Tag Archives: December 2015

Notes from a Restructure

Read this article and more in Weve
Writer: Katrina MacDonald

We are so many things right now.

A glorious mineral giant hurtling through space. A hot steaming mess waiting to go up in flames. An I-told-you-so waiting to be said. It depends on who you ask, where our heads are at.

It’s all we can talk about. Restructure. Restructure. Restructure.

Soon I’ll know my fate. I’ve applied for a promotion, telling them it’s time for me to grow upwards. Friends and colleagues I’ve confided in declare I’m leadership material and it’ll be an outrage if I don’t get it. A few months ago it would have seemed impossible, but now I’m ready to accept it could just be my destiny. I’ve put myself forward as someone who wants to contribute to the campaign. I declared my enthusiasm and open-mindedness as soon as I heard we were restructuring, being proactive with my future. Just as well: my current role is one marked for redundancy.

I’m to be dismantled, freed of grit and reinstalled elsewhere. I’m a whirl of mixed emotions. If I get the promotion, I’ll be overjoyed with my bravery and new challenge, but I fear I’m opening up a world of mistake making and anxiety. If I don’t get it I’ll be relieved, knowing I’ve confirmed my new default role is my true path to take on with vigour and focus, but the thought I’ve made a fool of myself for punching above my weight isn’t pleasant.

Whatever I end up doing, I’m looking forward to the change. But there is grief. Not long ago, I called it my dream job. I’ve worked hard to make it my own, a role I was born for. Thing is, I feel I’ve spent so much helping others work through their grief, perhaps more than my quarter. I’ve reassured and set contexts. I’ve talked people away from proverbial ledges. I’ve buffed the lacklustre. Surely this is a sign of a good leader?

Maybe it’s easier for me than some others in that I’ve only had four years working within the illusion of security. But every week, every single week it’s the same. Monday I go to my Monday location and have my Monday conversations with my Monday people. Tuesday I repeat the process, but in another location with a slightly different screenplay. A sounding board delivered fresh to your door.

It seems our glorious technicolour has faded out to sepia. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Each person has the power to do something about it. But we’re tired and repetitive. We’ve spent so long whinging and gossiping and complaining, we’ve lost sight of why we’re undergoing change. But that’s what spending two years in pre-restructure mode will do to you. The mechanism slides forward into place with a click, followed by another and another, so frequent we don’t hear it, the creaking of the passing of time. So we complain: that the mechanism is moving too slowly, that there are too many parts missing, that the whole thing is gummed up with bandaids. The finish line keeps skimming just out of reach like in a dream.

There’s no evidence that the sky is falling, save for a chronic sense of being unsettled, but that’s all we need to fuel our speculation and scepticism. Fear and uncertainty are prolific breeders and the need to define ourselves through drama is strong. We refer to the inevitable incoming recruits as Outsiders, as if work is now reality TV.

I’m sick of it. Not the unknowns – that’s realm of possibility – the negativity. It seems when I try to share examples of positivity about the restructure, I’m listening for the unmistakeable inference of being out of touch by virtue of my desk being based so close to management at HQ. The thing YOU don’t realise is – it doesn’t really matter what I don’t realise; it will be a projection of the given day’s fear and frustration. It eats me when it’s suggested, implicitly or explicitly, that I’m somehow lucky for some reason. As if the options open to me are not a product of how hard I’ve worked at my own professional development. I try to keep my trap shut, which is hard because sometimes I just want to grasp a pair of ears and bellow reality checks into a shocked face. I could tell them about my friend’s experience in federal public service – we were told on the Friday we were restructuring and on Monday I was immediately redundant – but I don’t want to incite panic.

So I try to keep my trap shut. But I have gossiped. Constant negativity will wear you down. What starts off as expressing concern can tip into venting frustration. Maybe it’s been noted that I’m snarkier and not as positive as I like to fancy I am.

