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!

“There are typical librarians, but not all librarians are typical”

“There are typical librarians, but not all librarians are typical.”  ~  Excerpt From: Peters, Elizabeth. “The Seventh Sinner”

Jacqueline (or ‘Jake’ as she is often known by) isn’t the librarian one usually encounters in fiction.  Throughout her book series, she tries her hand at other professions – amateur detective (she already has the enquiring mind), sometimes historian (posing as a Richard III enthusiast), and romance writer (because she knows all the tropes and how to write them).

She’s also smart and independent.  Sometimes she dresses as librarians are imagined to dress, but she wears it almost like a disguise or a who-do-I-want-to-be-today? outfit.

I wonder how many other librarians get the same response when confessing their profession?  This is how a conversation at a social gathering usually progresses:

So what do you do?
I’m a librarian.
Whoa, no way!  That’s cool.  You don’t look like a typical librarian.
What does a typical librarian look like?
You know – twinset…bun…glasses (gestures)
Oh I only dress like that if they force me to be in a promotional photo. 
Ah, do they like you to dress librarian…ish?
They like it about as much as I like being in photoshoots. 
 
If you should come across a photo of a librarian looking like Wednesday Addams with her hair in a bun and cat eye glasses, it is probably me.

Wednesday
Yeeeaaah… much like that.

I read the Jacqueline Kirby series before I became a librarian.  The books sided with me on my counter-assumption that librarianship was more interesting and librarians less typical than most portrayals allowed them to be.

I have since come across many different librarians in fiction that begin to traverse from what was once the norm.  Not all of them are brilliant or remarkable, but it’s nevertheless a step outside what has been a fairly rigid square.

John Simm as “Frank” in Miranda

The sarcastic teen librarian that Lisa Simpson has a crush on in Bart’s Girlfriend
Simpson

The Orang-utan librarian in the Discworld
Discworld

I could do more of a list, but the thing I begin to notice is that many of the librarians who get to step outside of the norm are male, whereas female librarians are often still constricted to being the “Scary Librarian” or “Hot Librarian” (you will find both of these as tropes on the infamous TV Tropes website.

I trust I am mistaken in this – and that there are plenty more unique, female, fictional librarians out there too.  But this is perhaps why I hold Jacqueline Kirby up as the quintessential example of a well-characterised fictional librarian.

Moreover, as fascinating as it is to find librarians in pop-culture, what I find most entertaining and ground-breaking are the other librarians I meet in my line of work.

It makes me think you could never easily pick in real life who a librarian might be.  Sadly, in fictionalised media, it is often almost too easy.

“Quanto in aeternum”
If you like this please like or comment. If you would like to have your say please feel free to send us your articles to theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz

NZ Sign Language & Libraries

I find when I am enjoying the gentle warm rain of the shower at night, the steaminess enveloping me in a foggy cloud from the world, my mind drifts back to random episodes out of the past.

For whatever reason, my train of thought wandered back to the day I was on desk and helping a woman who was Deaf.  She was able to communicate what she needed me to do, but I remember feeling my own failure in not being able to make the exchange easier for her; expressly, my lack of knowledge in NZ Sign Language.

Once I was nicely warm in my pyjamas, I set to researching courses in NZ Sign Language on the internet.  In particular, I wanted to ascertain if there were courses tailored for libraries and the kinds of conversations one is likely to have with patrons.

It takes time to become proficient in any new language – but what if there was a course that would teach library staff the signs to say such things as:

·         Kia ora, how are you?

·         Would you like help finding something?

·         Would you like me to renew this book?

·         We need to update your address details

…And so forth.

I remember at the public library we did have a lady come in and teach us how to sign a few simple phrases, but what I had in mind was a slightly more intensive course – perhaps six sessions – which would be of specific and practical use.

 Are there such courses available?  Is this a feasible idea?  I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts and comments on this.

 At the moment I am trying to self-learn a little from this website: http://nzsl.vuw.ac.nz/

Are there such things as library mentors?

