Archive | June, 2010

Workspaces – a response

30 Jun
Tonight Sophie and Zaana got me thinking about the impact of your workspace on your work output.
I’ve got a nice office now. I had my own office in my last position too. I’ve sure got used to making the most of my space. I spend a lot of time working at becoming the paperless office, however am way off getting there.
In my last office a wall between me and a colleague was paper thin. Not on purpose but it turned out to be a great plus, as we got into the habit of calling through the wall to each other. Our roles were unofficially co-managing a branch and without intentional design that office space allowed us to have our own VERY different work styles, alongside great collaborativeness. It was also funny the first time colleagues in a meeting saw you turn to a wall and address a question, and a voice issued an answer from the other side.
In my supervisor roles and branch positions I worked in open office plan areas. It was really hard as a supervisor as we didn’t have any office except the Branch Librarian’s so if any of my team were upset, or I had to speak to them about an issue, I had to try and book the office. Nothing made them tense up like being told they have a meeting scheduled in ‘the office’. Also feeds the gossip that is rife in many libraries.
So I would have to say that if you are going to have an openplan space – I think you need HEAPS of little collaborative spaces. Zaana shows pictures of cute breakout spaces in her post about office spaces. They really need to be so close to the work areas, that you can slip into them without breaking conversation flow or making a big deal of it. Also noise must be contained so louder conversations don’t disrupt those working close by. This applies to public spaces too – eg a space for fine disputes to move too.
When I got  a new space for my staff last year I tried to address this. I had 2 staff who had to share a very awkward shaped office. I created a small table and chairs space immediately outside their office. There is already a small meeting room to the right, however it is often in use. I wanted to encourage my staff to have a space they could talk with other staff, without feeling they had to meet quietly at their desks.
It hasn’t worked at all. It’s hardly ever used. So it’s important to remember that such spaces need some privacy (maybe just for librarians?) and also that often desk chats develop into meetings but by the time you realise it, to get up & move would break up the discussion anyway. Also a power point would reduce the need for the laptop assigned to them to be charged all the time.
Similarly I think the fully mobile workspace idea only works if you really can trust your IT infrastructure to allow you to move and have everything at your fingers without breaking your concentration. Now if I got an iPad I might try it, but carrying any sort of laptop around continually can be backbreaking. Several years ago when i had a position that required me to regularly move workspaces Dropbox etc didn’t exist and I had to use a roaming internal network profile that was not reliable. Wifi isn’t enough. You need power, access to paper files (large digitised collection would help here). And whiteboards with coloured pens.
4 years ago we tried mobile desks again at MPOW in a really small way. We were supposed to be working across branches, so on certain days you weren’t in your home branch, you were in another space at a designated ‘hot desk’. The amount of hostility that arose from librarians about not having their own space, their own paperwork, their own ‘stuff’ was fascinating. It was a lot of words that arose from fear of change in my opinion, perhaps fear of not having their own space equalling not having a permanent job. However it does raise the question as to whether you can have this sort of activity based workspace for every personality type. Can some people focus solely on their work if uncomfortable in their environment?
Conversely my current office is situated in the middle of a big open plan floor, with a few other offices, allocated to staff who manage sections.
It houses cataloguing and library systems staff, trying to get on with their work. There’s therefore a higher percentage of people who prefer ‘quiet’ than I have ever had before. And I’m not quiet. I find it has changed my work output. I’m doing a lot of online searching for the interaction I used to get working in a busy servicedesk area. It’s changed my satisfaction with my job, my confidence in working as part of  a team that is moving forward together, and it’s sure increased the number of times my staff have to talk to me on any given day if they work on my floor.
As for the Google extras, I think it’s great to have services that encourage teams to work together, or a space to vent your frustrations and clear your head. I’ve started taking little walks outside since @MissSophieMac and @malbooth mentioned it, and it helps me clear my head and focus on the next required thing. Having something like that closer (out of the elements) would be great. However I would think that having many of these extra resources would lead to an expectation that you will work longer hours, or at least be in the building with your colleagues for longer hours. To eat there, go to the gym there and so on. I think I am only just discovering how hugely important it is to have a life outside work. How your wider network, your other activities allow you a more balanced and successful approach to work   priorities, as well as feeding in external ideas and influences to keep creativity alive in the library management space. I think it would be sad to lose that.
So thanks everyone at #blogeverydayinjune
Had a lovely long post for my last entry. I’m looking forward to continuing my blog, just not as often.

