What’s on your bedside table?

I had a phone call late last week from an ABC journalist I knew from my Orange days. She was looking for someone to speak on ‘the books on my bedside table’ for drive time radio. She too has left town and so wasn’t aware that I was no longer a Mainlander (to use the local parlance), and probably not in the show’s remit. Luckily I was able to offer a solution and so the show went on.

But the conversation made me reflect on my current reading and how I share that.

When I was managing a library I religiously included the ‘I’m currently reading [insert title here]’ tag line in my email signature and encouraged my team to do the same. I was always amazed by how many people would tell me what they were reading when they replied. As a member of IFLA’s Literacy and Reading Standing Committee its a habit I need to get straight back into – note to self!

We also included what I’m reading/listening to/watching as a regular agenda item for staff meetings. Its not ‘fluff’ to have this conversation, rather its about knowing your stock in trade. The beauty of a shared discussion is that we all read differently and can contribute to a shared knowledge bank.

We also included the ‘what are you currently reading, would you recommend it and why?’ as a standard question in our recruitment process. Boy was that a trap for unwary players – the ones who tell you how much they want to work in libraries because they just love books and reading , and then when asked a direct question have nothing to contribute.

So what books are on my bedside table (coffee table actually):

Sophie Hansen’s new cookbook book In Good Company; simple, generous recipes and ideas for get-togethers and good times. Sophie is based in Orange and has strong connections to the Library. Not only have all her book launches been there, she often works from the Library, and was the NSW Writer in Residence in the National Year of Reading. Plus her recipes are fabulous!

Sargasso by Kathy George. I was ‘in’ when the blurb on the front cover described it as ‘shades of du Maurier’s classic Rebecca in this atmospheric mystery’ plus Jean Rhys’s book, Wide Sargasso Sea has always been a favourite. ! An Australian thriller this is my ‘ferry read’ (ie the book you have in the car to dip into when you’re waiting for the Bruny Island Ferry). Fortunately (or unfortunately for my reading pleasure) I haven’t had to wait in weeks and will probably have to start again so that I understand the story.

Sarah Ostman’s Going Virtual: programs and insights from a time of crisis is a new publication from the American Library Association (ALA). Lots of quick case studies of virtual programs offered by US libraries during COVID with content divided into Learning, Conversation, Connection and Entertainment. Plenty of ideas to build on both during and post lockdown. Also available form the ALA is Pivoting during the pandemic; ideas for serving your community anytime, anywhere. This is more best practice than case studies and is downloadable as an e book. I’m enjoying both.

Finally there’s A ladies garden by Karen Cunningham – a beautiful new patchwork/quilting book. I did a workshop with Karen at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains years ago and love her work.

On that note I’ll get back to some work!

Reflecting on COVID

I’ve been checking and re-checking my diary as I head into this week which features the International Federation of Library and Information Association’s (IFLA) Literacy and Reading/Public Libraries Mid-Term Seminar.

While my first IFLA Congress was in 2009 when I was ALIA President (‘Milan darling’- I know but someone had to go!) it wasn’t until 2 years later in 2011 that I became actively engaged when I joined the Public Libraries Standing Committee and the rest, as they say, is history. I love the opportunity to work with colleagues from around the world to learn, share and hopefully make a difference.

Under normal circumstances (read non-COVID), our mid-term meeting would be a physical get together hosted by one of our members, but in 2021 the two Sections, Literacy and Reading + Public Libraries are coming together to create a fabulous, online program over four days. Hence my diary fixation! As you can imagine the angst of finding a time that suited the world was tricky so I will be participating from 6pm my time while my colleagues in Europe will be starting their day. For our US participants it will be the early hours of the morning.

Through our theme Reflecting Back & Thinking Forward we will be look at how public libraries worldwide have responded to COVID and how the lessons learnt will impact the future. We will also explore some of the great initiatives around reading and literacy that have emerged during this time and how we can expand on this. Our speakers from Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, the Netherlands, UK, USA, Sweden, Scotland, Portugal India and Brasil will give us a truly international perspective.