At present I’m in like with my job, everything is going well and I’m enjoying the work that I have to do. However, I know that a time will come where I would like to move on. But I have no idea how to get from my current position to where I would ultimately like to go. But, I would really like to change that.

So my question is, are there such things as library mentors?

I would really love if I could find someone who could guide me in my career and let me know what I need to do in order to advance in the direction I would like to go.

The obvious choice would be to speak to my manager however, while she has been in the industry for a lengthy amount of time from what I can see her focus is very local and she does not really engage with the wider community like I would like to. Also, in the past people have only stayed in the role short term so I’ve got the impression that if I mention moving on she will think I have itchy feet and become concerned that I am thinking about leaving.

Once this is out, my thinking takes me to LIANZA. Do they have a mentor type programme?

The answer to this is yes and here is a link to it: http://www.lianza.org.nz/professional-registration/lianza-mentoring-scheme

I love that they do this. However, my only problem is you need to be professional registered and I have not completed my MLIS so therefore can’t. This I could be wrong about though because as I was filling out the, can I register type questionnaire it told me this:

LIANZA

But to be honest, I don’t know if I want to professionally register yet. I know I do one day but at the moment I’m just dipping my toes in the water with LIANZA. I don’t know if I’m ready for this type of commitment.

So what am I do to?

Katniss

I think I may just email the person who is in the job I would ultimately like and ask them how they got to be where they are. I don’t know if this is a good idea, if the person will even get back to me or if this is beneficial. But, I’ve got to try because at this point I don’t know the path I need to take.

I would really appreciate your advice, stories and comments about this so either do this below or email us at theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz

How I chose librarianship

What do you want to be when you grow up? One of the top five worst questions you can ask a child and/or teen (and, let’s be real, twenty-somethings don’t need reminding of their failures).

When I grow up

When I was at school and faced with this question, I would spout off my latest fantasy, and these never included real professions (like nurse, doctor, teacher, accountant). I think I was 15 when I stopped adhering to this particular social norm.

IDK

I really, really didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I was pretty good at a lot of things. But as I grew older my pessimism started to outweigh my competitive spirit.

Fast forward, if I may…

I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, no experience, and an intimidating student loan. Thus, I couldn’t get a job (I wish someone had told me that anything less than a Masters is basically bum fodder). After a year stuck as a middle-manager in hospo, surrounded by poor upper-managerial decisions and drunken workmates, I decided I needed to explore my post-graduate options.

Honours was immediately out. I’d love to spend a year immersed in my major (yes, I found something I liked enough to want to read and write about for an extended period of time), but alas, it is much too fun to result in job opportunities. But this was also a problem. I found for a lot of post-grad courses, that extra level of education was a prerequisite, especially if you didn’t have work experience within that particular field.

In the end I had narrowed my, well, narrow options, down to two: Museum and Heritage Studies, or Information (Library, Archives and Records) Studies. I chose the latter, feeling there may be more job opportunities at the end (the ability to study by distance was also appealing).

I wasn’t particularly passionate about a subset of society, I didn’t harbour radical beliefs about the freedom of information. I just wanted a good job, with the potential for advancement, where I could put my intelligence to use.

The fact that I was on this academic journey is (I believe) 99% of the reason I got my first job in libraries, only one trimester into study. For this reason alone, choosing Information Studies was a good move. I would not have gotten a similar role without it. I’d never been in an environment where so many people shared my tastes and opinions, and these folks will be my friends for a long time to come.

I would also add that, not really knowing what my professional options might be, other than working in a public, academic, or school library (I don’t think the existence of corporate libraries had even occurred to me), in that first trimester I was blown away by all the career possibilities.

The Master of Information Studies genuinely is as broad as it sounds. Having been studying for a while, taking a variety of papers, my career options continue to expand.

I still don’t know what I want to be. I don’t want to be limited by one thing. I’ve got my foot in the door, and I just need to find some patience while I consider my next move, and then see where it takes me.

We would love to hear about your experiences so please email us at theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz

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LIANZA?