It didn’t take them long to make the decision. The outcome doesn’t surprise me. I sealed my fate in a Kafkaesque scene, all huddled in a ridiculously cramped interview room, with an hour to wow them. I knew at the time they wanted me to level up but I missed all my opportunities to boost. I understand now what’s meant by the stakes seeming higher when applying internally. Trying to convince your elders you deserve to be taken more seriously, and failing. The trophies they must have seen – and I’d offered them a wonky piece of spray-painted polystyrene. The Manager was great in my debrief meeting, genuinely thankful that I’d put myself forward, talking about the importance of choosing to be a two-percenter and not a clock puncher in this profession. She assured me the organisation is truly fortunate to have someone with my experience and talent, and they want to be smart and help me develop further. I value this and take it to heart, but I still feel like an idiot. Shame churns hot in my guts. I search for a word to encapsulate my conflicted feelings. Humiliated.

I’m so tired. Tired of people’s vulnerabilities and my own stupid pride about being so good at coping with change. I continue to read professional development articles about making each day wonderful but it’s been a bad year on the personal front, and it’s hard going in to be wonderful when all I want to do is cloak myself in invisibility. I just want to sit and hold onto myself for a while; to let darkness enfold me as I fall back into the silence, falling backwards to emerge the right way up. Whatever I say or don’t say, whatever ends I tie up or leave loose, the glorious mineral giant is still hurtling through space, taking me forward on my trajectory.

Something loosens. I know I’ll catch myself doing it before long, but for now I’m not flailing or yapping. And it feels good. I start to tell the people who encouraged me during the application process about not being selected and their outrage on my behalf is affirming, even just as a reminder of the kind support network I’ve built up. They’re concerned with how I am, maybe because they think I’ve reassured them a little too quickly. It’s really nice to be asked if I’m sure I’m okay.

The world turns and with it another week.

Something’s shifted. At first I think it’s because I’m the central protagonist of my own drama but I think more and more of us seem to be feeling it. The lamentations are fewer and feebler. Anger and frustration flash and burn out quicker than before. Spring is more confident in itself and we’ve started to turn towards the sun. There are more frequent conversations about how we’re more okay that we realise. Shit – we’re in clover. We have all the oxygen we need, plus tea and coffee laid on, which is a better deal than a lot of workplaces, let alone the rest of the world. It’s warm in winter and cool in summer and we work with wonderful people. The first Outsider is appointed. And lo and behold, it’s a human person with a great reputation for community-mindedness and team-building. He’s meant to be REALLY good. And WE’RE getting him! We reminisce about other big changes we’ve survived that have shaped us, more assured of our resilience. Really, we’re restructuring all the time. Each day, little shifts, minor adjustments. An email is broadcast announcing a clarification, a change in process, an obscure detail tweaked somewhere in the mechanism. We’re constantly in the process of renewal, shifting form, seemingly freefalling but each time coming back up the right way. Moving towards new comforts, a new version of mundanity, a reshaping reality.

My notebook falls open one day to the pros and cons list I nutted out while deciding if I wanted to apply for that blessed promotion: If those other jerks can do it, so can I. As good a reason as any, albeit lacking in professional expression. I’ve tried my best.

It starts with me.

Read this article and more in Weve

Our lives are complex, made up of connections and choices. With the ever-increasing movement of people around the world, both documented and undocumented, what trails are we leaving our future generations to follow?

The future starts with me: genetic me, documented me, social me, connected me.

Genetics isn’t the defining feature of our lives, but the growth of genetic data has greatly impacted the field of genealogy. In today’s world, we can access our genetic markers more readily than ever before, with the rise of companies such as FamilyTreeDNA and 23andme. Despite the fraught history of genetics research, as the ethical and cultural implications demonstrated in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the more of us that contribute to collective projects, such as the National Geographic Genographic Project, the larger the pool of collective data that contributes to projects looking to understand human migration patterns and genetic connections across the globe. Are we in fact all related anyway? AJ Jacobs is convinced that we are all cousins, just many times removed. He’s planning to throw the world’s largest Family Reunion, and we are all invited.