What have I learnt ?

29 Jun

So what have I learnt from #blogeverydayinjune ? It’s interesting. I thought the most obvious new skill would be learning how to write a blog, seeing as I’d always shied away from this before. And that has been great. However it is hasn’t really entered my thoughts yet, I haven’t got to the point where that was a conscious thing learnt.

Instead, as I look over my posts and comments, this blog so far has helped me follow up on my thoughts more. A little discipline perhaps. Pinning down and developing or exploring those thoughts that otherwise would have floated out of my head once I came home and turned on the tv. However when you’re searching for a blog post idea at 11pm they come to the fore again, and demand a little more thought in a non work context.

My most obvious theme that has grown so far is about research in the library world.
From vague thoughts about including some work related posts, to other’s conversations about speaking in professional forums, to a more conscious exploration of a growing interest in evidence based  decision making, reading articles and exploring how to find related research online.

My previous job descriptions have allowed me to thrive on a natural inclination to react, to make decisions quickly, to move onward and forward. In a servicedesk role, and managing large teams in such roles, crisis management is daily life. Now as I explore my new management role, I am having to increase my confidence in my own abilities to document, plan and make considered decisions after full evaluation.

So it has been wonderful using this blog to develop my own needs. I have had helpful comments, I have received useful critique and I have been given humour  to keep me on track. Thanks everyone at #blogeverydayinjune – bloggers and those who sent tweets and posted comments.

An example that was played out online, rather than in my head is :
– #blogeverydayinjune member mentions Joeyanne Libraryanne blog
I comment on her blog
– Hazel comments on my comment AND sends me 2 articles
I blog about this and send her an email
LIS Research puts in serious effort to ensure their conference is present in social media
(I especially love the idea of sponsoring some new grads to attend as long as they tweet what they see – wish VALA and ALIA IO would do this)
– Hazel replies to my email and asks to include how social media will benefit people like me on their conf blog
–  I get to read through a conf experience on CoverItLive (not something I have bothered with before)
–  notes now going up on SlideShare
– future twitterers to follow include @LISResearch and @hazelh

So, it’s been virtual and it’s been great.

Surprising myself

28 Jun

Just had my second bookclub meeting. It’s been much more interesting than I imagined. Learning a lot more about the people in the group than I expected, and exploring different viewpoints (from within a white, female, Uni educated group as was pointed out tonight with a smile!)

Choosing the next few books was a lively discussion in itself. A range of reading styles exist – historical such as Penelope Lively; challenging & factual “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”; relaxing escapism of “chick lit” or biographies; crime fiction without gore.
We found some connections – the analysis of people in families by Joanna Trollope  meshes happily with the feminist sci fi of Sherri Tepper. Historical and factual both recommend Bill Bryson. Some ‘worthy’ titles added to the list as people feel they should read Tim Winton or Wolf Hall or He Died with a felaffel in his hands. Actually that last one has to be in as one our bookclub members lived with the people in the book, so we can get an inside perspective!

We also have someone in our midst who has genuinely never heard of Stephen Fry. I find this fascinating – as I was deprived of tv as a child I am often in groups where I am the only person who hasn’t heard of major figures. Her husband is an Apple user and she watches British tv series, and still he has escaped her. Have suggested QI as a starting point and added his autobiography to our list of books to consider in the future.

