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Knitting … and the peace it has brought me

17 Jul

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

#glamblogweekly

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 …

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 https://www.launchhousing.org.au/donate-now/

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?

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.

    #PlasticfreeJuly anyone?

    20 Jun

    So I am as usual, writing and thinking more due to #blogjune than I manage for the rest of the year. It seems a little self discipline is good for me, the daily incentive forcing me to take time and focus on something specific.
    This has got me thinking about other monthly motivational targets I could be engaging in. I know #dryJuly is common, however it doesn’t appeal. 
    Then my friend on Facebook let me know about #plasticfreejuly http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/register.html

    I haven’t signed up yet, however it looks interesting. Less a daily to do target and more an overall to do theme. 

    My CWA group (see yesterday’s blog post) and some close friends with great environmental awareness have already got me going on this one. 

    We made beeswax wraps in CWA last month. They smell heavenly whether wrapping my sandwich in my handbag, or wrapping cheese in my fridge. There are heaps of how tos on the web but we tried something different and melted the beeswax and then dipped our cotton squares (I just used new handkerchiefs) in and out. Worked well I think. We also used plain beeswax – adding in jojoba oil and pine resin (you can buy blends) is supposed to make your wax wraps more flexible, but mine seem fine for the purposes I have. We bought our beeswax from a bee products shop (fabulous advantage of living next to a hipster suburb) however a slightly less beautifully feeling version can also be found in hardware shops such as Bunnings in the painting products aisle. 

    I also have great lightweight net bags made for me by a friend, which I can use instead of plastic fruit & veggie bags in supermarkets or farmers markets. She said they were easy – however my sewing experience is nil so I can’t comment. 

    Then of course I have all my cloth shopping bags. I even tried these hanging supermarket trolley bags 


    out for Aldi but they are too awkward for my bicycle … so if anyone wants them let me know and I will post them up to you. 

    So my biggest waste of plastic bags is now my 

    • rubbish bin liners (I’m using supermarket bags) and so I might try and put one big bag liner in the actual garbage bin and empty my small bins into that directly.
    • individual plastic packaging for items e.g. Dog chews 
    • Dog poo bags – anyone got any ideas for replacing these but keeping your hands clean? 

     

    Learning outside the classroom

    19 Jun

    I have tried to learn to knit many times. It’s never worked out for me. I’ve always given up and decided it’s just one of those things people with the gift of focus get and I don’t.

    Tonight my CWA group did an Introduction to knitting class.

    * for those of you who didn’t grow up with the CWA – this stands for Country Women’s Association. It’s a group that is spread across many countries, also known as Women’s Institutes, and has been in Australia since 1922. You can join a local group in the country or the city – my branch is Sydney Rd Brunswick. They used to be seen as a very conservative group, known for making scones and setting very specific standards for judging baking entries at each state’s annual show. Now their diversity of opinions are more widely recognised: you can leave out the mention of God in their introductory collect, they publicise their support efforts for farmers as well as they do their jam recipes, and Victoria voted to support marriage equality last year. *
    Tonight I enjoyed knitting and it seems to have finally clicked. Only dropped one stitch and the concepts seem to be sticking in my mind.


    So tonight’s skills training reminded me of the importance of learning in a context of fun, openness, and freedom from pressure about the outcomes. We chatted whilst learning (knitting circles have now been upmarketed to “stitch’n’bitch”), and we were all eventually successful in grasping casting on, and the basic knit. Some of the advanced even went on to ask to learn how to purl. Our trainer was a member of the group, and several others can also knit, so we have lots of people to ask about at monthly meetings as we progress, to help us solve problems we can’t work out and to keep us motivated about the end products we can create. 
    I’m reminded about creativity in the workplace. 

    How often are we asked to learn something new, yet we do not have any of the fun context to engage us in the best circumstances for learning –  

    • We are not fully present for the task (we may be worried about timelines shortening back in the office)
    • We fear  what happens to our jobs if we are dammed as “failing”  
    • We are training with people we do not know, and feel inhibited about asking questions
    • We are not offered follow up support, and leave feeling we are now on our own.