With the shift from paper to electronic records, increased levels of global migration and social mobility, as well as non-existent data lost through unanticipated events of war and destruction, it is likely that ancestral and societal connections that family historians previously gleaned from Census data, local newspapers and religious records will no longer be a way to trace our family connections. The number of refugees without identity papers, sometimes also without any documented evidence of their actual existence, continues to grow exponentially, so what does it mean for their descendants to trace their history? The photographic evidence collected by Save the Children during the Rwandan genocide powerfully shows the importance that photographs can have, especially in the absence of official documentation.

I doubt that it will be easy for any of my future descendants to track down all the addresses where I have lived, all the movies I have watched, and all the people I have loved. I don’t know that there is lot of evidence in an official capacity, but it may not really matter. Instead, the fascination of the future could be making sense of seemingly random connections between people, such as Twin Strangers, One City, One Book and Life in a Day, or unravelling how powerful connections between people were created in reaction against the rapid growth of everything to a global scale, creating connected, small, slow and intentional communities.

Touching the jellyfish.

Read this article and more in Weve

Jellyfish are unusual and beautiful, but also potentially dangerous, creatures. And yet, jellyfish can be touched gently without causing harm to the jellyfish or the human being. Indeed, they are friendly and social creatures, just as humans are. It is all in the way that they are approached.

As the use of library spaces transforms from collection-heavy print warehouses, to technology-rich collaborative creation spaces, we invite our communities to unleash their beautiful and dangerous ideas. We are fascinated by what we see appearing before us, new ideas emerging from the depths of public creative artistic endeavours, and yet, we are often scared of what this represents.

Are we ready?

In transforming our libraries to participate in the makerspace movement, to create a public space where our communities are welcome to create, engage, develop, encourage, make, are we wilfully ignoring the ongoing reality that for many in our community, these makerspaces are not accessible, not welcoming, not inviting, not safe? Instead, without broader discussions about art, privacy, community, democracy, the library space continues to be an intimidating and unknown place to enter, just as it was for previous communities.

It is not enough to provide a neutral space where people can create their own makerspace reality. The boldest, bravest and noisiest community members may claim the space, and this potentially alienates and disengages the quiet, vulnerable and smaller voices in our communities. In contrast, the makerspace may become so neutral that no one feels they can engage with the space, even on a temporary rather than permanent basis. Providing the space alone is not enough. We must engage with our communities to develop, participate and own the space. We must do so by providing spaces that are flexible, participatory, open and safe.

We also should not open up these makerspaces, without also providing ways and places to explore, develop, question, understand the meaning and implications of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, copyright, privacy, intellectual freedom, creative commons and intellectual property. Library staff need to have the skills, knowledge and tools to respond to and engage with these concepts alongside their communities.

Are we truly ready?

While we strive to ensure that everyone is welcome in a community space, and that all ideas are permissible and welcome, how do we work with those activities and groups that make us uncomfortable? Making is an artistic endeavour, and yet, making is not the same for everyone.

For some, the act of creation is a solo, personal and private activity. These community members may want to access the makerspace on an individual level, instead of in a group way.

For some, the act of creation is a collaborative, collective and public activity. These community members may want to access the makerspace on a group level, instead of in an individual way.

Be clear about which creative endeavours your space is open to.

Can you find a way to walk the artistic tightrope of both public and private, individual and collective activities? If not, then drop the neutrality act, be clear and transparent about what is encouraged and permissible in the makerspace. We cannot be perfect at the outset, we must continually review and reflect on the makerspace with our communities. Use of the makerspace and community engagement should continue to evolve, and our organisational policies, programmes and staffing also need to adapt and be updated.