Tonight’s book was 88 Charing Cross Rd by Helene Hanff. I found I had to read it rather like a school English textbook, rather than a fun book, inorder to make myself finish it. I was surprised to discover I can read a book that is all letters. Previously I have disregarded such tomes after the first 2 letters, but I had to read until the end of this one. Next month’s book is Breathe by Tim Winton, another title I just couldn’t finish previously, and now will have to. As well as offering lively conversation bookgroup is good for me for discipline …

Another thing that surprised me today, was that even though I have been given an iPad for the day, I was still able to show some discipline and get some work done. Previously I would have been all absorbed in my new toy, taking on only work that could be done on the new toy. Waiting so long for the joy seems to have made it less exciting. Also (yes @malbooth you are right – sigh) it’s not that great for work purposes. I struggled to get documents loaded and viewable, although the typing keyboard in Pages is a dream with the foldup case easily standing it at the right angle. However no multitasking is painful, everytime I leave 1 app and move into another, only to find I want to go back, you need to login etc all over again.

So maybe I’m growing up. Or maybe iPad just isn’t exciting enough! Is fabulous at home though. Playing happily now!

Local suppliers

27 Jun

Today was a wonderful day, and it is due partly to relaxing, and allowing myself to just go with the flow, and mostly to my wonderful friends.

Today I started the morning at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds Farmers Market. It’s fantastic and offers farm fresh vegies, fruit, cheese, beef, lamb and veal and other wonderful goodies. (Chocolate/orange tart this morning for me, raspberry brioche for 1 friend, citrus tart for another, shiraz jam and icecream for another!)
My favourite is Jonesy’s Dairy which supplies me with fresh unhomogenised milk (where the cream is on the top and swirls throughout the milk).

So today’s blog post is a quick appreciation for my suburb, and the joys of the inner city.

Today I went to my local gym the Brunswick Baths. It’s run by the YMCA and boasts a fabulous outdoor heated 50 m swimming pool as well as gym and aerobic/pilates/yoga classes. I got involved in my local council meetings purely so I could fight to retain that pool, and it worked!

I then returned books to our local library – conveniently just across the road from the gym/pool, well stocked and offering fabulous Music in Moreland events live in library spaces, as well as other fabulous community engagement projects such as developing an online local history presence through WikiNorthia.

In the afternoon with friends I visited our local environmental park CERES. Apart from a well stocked cafe, musical events and playspace; they offer environmental learning opportunities for all ages, fantastic nursery with events such as learning how to grow fruit trees, and a Bike Shed where you can learn all sorts of bicycle mechanics.

Loving Melbourne today!

Fun in your workplace?

26 Jun

I’ve been enjoying discussions we’ve had about creativity in libraries, and am interested in how this can be demonstrated to be of benefit in these more restricted financial times. I remember some years ago a question from management about ‘What would we see as a reward for good work? Outside of money …’. Initial reactions were dismissive, yet as the conversation continued lots of other motivators were identified – respect, consultation, flexible work hours, project space, student responsive goals, time for research and time to have fun.

Sometimes it can be hard to fit creativity or fun into a busy day, a library run on hierarchies or a branch limited by funds. However I’m sure everyone out there is doing something, even if it’s small. Our section has played with Kindles, EcoBook and as of next week an iPad for ebook reading.

Can you comment me what you’re doing?

I went looking online and found this article:

Michael Casey & Michael Stephens, “The Transparent Library Let’s All Lighten Up”, Library Journal, 2008, Vol. 133 Issue 13, p24

It talks about some quick, cheap ways to ensure fun continues in your library space, and calls on everyone to “Laugh. Explore. Play. Try new things. Give a little. Share a lot”. It also points out that fun can engage your library members as well as improve staff morale. A book launch in our children’s book section in our Education Library was a good example of this – we actually saw a large group children in that area exploring the collection together : – )

The above authors suggest Flickr fun site for jazzing up your signage. It’s got me thinking – there must be a genuine learning need I can use as an excuse to put signage on a dice shaped box …

