Knitting … and the peace it has brought me

17 Jul

I’ve just remembered it is Monday and I agreed to try


and have now forgotten several times in one day to come up with a post.

This blog post should be about #VALATechCamp – which was amazing, and inspiring, and has given me a To Do list of 50 new things to try. However I have been going over my notes in between web meetings and my head is far too full at this stage to decant clearly.

So I’m going to talk about getting headspace back instead.

Anyone who has met me has probably been subjected to a bit of a rant on my obsession about work/life balance, and the work required to get to this harmonious and productive point. I have been a workaholic, still there after late night library closing, up sending messages again early in the morning. I’ve also been so disengaged with my work that days have passed without me being able to recall to anyone what I had covered in that time. Now I like to think I am achieving close to balance, and am always interested in new neuroscience research that talks about how to get there.

I signed up for Mindful in May this year, a repeat on last year, hoping to achieve real progression in my capacity to let thoughts go past my mind’s eye without grabbing them and developing each one into it’s own new docudrama or 10 year business plan. Some progress was made but not much.

At my CWA meeting in the same month we talked about learning new crafts, and someone mentioned that knitting was supposed to be good for depression, meditation and letting go anxiety. Then someone on my Mindful in May discussion group mentioned why a repetitive can assist in meditation, and I started to hope that a repetitive practice may help me.

I’ve now been knitting a little bit each day for a month. It has helped me calm down, focus and yes – achieve some mindfulness (for a few minutes or so). Like my pottery class, some part of your brain takes on the subconscious task of completing a known activity, and it’s enough to keep me anchored when other thoughts drift past.  In meetings, where after an hour I tend to get restless, where a part of my brain starts to focus on this as time lost, constantly straining to be doing something else; knitting has calmed that anxious voice. It may not be doing work but it is being used for something productive, and known.

At home knitting is creative, and has me thinking about the upcoming birth of a friend’s baby as I knit booties, rather than what I could be creating at work.

I’m sure it is also helping me that when I knit, both my hands are full and I cannot hold a phone or ipad …

End of another #blogjune

30 Jun

And now we are at the end of another #blogjune and once again, it seemed to move so slowly and take such effort to create each post for the first 10 days, yet then suddenly it was too fast and I haven’t covered everything I meant too and have unfinished thoughts in my drafts pile.


So what have I learnt?

  • that NLS sounds fantastic and I must stop worrying about being too jaded to be allowed near New Librarians and get to one of them
  • that @paulhagon can make anything sound enticing, even organising the metadata in my itunes files
  • I have remembered my first job, thought about what I should be learning in terms of management development and considered tips for new librarians
  • that I can write, and even enjoy writing, and I should use this blog more than once a year
  • that I am a part of a wonderfully interesting network of people with a range of hobbies and thoughts that are incredibly rich and supportive

What will I actually take away?

  • Slowly actually developing a management professional reading plan for us to share (platform still undecided)
  • Quite like the idea of #shyJuly and @paulhagon is going to help me; so watch this space for ideas on how to stay present online without being part of major platforms


How have you all found #blogjune this year?

Econobabble and #filthyrichandhomeless

29 Jun

I sat down tonight to treat myself to watching to in my warm house as the rain came down outside – and got drawn into #filthyrichandhomeless – to REALLY highlight just how much of a privilege this treat was. 

I hadn’t planned to watch it. I thought it was going to be poverty porn at the worst, or spoilt brats getting tv space at a minimum.  It wasn’t. @blackfellafilms have done an excellent job of exposing the pathways to homelessness. I cried. I was inspired by the kindness of those living on the streets. 

So if you are reading this tonight, before tax cut off, please consider donating to Launch Housing via

The discussions around solutions were very good too. So rare to hear from support services workers and policy writers on our to screens, and there should be more of it. Conversations about why governments aren’t achieving more with our taxes, and the role of taxes to support those in society who need; these link into a great book I am currently reading.

Econobabble by Richard Denniss   (Find him as @RDNS_TAI on Twitter)   is about how economic jargon is used to hide the fact that as a rich society Australia could fund social needs, but currently chooses not to. It is an interesting breakdown of what we could be asking our politicians for, rather than tax cuts. 