    There have been great library managers who have actively encouraged a sense of play in the workplace, time in schedules to learn, a culture that focuses on trying instead of failing – big shoutout to @malbooth at UTS as an example here. 

    However too often I still hear a less productive belief being promoted in Library management, that seriousness is the most professional work approach, that this is the only way to deliver focus and outcomes. 

    I hope one day we get to a place where we realise that both approaches have their place. 

    Top 5 things to bake

    17 Jun

    Today I’m inspired by a recent blog from Rach – check out her great recipes too.

    My go to recipes for reliable, yummy, quick baking are :

    1. Penny’s marshmallow recipe

    I got this from a librarian so it must be well researched right? The wonderful @greengecko is a fabulous maker – food, clothes, craft. All her activities are child friendly too (from necessity I imagine).

    Anyway I did a lot of baking when I was young, but genuinely didn’t know that you could make marshmallows from scratch. I think I thought they had some magical commercial polymer to make them that fluffy. So I was really excited to do these. 

    I must warn you – there is NOTHING stickier than raw marshmallow mix – so make sure to wash any child assistant bakers in hot water immediately after.

    I also find toasted coconut is essential for my vanilla marshmallows. I lay out shredded coconut (dessicated coconut burns quicker) on a baking tray and cook in an oven on 175 degrees Celsius. Stir occasionally and once it starts to brown remove (about 10 mins). 

    2. Jaffa cakes 

    In England these are my favourite store bought biscuit. Dark chocolate with marmalade and a very fluffy biscuit base. For awhile I paid a fortune to buy them from a British Goods store in Melbourne. Then the fabulous IGA near me bought them in regularly from Czechoslovakia, but then it all stopped.

    So I was very excited to find I can home bake them as well. Also means you can increase proportions of jelly to chocolate to sponge depending on your personal preferences. 

    For those of you who haven’t heard of Felicity Cloake, she’s a fantastic food writer who experiments with a range of recipes for a designated food item, and tells you the results of each. I was referred by a friend and am very thankful I was. She’s done the perfect icecream, the perfect scone etc I always learn something about the way baking different ingredients works from reading her columns. 

    3. Cadbury family chocolate cake

    It seems appropriate that Cadbury has a great reliable chocolate cake recipe. This one is a little misleading in the prep time as there is an additional 20-30 mins in the middle where you let the chocolate mixture cool. 

    Still this one has always worked for me, comes out a light chocolatey taste and beautifully light. 

    4. Stephanie Alexander chocolate chip biscuits 

    I’m avoiding copyright by sending you to a site where someone else has bypassed the copyright. 

    These are my favourite cookies. Feel free to increase the dark chocolate or the nuts; but don’t be tempted to let them cook for longer. Melted chocolate works out best as per the recipe.

    Wonderful thing about most cookie recipes is you can make up extra batches and freeze them. Then you can come home anytime you want and throw them in the oven for a quick snack. 

    5. Sponge cake
    Everyone should have an easy passionfruit sponge recipe in Australia I feel. 


    I feel guilty with my copyright hat on as I really can’t tell you where I got this from, but it’s a quick easy sponge that works. 

    As with all sponges, if it doesn’t rise enough for you, add more eggs. However sponges are merely a vehicle for passionfruit icing (use real passionfruit not that pulp in a tin) and cream, so thinner is not really an issue. 

    Those are my top 5 reliable quick recipes. 

    My real repeat special that almost every visitor is served is roast chicken with veggies. There the only recipe tip I can give you though is buy a good organic fed, free range chicken, preferably direct from a Farmers Market, as they are much more forgiving. Then you whack it and the veggies in the oven at 180 degrees C for 1.5 hours and it’s delicious. I even cheat and source my gravy from those microwave supermarket packets. 

    Now I’m hungry … might grab a snack.

    Happy baking everyone.