If you acknowledge that your makerspace is primarily focused on public artistic activities, find other ways for your community to privately and individually create, make and do. You could instead establish a collection of tools and resources for them to borrow, from musical instruments to paint brushes, from sewing machines to garden tools.

Are we really, truly ready?

Our role is to work alongside our communities to develop and transform our communities’ lives, yet for many of us, we haven’t openly defined our measures of success and measures of failure for makerspaces. Find ways to define measures that are meaningful for both organisational and communities’ needs.

Are we ready to engage and accept the reality of radical and challenging artistic ideas made accessible and visible in a public setting? By not encouraging discourse about art, privacy, piracy, copyright and democracy, are we actually hiding from these difficult questions for our communities?

Are we ready for the challenge of community activism, the radical sharing of art and ideas?

Maintaining a façade of a neutral space, we do our individual selves, our profession and our communities a disservice. Let’s not provide blank, faceless, bland space. Let’s cultivate an environment of honesty, engagement, creation and questioning.

Let’s learn to touch the jellyfish with our communities.

Let’s welcome in beauty amidst danger.

Yes. We are ready.

The perfect sky in your consensus reality is ripped

Read this article and more in Weve

By Zapata

In which Zapata! the people’s book bandito, rides again! But only until some little girl starts bawling and wants her My Little Pony back.

Warning. Choking Hazard. May include minor outtakes and other small parts from human frailties causing anxiety and irregular breathing patterns. Adults: seek children’s permission first before recognising yourself in these doomed vignettes and swapping hope for some kind of fear and self-loathing in Los Bibliotheca. If symptoms persist, consult your local guardian spirit.

Intro

Once upon a time.

There was you.

And then there wasn’t.

You.

The end.

 

Chapter 1. Tequila Sunrise or Sunset
(I can’t tell the difference much anymore)

Sweet Country Jesus Almighty! Who the $#@k let Leonard Cohen script the prologue?!?!?!

Oh, such a sad opening. So let’s put some cheer into our chit-chat. You get the tequila, I’ll get the glasses and then we can talk about that middle bit, that thing about “there was you”. Yes, let’s do that, because these ruminations can become a lonely path which is better walked by two. Don’t you agree amigo?

My, my, the things these World Wide Weary eyes have seen, the knowledge of lies I’ve accumulated by the ‘truths’ I’ve been told, all lead me to ask you to consider not waiting any longer to be bloody cordially invited to intentionally re-design your life.

So, yeah, I said, ‘Intentionally re-design’.

Cause all you’re doing at the moment is playing Survivor: Corporatocracy Island’ and it’s a pyramid scheme (quite literally if you take a peek at your library’s organisational chart, go on, I’ll wait) which is purposely designed (there’s that ‘D’ word again) to give illusions to the limited aspirations that your life has been pre-set to.

Better times ahead? You bet.

But first, you’re going to have to love yourself a whole lot more than you do now (because why bother saving a wretched soul, right?) And all God’s people said, ‘Amen’.

 

Chapter 2. ‘Octo’ Reduxo

When the Pony Express delivered the mystery envelope containing your old amigo Zapata’s instructions for his next Weve instalment, the Mingling Heroes wrote that they wanted something that related to the kinetic art, ‘Octo’ by Anthony Howe.

So this is the way I seez it.

The structure exudes design…fit for purpose (most definitely)…some might say outwardly attractive and even temporarily mesmerising… but ultimately… repetitive…whose joyfulness fades as it forever remains at the mercy of a force beyond its control.

WHAT WAS THAT?!?! Did I just hear someone scream from the darkest corner of this cantina ‘Ouch Zapata, you’re killing me! That’s my library career you’re describing!’

Sad but true amigo, although such despondency is simply your own life’s resignation writ large and it need not be so comrade.

Your design began with an explosive burst billions of years ago (“We are all star dust” Carl Sagan reminded us, ’Imaginauts’ travelling on a spaceship of imagination rushing around at 67,000 miles per hour) and your own grand designs need not be surrendered so meekly to a library cabal run under the auspices of a fading gentry infected with passive recidivism.