A relevant article he wrote about housing costs is online here 

Time travel questions

28 Jun

OK today’s #blogjune post is thanks to @libsmatter who will make all these into a Storify

  • If you could go back and tell your 20 year old self one thing that was going to happen to you between then and today, what would that be?

Oh this is so easy. You’re gay, you’re gay, you are GAY! Sigh. The opportunities I missed not coming out at University.

I’m going back in time with Dr.Who, the TARDIS and Bill right?

Although as my friends who told me I was gay then would say
– I wouldn’t believe myself.


Maybe I would say “you are going to have a job, wonderful friends and your own house sometime in the future. Relax, enjoy the ride and stop worrying”.

I look at 20 year olds today (I work at a University, there are a lot around) and I wish I had a way to give this advice without sounding patronising. I wasted so much time worrying about the future, and it never led to anything changing; it just leads to time wasted on stress. Live every minute of the present if you can.


  • In 20 years time (presuming the world gets better, not worse) what do you think will be the biggest technological difference between your life now and your life then ?


Hmmm. Well I want the difference to be that capitalism is dead and the world revolves around people, the environment and supporting both of these.

However I know that 20 years goes faster than expected, so I think the real difference will be Artificial Intelligence. I assume we will be able to access larger and larger data sets more easily, that transactional jobs will have been handed over to AI and that work as we know it will have ballooned into creation of new things based on reusing  information.

Perhaps if this happens society will be heading towards my dream anyway, as social and intellectual capital becomes more important than physical manufacturing.

Tips for management

27 Jun

I was thinking about my career path after I wrote up last night’s (rushed) #blogjune about my first Library job. I have been lucky enough to have some amazing colleagues, and received real hands on mentoring from a range of senior library staff.
I’ve been trying to offer the same to my colleagues recently, as succession planning, general mentoring and engagement with people across management levels seems reduced in recent years.

I was considering what are the key tips I have been told. Below are a few, however keep in mind that the advice that most resonates depends on the context the listener has at that time. Often multiple people had given me the same advice but I only heard it from the one who told me when I was in the right space myself. 

Self care – setting a visible work/life balance standard is not only important for your own self care; it also means that your staff can feel free to do the same. 

Management is not supervision. There is more to it, and you need to educate yourself and study the areas you need to improve if you want to make it a career. 

Learn what your stress triggers are and then practice asking for help well before you reach those stress points. Be open with your colleagues about what your behaviours under stress may be, and how to manage you if they emerge. 

In change resistant culture remember that you may not see the results of a change, or acceptance of its implementation, for up to 12 months. Do not give up early because you think you have no results. Plan for long term implementation. 

My favourite: Incompetency is almost always more likely to be the cause than maliciousness. (This one has saved me from yelling at tired people, and also lowered my own blood pressure and assumptions a lot).

Today I heard a good one – when you meet new colleagues always make time at that point to build some trust and engagement. If you wait for a future less busy time that person may already have decided not to engage with you. I like that this advice gives a great rationale for prioritising people and networks building.  

What advice do you have for colleagues based on your own work experience?

My first job

26 Jun

Whoops. 6 mins to write a daily #blogjune piece.

Let’s copy @flexnib, who was copying ?? Who was responding to a call based on ALIA’s 80th

My very first library work (unpaid) was as some sort of school library helper. I don’t remember why, but I do remember using the library so much I was excited to be able to stamp my own due dates and waltz past any queues. And getting first pick of new books.
My first paid library job was as a student at University of Melbourne, needing cash, and landing a 20 hour/week library job in the Engineering branch.

This led to some funny culture sharing as I shelved in my student Arts uniform of protest tshirts, bright leggings, and on some occasions a tutu – amongst the older male dominated flanny wearing Engineering boys. 

One of their favourite tricks was to build bridges of books across two aisles in the “silent study area”  counterlevered in the air – so no matter how many I tried to hold when I took them down some had to crash to the ground.

5 years later when I graduated mid year without my own batch of Arts students, I was lucky enough to be sharing a queue with some of those same Engineering students, so I guess I gained a community. 

