Dewey or Library of Congress systems.  Because this is how patrons really want us to shelve them:

Wellington Central Library, New Zealand

Wellington Central Library, New Zealand

I thought I would share some of the resources I use when searching for Forgotten Books

Because without doubt, they are a thing.  They are usually children’s or young adult books, as this comes about when people begin to suffer from Nostalgia Sickness. 

It is usually only a quick dose of this illness, but like a nagging bacterial infection, needs a specialised antibiotic to make it go away.

And that antibiotic is a particular book.  And it is up to you to make a diagnosis and find that book.

So, here are a few of the resources I use:

·         Goodreads Group – What’s The Name Of That Book???


·         Stump the Bookseller (N.B. Small fee applies but archives free to browse)


·         Search (e.g. Google) keywords (any details of plot, names, etc. also ‘book’, ‘story’, ‘young adult’, ‘historical’, ‘thriller’, etc.)

·         Literature Reference Guides, e.g.

          Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English, edited by Jenny Stringer

–          Bloomsbury Guide to Women’s Literature, edited by Claire Buck

–          Cambridge Companion to Scottish Literature, edited by Gerard Curruthers, Liam McIlvanney

·         AbeBooks.com BookSleuth®


·         Also the image searching option for search engines can be helpful.  For example, typing in “purple book cover” yields:

Purple Cover

On a related matter: people, after finding out I work in a library, will either…

a) say I don’t look like a librarian

b) ask me to recommend them a book

“Uh, ok.  What kind of stories or characters interest you?  Fiction or non-fiction?  What have you enjoyed watching or readi-“

“No, no,” my dentist says cheerfully.  “just off the top of your head.”

Gravity’s Rainbow,” I shoot back as he reaches for the drill.

These are some of the resources or strategies I use to help recommend a book (or suggest to people that they use):

·         The Ultimate Teen Book Guide, by Daniel Hahn (Editor), Susan Reuben, Leonie Flynn

·         The internet.  Just search the internet.  Blogs, forums, LibraryThing, Goodreads (especially good for reading quotes from books and getting a ‘feel’ for them)

·         Suggest they read the book of the film they loved.  Yes, there is often a book it was based on – and the book is seldom less amazing!

·         What Should I Read Next? http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/

Does anyone else have some ideas or resources they would like to share for making book recommendations or of use in finding Forgotten Books?

What happened to the library cat?

At every library I’ve worked at, my co-workers and I have always pondered, when will we get a library cat?


This is a thing we know we will never get but really enjoy the idea of. Cats and librarians go together like peas and carrots and as such many a library has had a library cat. But this seems to be a dying breed. At new work places I have heard many a story of the old library cat but now a days these do not get replaced.


I can understand why but I think it’s a shame this is dying out. For one spending just 15 to 30 minutes of quality time with a cat can calm your nerves and boost your mood. Here’s a whole article about the benefits of petting a cat I’m sure this would be useful for both staff and patrons especially at times of stress such as exam time at an academic library.


If you would like to try and track down a library cat try this website: New Zealand library cats At the very least I am certain that the cat at the Devonport library is still around for pats and a good wander through the stacks.


If you have any thoughts or stories about library cats please comment or like this post. We always welcome submissions. To do this please email theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz

LIANZA Library Assistants and Archive Support Assistants Day

Last month I attended the LIANZA Library Assistants and Archive Support Assistants Day that was held in Wellington.  The first of these days was held last year and was Library Assistants only, this year it was opened up to Archive Support Assistants.

In this post I am mainly concerned with the day itself rather than the wider issues of professional development and opportunities for Library Assistants to develop their skills and network.

I found the experience to be a positive one.  This year the day was split into brief talks in the morning session with tours at The Parliamentary Library and Te Papa offered in the afternoon.  As it is only a day it limits what is able to be offered.  I think the day is more about meeting people from different types of Libraries (or Archives) and finding out what is happening in the wider industry.

I found the talks to be interesting, I particularly enjoyed the presentation from Beth Wishart about her research project looking at stress in the workplace and hearing from Annette Beattie about the technology projects that the Hutt City Libraries are developing with the needs of the community as the motivating factor.

I hope that LIANZA builds on this event and continues to offer chances for professional growth.

I would be interested in hearing from people who attended the day and what they gained (or didn’t) from the experience.

I think this event is great as LIANZA offers the chance to volunteer for the organising committee which allows us, as Library Assistants, to have a say in what we want.  What do you think is lacking in the industry?  What skills should Library Assistants be developing?  What do we really want from organisations such as LIANZA or ARANZ?