Another article:
Ilene F. Rockman, 2003, “Fun in the workplace”, Reference Services Review, v.31(2), pp.109-110
outlines themes you may have already experimented with:

  • Sports tournaments (lawn bowling in the reserve room, miniature golf in the reference room, slalom book truck races in front of the library during intersession, shelving competitions in the book stacks).
  • Dress-up-days (wonderful purple Wednesdays, library T-shirt day, “hat-o-ween” – rather than dressing in costume to celebrate Halloween, everyone wears a hat).
  • Award ceremonies (Golden Shelf Award for the best example of returning books to the stacks in the shortest amount of time, Golden Mouse Award for outstanding contributions to computer customer service).
  • Contests (“Messy desk contest”, judged by the “neat freaks” in the library, “Say the secret word” contest at the Circulation Desk where staff dress up in “Groucho” glasses and patrons win prizes for saying the “secret” word).
  • Recreational activities (Friday afternoon concerts, or “sock hops”).
  • Food-related events (“Chili cook-off competitions”, including an empty crock-pot for the “virtual” chili entry).
  • Learn-at-lunch sessions (ballroom dancing lessons).

and handily [for me] sets them in an academic library context. Outside of UTS playing with games days and QR codes I haven’t read a lot about allowing fun in the academic library space, and I’d love to have some research to back up suggestions for MPOW. Lawn bowling in the reserve room is fantastic, aisles already set up there! Some of us did a run at messiest desks online through our twitterstream this year, post @malbooth and @flexnib showing off their pristine cleared desks virtually.

Ilene points out that “When we recognize the importance of humor, fun, teamwork, and camaraderie, we send a powerful message to our employees and patrons. We show that we value people, as well as the work” (p110). I think so many of our aims in the academic library world are focussed on preserving things, and whilst that is valuable in the end for some people, it would be good to bring some direct people focussed actions into our aims as well.

No thoughts today

25 Jun

It’s Friday and it’s been a long week so today you get a short post:
(11:30pm post a MTC play I am revived and full fo energy. Inbetween dancing around the room I shall update my post slightly for today)

5pm: 1 good thing today: I got some things finished today and I still get to leave early! Very exciting.

11:30pm 1 good thing: Fabulous MTC play tonight. My face hurts from laughing. All the things I look for in theatre; strong women characters, brilliant one liners, timing, fabulous lush sets, clever words, flirting. Lack of a plot line barely noticeable. Go see “Boston Marriage”.

1 bad thing: didn’t get to play with iPad today
I finally get a work iPad and it’s not for me. It’s to be used across our entire section. Still I had access to 1 so I was trying to be positive, and then laptop wouldn’t sync with iTunes store with wireless, and then once we fixed that (by which I mean the more patient @carolgauld fixed it) and had a happy time choosing apps, none of them would sync. NONE OF THEM!

1 thing I learnt: there is this great law called Hanlon’s Law that says “never describe as malice that which can be adequately ascribed to stupidity”. That has helped me when faced with many seemingly evil situations today!

5:30pm Today’s link: is to the desert menu at Le Camera restaurant in Southbank (Melbourne). Tonight I am eating the dark chocolate calzone and for a little while EVERYTHING in the world will be great #betterthandrugs
11:30pm So the restaurant was a little full, service a little slow, and I didn’t have time for desert (amazing!) before the bell rang for show start. So here’s a link to the play I saw tonight which I think is truly spiffy fun; Georgette Heyer as it was more likely lived. Boston Marriage, as the review says the actresses performance are as tight as their corsetry. (Morals definitely looser : – ))

Developing screen presence

24 Jun

Dear Webverse,

I need help.
Hmmm. Perhaps that should be a little more specific.

I need some helpful advice (yes I know this will largely exclude anything you had to say first off @malbooth) on what wonderful technology is out there that allows people to tune into the sound from tv screens with their own headphones.