There will also be an opportunity to ‘meet’ the world’s Children’s Laureates and Ambassadors (Australia, Finland, UK, Wales, Sweden, Ireland, and the Netherlands) and hear of their vision for the future at our online version of ‘welcome drinks’.

There’s still a chance to register for this free event.

Hope to see you online.


Remember making these when you were a kid? I do – and also the angst about what ‘clever’ actions to write inside! This is a Chatterbox created by our Australian Children’s Laureate, Ursula Dubosarsky and her fabulous team. It’s available on the resources section of the Laureate website. https://www.childrenslaureate.org.au/laureate-resources. and sends clear messages about reading.

Must admit it took me longer to make than when I was in primary school but once I got going no one was safe! I think we used to call it a fortune teller ( though I was called a chatterbox in my school reports!).

Ursula’s message is to get Children to Read and to join their Library! What a wonderful ambassador. There are heaps of other tools on the website so take advantage of them.

At Ursula’s Laureate Ceremony

Ursula will be in Hobart next week to talk to children and library staff. I’ve asked if I can gatecrash so we can have a quick in person catch up. Fingers crossed!

Capturing ideas

If you search for images of focus groups chances are you’ll end up with a squillion and one featuring post-it notes. They are without doubt part of the consultants’ tool kit as witnessed by this photo of my desk after a recent trip to Central West New South Wales to work with the communities of Gulgong, Kandos, Mudgee and Rylstone (note the alphabetical order).

These towns are all home to a branch of Mid-Western Regional Council Library Service and I am excited to be working with the Library/Council and Community on developing the Library’s strategic direction.

As is my practice with any consultation I started with the people who know the organisation best, the staff. Over breakfast we unpicked a number of issues and explored options for the future. This was followed by four days of focus groups and interviews with key stakeholders including Library members, Council staff, partners and the wider community. Running parallel to this was an online survey. A wealth of feedback to process.

Regardless of the consultation method the message was the same, the community placed high value on the Library and the targeted services it provides. There were some great suggestions as to how we could make it even better. There were multiple thumbs up for the Library team and the inviting spaces that are available. As libraries face the uncertainty of a post COVID environment this was the ideal time to have this conversation.

I love this area of NSW,which I know well, and it was wonderful to have time to explore the picturesque towns and villages and marvel at the scenery and architecture. Each of the Library’s branches is located in a heritage building which has its own story to tell. Their bookmobile’s skin reflects the beauty of the region.

Time now to finish turning the post-its, butchers paper and spreadsheets into a coherent whole. Thank you to Michelle and the team at MWRCLS for making me so welcome.

All dressed up and somewhere to go!

I’m sure if I Googled it there would be some helpful guidelines on how to dress for success on a Zoom event. Must admit today I just followed my usual ‘I’m giving a presentation routine’. Call me shallow but the idea of only being glamorous only from the waist up and it being accidentally revealed online fills me with horror. My dear old Mum would be pleased with my attitude.

The occassion was my keynote at ALIA Schools webinar Teams: the hard conversation which is part of their ongoing PD series. It was a great honour to be invited, I always love talking to colleagues from other sectors and states. We have so much to learn from each other.

Some of my former team mates at a retirement morning tea for my lovely and long time friend Lyn Bugden (centre in grey). Lyn and I started work together as 18 year old’s, retiring within months of each other. She was the voice of ‘reason’ in my work life. Everyone needs a Lyn!

I also enjoyed the preparation which reminded me that working with any team is essentially about constant, effective two way communication. Without a doubt the thing I miss most about my new sole operator role is being surrounded by my wonderful Central West Libraries friends.

It was initially disconcerting to be looking at my shared screen rather than a sea of welcoming faces, but once I got into it seemed natural. Also great to be able to monitor the chat at the same time and respond to comments as we moved through rather than mind reading. Lots of skills to learn in this new environment.