26 years later I’m still working in the University of Melbourne library system, having held a number of different positions. My current Manager role is in the area of Collection Access and Delivery: and through absolutely no planning whatsoever, my resume does trace this role back to that first one in terms of space management.
As the shelver over one summer I decided to take on a project to create  more space for our growing journal collection, by working out how much space we could gain with some new bays, working out what space needed to be left for each title’s growth and then backshelving (for months) with casuals to make it fit. I got it wrong by a couple of shelves in the middle and was helped out by my colleagues at the time, however overall did quite well, and had a Manger who formally recognized me for the work. A few years later this was known as a Space Audit, and became all the rage as libraries started losing collection space for seating, and I got a chance at another project which led to a promotion, which led to more skills learning, which led to another promotion and so on and so on.
But that’s enough for tonight if I am to get this up in time. Perhaps more another day. 
Would love to hear about other people’s work in libraries too … 

Lifelong learning 

25 Jun

I had a wonderful afternoon today in Thornbury, Melbourne attending a Women of Letters event. I heard beautiful performance as women read their own written letters, learnt that Rebecca Gibney has a strong fear of public speaking, was inspired to lose weight whilst holding onto my vices by Sue-Ann Post and was overwhelmed by the strength of real women in my community who have been through hard trials and survived to find a life of joy. 
I get a lot of these great options living in #Melbourne. I recently enjoyed a “How to draw monsters” class from a wonderful group called Laneway Learning. Effectively you get to explore a cafe/bar down a Melbourne Laneway, whilst also learning about something new. Classes are cheap and at handy evening times. Topics are very diverse, and if you’re looking for new friends you can stay on afterwards to discuss what you learnt over a drink.
Melbourne also has a wonderful writers meeting place called the  Wheeler Centre. They offer free or paid talks that cover a range of subjects around the theme of writing, authors, politics, religion, the environment etc. They try  different formats offering podcasts and online book clubs for those who prefer online, and country events for those not in the CBD.

Then yesterday I was introduced to a knitting group, held in the back room of a yarn shop Woolarium. The members talked about how wonderful it is to have a space to relax, work through issues, chat to people about the hobby they love or are learning.
I am so thankful to have these (and many other opportunities) to learn about a range of things. Lifelong learning is important to me in formats other than formal education. I will engage more creatively when assessment is more non existent or relaxed. 
What learning do you all undertake in your lives? 

Future of libraries

24 Jun

At MPOW we are currently under review. Again. Our last review was just over 2 years ago. In academic time measurement, that’s 10 minutes 😉
Initially all the stress of the last review returned to me with a whoosh. I was vocally negative about “why” we needed another review, what was it trying to achieve. It took several months for the Terms of Reference to come out, and luckily for me, in this time I got tired of listening to my negative self.  I’ve moved on to enjoying the motivation to sit back and review what I do, what my work delivers, and what I could contribute in the future.

It’s not perfect – I’m still stressed about retaining a job with good working conditions and salary and whether I will have to sack people who work with me. However I have been able to pull myself out of my negative spiral that disempowered me, and feel more proactive by considering the future and where myself and my colleagues would sit in that future.
So … I’m genuinely interested in where you all think the future of libraries lies? From everyone out there. 
My thoughts so far cover