I know I could do a search on this, however I’m a digital era librarian and I figure I’ll call for help, then go investigate what you all tell me instead.

Today, like many others I was trying to work out how to watch Julia’s first appearance on Question Time (so exciting). I was directed by @katclancy to the abc website streaming tv and got to watch it live. During this performance I realised that some of our library borrowers might want to see this too.

We have new LCD screens in those branches that have been refurbished, and I went off to see how one goes about getting a site up there with short notice. I got some great help from our teaching spaces staff, however in the end the biggest problem turned out to be sound. For obvious reasons (ssssshhhhhh) we haven’t enabled sound on many lcd screens. Even if I was able to, the noise would mean it was hardly an “opt-in” experience, as should be preferable (for everything if any politicians are reading).

One of the staff discovered an alternative source for me, however it’s got me thinking about using this in the future.

so does anyone understand the technology that gives me audio to a screen through my own headphones?

They do it at my gym using radio signals I think. I’m looking for an easy to buy product really ….

Library … on trust

23 Jun

One of the things we are about to try is a library on trust!

Spine label on book

Our Engineering Faculty upgraded it’s student study facilities last year, and moved their branch library out to gain more student space. Library hub for them is close by and it was felt that students wouldn’t need books anymore in a subject where lots of the material has been purchased electronically.

Of course, textbooks are the last evil holdout on this, and the students were soon looking for textbooks close to hand, whilst working in these lovely new 24/7 swipe card access rooms and computer labs.

So the Faculty is trialling using some of their annual allocation to buy items and store them in a swipe card access room in the new area.

No exit gates, no borrowing, no security cameras, no watchful librarians. Library on trust ….

Both the Faculty and the Library are hoping for positive results.

Robot vacuum (the future is here)

22 Jun

I’ve been talking a lot about my robot vacuum cleaner during #blogeverydayinjune so I thought I should get a post up just for it.

According to Wikipedia:
“The Roomba is an autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner made and sold by iRobot. Under normal operating conditions, it is able to navigate a living space and its obstacles while vacuuming the floor. The Roomba was introduced in 2002; as of January 2008, over 2.5 million units have been sold. Several updates and new models have since been released that allow the Roomba to better negotiate obstacles and optimize cleaning”.

I haven’t named mine yet, however I love it as much as a pet, and think it’s one of the best things I ever bought.

Unfortunately I can’t upload you a movie of it vacuuming cause I am too scummy to pay for my blog site to have videos.  However there’s a video on the Wikipedia link and you can imagine it running over your floor. It has a range of sounds for starting, getting flat and “uh-oh I think this is too bumpy”. It’s fantastic.


  • Noise?
    It’s no noisier than your current vacuum
  • How much dirt can something that small hold?
    Yes it only has a small area to store collected dirt so you have to empty it more frequently. However you don’t mind (as you haven’t been doing any vacuuming). It can still do 2 rooms pretty thoroughly.
  • How is it powered?
    It has a small recharging station and it senses where that is and directs itself back there when getting flat (I kid you not!!!)
  • Does it vacuum in straight lines?
    No – apparently that’s bad for the carpet. It scans the room then goes off on angles. If you leave it for long enough it will do the whole floor. However if you just want to target a section eg just knocked over something in one spot, there is a button that does a circle of a specific area only. There is also a remote control so you can drive it … but I haven’t used that yet. It can vacuum along sidewalls and corners too. Does a cute little sideways dancing movement (yes I have personalised it!)
  • Does it knock things over when it gets near them?
    Not with me. It has sensors in it and will slow down as it approaches any blockage. It still nudges them, but will turn around if they don’t move. [I have watched it move a pari of slippers across the room].
  • Can it cope with stairs, shoes, other detritus?
    It senses steps and stops on the edge, makes a considering noise (I am serious) then turns around and comes back. Copes with large objects like shoes and big clothes piles by going around them, but will suck up individual items such as socks and get caught, and then stop.
    So it can be left unsupervised. There’s also a scheduler tool you can buy to set it on a calendar.
  • How does it cope with pets?
    There is a standard model like mine, and a sturdier model that can tackle pert hair (advanced brushes apparently). Most animals & small children, don’t seem to like it though. No so much the noise but the sheer unnerving way it moves without pattern I think.
  • Can I test one?
    If you live in Melbourne you can borrow mine. I borrowed a friend’s to ‘test drive’ before I bought mine. Mine has already visited 5 other houses.
    If you live somewhere else … not that I know of.
  • Where do I buy them?
    The brand is iRobot, the name is Roomba, and you can order online. Reccommended purchaser from my friends to me in Australia was Peters of Kensington. They delivered quickly and provided warranty. Of course you may find alternatives … I’m just not endorsing them.