When talking about how each member of a team makes a difference I used the example of my dragon boat club, the mighty Colour City Dragons ( my membership is current until 30/6!). I thought it was appropriate as it was exactly a year since I arrived in Tasmania with the club to participate in a marathon on the Derwent. This was followed by a weeks R&R on Bruny Island ( you try paddling 42 km!) which resulted in us upending our lives and moving. Hence the very un-library photo at the top of this post. As a note cruise ships were banned from Tassie shortly after this was taken.

Thanks ALIA Schools for the invitation to work with you, and best wishes for the year ahead.

ALIATas on track for an exciting 2021

It was exciting to meet up with Tasmanian colleagues yesterday afternoon to discuss plans for ALIATas Group for next year, and into the future. Representatives from a number of sectors and locations came together around the table and on screen to put forward suggestions for developing an exciting and inclusive program. Great to see new grads represented. there was real enthusiasm evident.

I look forward to working with everyone in 2021. Thanks to Libraries Tasmania for hosting.

PS I forgot to take a photo so a gratuitous one from the hotel room showing the Hobart waterfront!

Time for a change

During the years in which I have been involved in libraries (which are many!) things have changed significantly: the services they deliver; the physical buildings; the people who work in them and the rich and diverse skills and experiences that these people bring. A comment I have often heard voiced by employers is that professional pathways and development haven’t kept pace with this change, and lets face it the change isn’t a “one off”, its continual.

A big shout out to ALIA’s Professional Pathways initiative which has been developed to reflect the reality of the environment we’re working in. It is taking us from the past to a very exciting and inclusive future that looks at the skill sets that are needed, how these can best be obtained and more importantly maintained. Its not enough to gain a qualification and sit on it for the next however many years. I would encourage you to take the time to read the consultation draft and attend one of the scheduled Town Hall meetings to learn more about it.

Its been exciting to be part of the discussions so far, to listen to the views and ideas put forward by over 500 colleagues from across the Australian library world and to envisage a new direction . Congratulations to ALIA President Viv Barton whose presidential theme is the Future of LIS Education. It was also fun to make a testimonial video to share with ALIA members about the importance of this project. Unfortunately I was travelling when it was made and some of the shoots that hit the cutting room floor were filmed in places as diverse as in my car the Bruny Island Ferry and my Sydney hotel room ( photo above).

Now its your turn to share in the conversation. I would encourage you to take the time to read the consultation draft and attend one of the scheduled Town Hall meetings to learn more about it. Together we can shape the future.

Looking to the future

Last week I attended the NSW Public Libraries Association‘s AGM via Zoom. This was a first for all of us. Normally the AGM follows the Association’s highly regarded SWITCH Conference and in the past has been the scene of some heated debate. Sadly SWITCH had to be cancelled, another victim of COVID, but the AGM was required to go ahead and everyone “pivoted” to make it happen (oh how I am over that word!)

The AGM is also the setting for the Association’s Awards and I admit to having a vested interest in several of these. In particular I was keen to hear the result of the Kath Knowles Emerging Leaders Award, given biennially to staff members who have been working in the library profession for less than ten years.

To my delight the 2020 recipient was Prue Fogarty, a vibrant colleague from Shellhabour on the NSW South Coast. Prue’s project Digital programming for today & tomorrow: Preaching to the converted or a new world waiting? will explore the ways in which public libraries responded to the COVID pandemic through digital programming and will question the ongoing value of these programs now that “normal ‘service has resumed. She will also seek out successful program models and collate and evaluate the results to share with the NSW and wider public library network.

I am excited to be mentoring Prue through this process. Her vision exemplifies the original approach adopted by Kath Knowles after who the Award is named. Kath, former Chairperson of Public Libraries NSW – Country (previously known as the Country Public Libraries Association of NSW) passed away on Friday 19 November 2010 at the age of 39. She was acclaimed as an inspired leader who brought a fresh and practical perspective to the various roles that she occupied. She was committed to equality and diversity, and had a strong commitment to people with disabilities.

I will keep you in the loop about Prue’s project.