I am not a member of LIANZA (Library and Information Association of New Zealand) and that is because I don’t really know what they offer. I am unsure what they do as an organisation and since I’m still relatively new to the librarian game I didn’t see how they could benefit me as a library assistant.

This is partly, OK probably mostly, due to my ignorance. I actually haven’t even tried to see if this organisation could benefit me. My reason for this is because my limited experiences with the organisation have been mixed.

I have been to the brilliant Mātauranga Maori course as well as a great conference which proved to be both interesting and inspiring. But I also when to another event where I felt I was being talked down to because I was a library assistant.

For my MLIS studies I have done some research into the professional registration scheme which meant I am  somewhat familiar with this and the website and both this things I found to be lacking. However, I acknowledge this was over a year ago and my more recent dealings with the website have been more positive as improvements are being made.

LIANZA was coloured for me by past colleagues who were part of the professional registration scheme who would only talk about it in groans and whimpers when discussing all of the work needed to be part of the registration scheme.

Possibly to my detriment I have always viewed the organisation as an old boys club and something that I could never penetrate and be a part of. In my opinion there is already a weird hierarchy between shelvers, library assistants and librarians and I didn’t want to endure that in my professional organisation as well.

As I can’t really speak to what LIANZA offers as I’m currently just a judgy, ignorant outsider, in an ideal world what would I want them to offer?

  • Career development opportunities; courses, conferences and networking
  • Advocacy
  • An inclusive organisation that celebrates and offers something for all parts of our diverse industry
  • Support to try and keep public libraries free
  • Lobbying for higher remuneration for the profession (This honestly should and probably will be a whole blog post at some point but could we not be one worst paid jobs with a Masters degree?)
  • A library community because in my experience library employees are really cool.

But I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth is and join. I currently don’t really have the right to be so dismissive of this organisation before I haven’t really taken the time to get to know. I hope it exceeds my expectations.

Please like, share and comment on this post. If you would like to write something for the blog please send your posts to theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz Everyone welcome.

‘My’ public library

I have this unfailing optimism when it comes to public libraries.This seems to be in spite of all of the terrible stories I’ve heard from wonderful people working today in New Zealand public libraries whose skills and hard work are either ignored or disrespected by their councils. I could be disheartened that in 2012 the Local Government (Public Libraries) Amendment Bill was not passed which would have meant that public library services would by law have to be free. I could also be nervous about where the future of New Zealand public libraries is going if I were to compare it with the situation in the United Kingdom where professional library services are being replaced with volunteer run libraries again discounting the profession of librarianship. But all I can see is the promise there.

To me a public library is more than a book depository, I like to think of it as the hub for the community. Yes, I do think it should be where people come if they would like to get a book to read for either pleasure or advice but it can also be more than that. The community could also borrow other hard to get or expensive items such as sewing machines or instruments. Or possibly even amalgamate with the toy library so the library becomes this sort of one stop shop for community needs.  I also believe it would be of value to have community rooms which groups could book for free. As computers and internet services have become increasingly important possibly there could be a bookable computer room for classes such as senior net and job searching. Maybe it could even have the information centre attached because in my experience the library seems to be the first place travelers come anyhow. I have no idea how this would all work and you know what it possibly wouldn’t but public libraries to me have so much promise I find it impossible not to dream.

Now I know this has a lot to do with the fact I’m still relatively new to the library profession. I have only been working in libraries for five years now and I’ve only been studying for my professional qualifications for one of those. I guess my enthusiasm has yet to be beaten down. What library employee hasn’t heard the refrain why do we need libraries in the age of the great and powerful Google? It made me tired just writing the question let alone answering it yet again. I feel like we have a right to feel tired as we are expected to constantly justify our very existence what feels like daily. But for the many that actually use library services they realise the value of our jobs and appreciate the work we do. Every time a patron tells me they have enjoyed a service I have provided makes it worth the effort I put in and helps generate the optimism I feel. I know what I want from a public library isn’t for everyone so in the comment section tell us what your ideal library would look like.