  • Seamless access: libraries can work with publishers and other content owners to continue to ensure pathways to content are user friendly, authentication is simple and awareness of what you have searched and what you haven’t is transparent. Areas in this include fighting for legislation for open access, improving authentication systems, working with publishers to reduce multiple interfaces, continuing to argue for affordable packages and some general public access. eg @mrsuperspy has been working hard on ensuring publishers divest themselves of old textbook models and are understand they need to move into electronic options 
  • Improved search options: the internet keeps growing and growing. Google can however only find you what is items with the right identifiers so metadata is a massive future arena for librarians. Teaching people how to search well, how to find what you actually need is a good space for librarians; or even just going back to the old days where a student presented their thesis to the librarian and they did a search and produced associated literature for them, perhaps librarians will be paid searchers again. Can’t help feeling this will be one of those jobs that will go to the much touted robot automation that is apparently going to sweep through our current career choices though. Social tagging might still be a human arena though, to aid in trends and thought pathways that don’t make logical sense and hence can’t be programmed for. 
  • Discovery pathways: @malbooth has been arguing  for ages that our so-called discovery interfaces are just search, and we need to truly explore discovery pathways that expose new content, true serendipity with some sense of leading people through strands of related thought. GLAM sectors are already starting to experiment here.
  • Lifelong learning: as the robots take over transactional or high volume search work (eg legal clerks searching through articles for precedent) I believe a range of other work will emerge. However education will need to be ongoing therefore as more people have a continuous learning path to upgrade skills or change career paths multiple times. Libraries that can support different forms of learning and offer pathways to emerging areas of study will hence be important. Alongside this, if people are able to explore a wider range of professions, as the repetitive work disappears (yes I believe in a positive future) knowledge warehouses such as libraries will be ideally placed to support teaching or exploration of old skills. 
  • Information credibility: in this time of “fake news”, training in how to establish the credibility of sources is very important. Libraries can support this not only by teaching skills, but also by maintaining multiple sources in their knowledge banks, demonstrating the multiple voices on issues.
  • Support for diverse communities: libraries still have great social capital across most cultures. One of the reasons for this is  is because of the resources they have been to disadvantaged people in the past, many of whom have risen to power later through this support. There are a range of humane reasons we should support disadvantaged groups, and there is also the realisation that if we invest in those who most need it, we will retain social capital over time. 

    So what do you think libraries future contains?

    In this moment

    23 Jun

    I’m copying @flexnib tonight and stopping to check in with myself

    – I’ve just finished reading Hannah Kent’s “The Good People”. Haven’t had a book I can’t put down in ages, and this is one. Her writing style is fluid and expressive and her characters have depths. Amazing on a dark topic. Thankyou to my book club who regularly recommend books that surprise or challenge me.

    – I’m disappointed the judges didn’t throw 3 government ministers out for unprofessional behaviour, but pleased that there are still some checks and balances left in our community

    – I’m feeling positive about my work future because our senior directors for University Services are running group sessions to talk about building future strategy, and are actively asking for all staff feedback. Today when asked “What would you do if you were Director for a day?” Someone said implement a policy to give everyone leave on their birthday. I love this.

    – I’m feeling surrounded by wonderful friends that give me advice, and help me lift things and tell me when to stop and hire an expert, and I am so lucky to be so loved and supported. Friends are the real wealth. 

    – I am grateful for my health and feeling reenergised to improve it myself. 

    – I am so thankful to the rescue organisation that brought me a little white dog to delight me. 

    – I had takeaway Indian food and fresh orange juice for dinner and it is raining and there really are moments when life is wonderful in ordinary ways you never thought would seem so valuable.

    Count your blessings sometime this year everyone. They may surprise you where they are to be found. 

    Happy weekend to you all.

    Interview for The Setup

    21 Jun

    An interview challenge today posted by @paulhagon on behalf of The Setup

    1. Who are you and what do you do?

      Hi my name is Ruth Baxter and I am a Library Manager at the University of Melbourne. Contrary to popular belief that doesn’t mean I get to spend my work day reading books, however you can still claim a lot of book costs back on your tax, so some wins for booklovers. I’m also not the type of librarian who can explain the Internet to you in 3 minutes or give you a single source for copyright free images for the rest of your life; although as these are now common dinner party questions I have the names of librarians who do know that sort of stuff. They are pretty passionate about open access for information though so allow a couple of hours to hear about Creative Commons licences if you catch up with them.

      My job is to manage resources, future development and current workplans for the Metadata, Discovery and Delivery teams. So my colleagues create information in specific fields to allow people to find items online, they support search interfaces that allow people to choose which online items are relevant to them, and then they organise for that material to be located and delivered if we don’t have it at our library.

    2. What hardware do you use?Well this was a learning question for me (had to do some looking up).
      15 years ago I knew a bit about my pc, and could open it up and add memory and understand a bit of how it worked. Now I am older and have other priorities (laziness) I am a happy member of the clueless Apple tribe that just buy magic boxes and are glad they work with everything.