And if anyone buys any of their other products let me know! There’s apparently also Scooba (floor washer), Dirt Dog (garage sweeper), Verro (pool cleaner) nad Looj (gutter cleaner).

I haven’t thought of a library use for it yet, but there must be a way to put a book holder on the top and train it to fetch and carry [and clean when no one needs it].

Offsite storage

21 Jun

With my new role managing the library offsite storage, I have discovered a much keener interest in how other people approach storage projects.

As such I thought I’d share a few thoughts on our current offsite store refurbishment. And if you have anyone who’s willing to talk to me on this topic tell me!

Around 5 years ago our University Property Campus Services section bought the library an external warehouse, to meet the load of books overflowing in open access spaces in libraries. The warehouse purchased was previously used for storage, however was rather dirty and the mezzanine floor was not set up for heavy loads. So we couldn’t make best use of all the space available.

Last year it was very exciting to hear the University had set aside funds for a refurbishment of this building so it could be of more use. This will include making storage space cleaner and with reliable heating/cooling, installing a welcoming visitor space and almost doubling the storage shelving.

However what this has meant is that we have had to move everything out of our current store whilst the work happens. I have learnt that it’s hard to hire a space large enough, with suitable shelving, for a short period (5 months) in Melbourne.

Palm tree adding to bookstacks

Palm tree adding to bookstacks

Luckily for us, the Melbourne Theatre Company have moved to a new space. Their old warehouse covered a huge footprint, and is now being used as our temporary store. The retrievers enjoy amongst the stacks of moved items, a very tall fake palm tree, a huge white wall for filming backgrounds against and numerous threatening handwritten signs about what would happen to you if you took a costume without signing it out appropriately.

Background white wall in old theatre warehouse

Background white wall in old theatre warehouse

We hold 6.5 km of books in this facility at present, so moving itself took over 2 weeks of packing and unpacking.

We currently run a closed access offsite store, with retrievals brought to the main campus each day. They can be forwarded onto other campuses by mail too. We had to keep this service running through the move of items, and are very grateful to Atlantis (company who moved for us) for their patience as we did this.

Come the end of the refubishment we will then need to pack everything up and move it back again. I’m hoping that that may be at a less busy time of the year where we could reduce the number of days we retrieve items, perhaps not. The need for space on campus is so urgent that I need to open as soon as possible.

Loading area for temporary store

Loading area for temporary store

Whilst the building refurbishment is going on my Stores staff are helping me write up a plan for the amount of new items we can take into the new shelving once we’re open. Then the fun begins scheduling which branches can offload their material first, and when!

Around the same time the new CARM2 store is opening in which we also have some storage planned; so after years of no offsite storage, suddenly we will have 2 options. Everyone, from the shelvers, to the managers, to the students are hanging out for a time where they can get to open access material shelved in order without any ‘overflow’ areas to trawl through.

My next challenge will be to include everyone’s concerns in determining what would move off campus. Do any of you have policies you can send me on what material is relocated offsite from your libraries? That is how you make decisions about what material can be ‘deselected’ (or insert other politically correct term for weeding!)