Please feel free to comment or like this post. If you would like to submit a piece for the blog please email us at theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz

Thus far, and no further…

Kia ora koutou,

Today is the day I have decided to give up on my library degree.

It is a decision I have come to slowly, but is one now made.  There were two stand-out factors that finally swayed me off the path I was on.

These were personal perceptions and should not influence anyone else; nor are they to be taken as gospel.  I hope that by sharing them here, they might open up some useful discussions.

1. The people being promoted in my library don’t have library-related degrees.

Well, the bottom line and message here is that they actually count for little.

2.  Library school does not have enough papers that focus strongly enough on Information technology or teaching skills.

These are two things that are likely to become increasingly important in the library sector.

I have completed my studies to just beyond diploma/certificate level, and I feel this serves me well enough.  If I decide to pursue further study, I feel it would be more useful for me to put my money towards teaching, business, IT – or any other qualification.

There is repetitive discussion in the library world about the push to have librarianship recognised as a Profession.

Like many of my classmates, I quickly tired of what seemed like attempts to enlist me to this cause.  Moreover, there will always be a difference between *being* professional and being *a* professional.  The former has always been more important to me than the latter, and I daresay for employers too.

After visiting some special libraries and archives, I can see that the nature of the work in parts of the field certainly do require a person to have specialised skills particular to their job.

However, the apparent dismissiveness towards the qualifications an applicant holds when appointments are made for senior library roles does negate the value of a library degree.

I feel that any time myself or my colleagues have been elevated, it has been based on personality and natural skill rather than qualifications.  Perhaps this is as it should be – but now, now I intend to use my savings to travel rather than continue study.

Best wishes to all of you with a more ambitious and positive outlook than myself!

Peace. X

Future of Libraries Summit

About 9 days ago LIANZA held a Future of Libraries Summit in Wellington. Even thought I would have loved to attend I was unable to but I’ve been reading a selection of blog posts about the event. I’m glad to say most of the feedback has been positive. This has been really great to see as I believe it’s important for the profession to have discussions about it’s future direction so at the very least we are on the same page. I would really like to engage with this and be part of this discussion so I thought I could answer some of the questions presented.

What are the key drivers of the profession?

While I agree that as a whole we are a diverse industry I believe the key drivers are pretty much the same. Every library wants to engage with and provide for its user group. This is because if we don’t, what is our purpose? Therefore academic libraries have to cater for students and academics. If they don’t provide text books, access to databases and research help what’s the point of having a library at the university and I can imagine an outcry from their key user groups.

I also believe that quality training, mentor ship and development opportunities for the younger sector of the industry are crucial for the continued existence of this field. If this is not done once our current leaders retire who is going to take up the mantel and keep libraries alive?

What would a flourishing library sector look like in 2025 if we address these key drivers?

I believe it will create terrific leaders who recognise the importance of training and open communication. It will be librarians who believe in sharing their skills instead of hoarding their knowledge. These people will understand the importance of constructive criticism and listening to those down below who are actually working with our patrons and clients. This will mean that we can better serve our communities and users and therefore we won’t feel the need to continually talk about our relevance because people will see this in their everyday lives.

What are we currently doing to address these drivers – at the library level, at the sector level, at the whole of profession level?

I believe the Kotuku leadership course that LIANZA is currently running is a great start. However, as stated previously I believe that mentor ship for those who haven’t created their library qualifications would be beneficial too. At present I think we have a culture that dismisses open communication and criticism about the industry; the Issues Desk is a perfect example as we write this anonymously so we can get jobs in the future! Maybe it would be good to change the culture around this. Again, I believe the summit was a great way to do this. However, I would be interested to see how many people young in the industry were involved and what the restrictions to this were.

Where are the gaps?

I think I possibly addressed this above. But I believe its really important we create an environment of open communication. I know all opinions aren’t valid but it would be great if people could express them without fear of recrimination and lack of job opportunity. Again, I’m going to use The Issues Desk as an example, we only created this blog as we are passionate about the industry but felt we had no forum to discuss it. Shouldn’t we want to hear from people that are passionate instead of punishing them?

Who should take responsibility for these gaps?

Everyone! But in particular I believe people in management positions and the professional organisation. Come on guys, lets foster a culture of openness! Let’s listen to our front line staff! Let’s offer more leadership training!

Where to from here?

I don’t know but I worry that nothing will come from the Summit and that would be a huge mistake as I believe we should capitalise on this open discussion.

I hope that all made sense I’m a bit sick and fevery. Please feel free to comment or email us at theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz We would really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and opinions!