      At home I have a old Apple mac with a big screen (as I am shortsighted) that is getting really slow and so I don’t do much with it even though I intend every week to take it into the shop to be examined. I need to keep it as most of my music is still on cd’s, and none of my other technology has a cd slot.
      It’s specs tell me it is a 2009 iMac 24 inch, 2.66 GHZ Inter Core 2 Duo processor, with 4GB memory, running OSX Yosemite. No wonder it’s slow – 8 years is a long time in computer years.

      At work I have a 15 inch Macbook Pro with an additional screen (2 screens I feel is essential for any cut and paste work, or brainstorming from multiple sources) from mid 2014 with 16GB and 1600 MHZ.

      From work for I have what I call a baby Mac, which I carry around a lot if I am going to be writing large documents, and also is great for my “working from home” day each fortnight. It tells me it’s specs are:
      Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 10.50.08 PM.png

    So that I never need to be without technology I also have an iPad Air 2 (WiFi/Cellular) 1.5 GHz Apple A8X, 2GB RAM, no VRAM, Storage 64 GB.

    I have one iphone for work, which I can’t tell you much about as the Procurement staff have cunningly stuck the asset tag over the model number, and Apple don’t give you details in their “About this”. It has 125GB storage and looks like an iPhone 5s.

    Then – in a bid to force myself to switch off from work on my weekends/leave – I have a separate personal iphone. This is a model A1586 which apparently translates to an iPhone 6, 64 GB RAM, 4G, with 1GB RAM.

    I have a UE Boom bluetooth portable speaker for music/podcasts and after my beloved BOSE headphones fell apart from overuse now have bluetooth JABRA headphones.

    For TV I used to have a Topfield DVR to record which I adored. I handed it over to a friend who needed one when I got my free Fetch TV box from Optus, however I never got as into the Fetch box for easy navigation. The feature I miss the most was the 3 minute fast forward button that with a single click wiped out almost all ads.

    3. And what software?

    I have to talk to pcs a lot at my workplace, so I have Microsoft Outlook for Mac for my word documents, spreadsheets, powerpoints and email. For my personal email I have been on gmail for years now and don’t ever want to leave.

    I’m trying hard to go paperless (not yet there) so I love Evernote for business cards, notes, memos everything else
    I did try Pintrest and have an account, but use it more for specific project boards.

    I prefer Dropbox for storing all my files so I can get them wherever I am on whichever device I have to hand; however I will also use One Drive or anything else people prefer.

    I use Twitter and Facebook through Chrome for my social media. I can’t get into Snapchat (I think I’m too old), and I use WordPress for the one month a year  blog #blogjune (which incidentally is why I am writing this piece.

    I use Wunderlist for ALL my To Do lists (I have a lot, failing memory) and LOVE IT. Has changed my life. Easy to use, can have lots and lots of lists; you start to imagine you will never forget anything in life again.

    I’m also trying Habituate to gamify my key personal To Do lists, especially my 13 daily life improving tasks (14 if I was able to add Eat chocolate) in a bid to make them more interesting, but I really don’t understand the Challenges side enough to make the most of this app.

    I use Spotify or iTunes randomly when listening to music and the Apple iphone Podcasts app for podcasts.

    I was using Skype (poorly) for online meetings, however my place of work now has a membership to Zoom and this definitely seems easier to use (to people who don’t want to have to think). I just my Mac inbuilt camera and microphone for these sessions.

    4. What would be your dream setup?

    I’m waiting for the chip in your brain that you just routinely access and store everything too, that has been promised in all the Science Fiction/Fantasy I have been reading for years. I LOVE to collaborate so being part of a giant opt in mental cloud has real appeal.

    Failing that it is any software that REALLY does the same thing on a Mac and a PC – doesn’t refuse to allow you half the calendar functions that PC users have, doesn’t reformat every document you send between the two etc yet retains the simplicity of Mac aligned software and the capacity to recognise anything you send it’s way for what it is without you having to consider it at all.

    In terms of layout it is somewhere with a window and view, other people (extreme extravert), plants, and due to a being a reformed hoarder, clean surfaces with bookshelves and plenty of storage that doesn’t dominate.


    Wow these questions have been very interesting. Thanks @paulhagon and @usesthis for the idea.