You.

Amazing, wonderful, ‘You’.

The only ‘You’ that this Universe will ever get to see.

Oh, the wonders ‘You’ could perform as a librarian.

And what about your purposeful design of those wonders?

What forces are you going to let close down all the possibilities of those design choices?

A ‘Job Description’?

An organisational disaster zone which still enforces the diktats of a failed business model introduced by short white men in suits over  a hundred years ago and is still in vogue, orchestrated by a largely meandering matriarchy?

Or maybe forgoing your star quality for anonymity instead, in the hope that you will be accepted into the ranks of mediocrity as a jolly good ‘team player’?*

*Hey baby, I know who’s wearing ‘False Positivism’ in the office today, the sensational new fragrance from FCUK EVRYBODY.

 

Chapter 3. Project You.
(In Which You Decide to Pick a Fight)

We have financial systems which enforce global serfdom and misery facilitating a pathway for the greedy to become ever more obscenely wealthy and fill their overflowing vaults with more. We have food industries which don’t actually make people healthier but rather, instigate disease and death, where industrialised killing starts in the slaughter houses but carries right on into our homes. We have entertainment industries which commoditise women so that mothers, daughters and sisters are all for sale, anytime, anywhere.

Oh, and let’s not forget too that we have a building sector which manufactures properties which insidiously kills their residents. Support services which don’t (support). Justice systems which can’t (provide protective justice for the victims of crime from further harm). And ‘democratic’ governments that will (maim and kill their own citizens when ‘Push comes to Shove comes to Profit’).

Then we have our very own public libraries.

Yip, they too are part of this giant web of ineptitude. Because everything is connected people.

In the Western World, these public institutions boast a mission which is to assist citizenry to achieve specific literacy goals (and in its multiple guises). To serve (and protect?) people, assuming the vanguard against what has been registered by many organisations worldwide as a massive, silent, epidemic, trapping people in cycles of poverty and ill health. It is a plague upon our land and you should know it by thy name: Illiteracy*

And yet, in this single, titanic struggle, public libraries are too, systematically floundering.

Less a Praetorian Guard and more a confederacy of dunces.

Behaviour which has been less ‘Almighty Thunder’, and more ‘Oops, Bloody Hell, Blunder’. Via a historical mosaic of fragmented design strategies, public libraries find themselves encumbered with archaic business models, redundant professional development schema, emaciated revenue supplies and a flagellant penchant for intellectual self-indulgences; all of which have combined to thwart the delivery of our ultimate, glorious achievement: the eradication of this hideous deformity upon human beings.

Put your hand up if you think that our current design and executions of purpose are beneficial, desirable or even preferable? What are you in the public library business for? Who the f**k allows this to happen?!

Listen up amigo, and listen up real good, the Bibliotheca Public is the library of the people, for the people, and – with you starring as the people’s representative – by the people. You dig what the cat Zapata is laying down for you here? Because it’s you, the librarian, while there’s some goddam breath in your body, who is going to save us from this apocalypse. Save is from, Literacy-Which-Is-Ill. How about we demonstrate some controlled panic, and seek to end this pestilence, thereby allowing decent people to live with integrity and dignity?

Yeah, you’re going to pick a fight and bloody win something back for humanity! And should you die in a blaze of glory with a burrito in one hand and an Alien ALH-9011 Handheld RFID Reader in the other then, well, that seems a fitting way for a bibliotecario rebel to go out.

So how’d you like them manzana?! (Hey you, in the darkest corner of the cantina, you still back there getting all this?)

Si, senor Zapata.’

 

Chapter 4. Making Meaning is the New Porn

The weapons for you to fight with have already been provided.

Oh, oh, oh, don’t tell me… elite wordsmithing taskforces have been convening and issuing monumental proclamations in your organisation about ‘Innovation’, ‘Creativity’, and ‘Making the Future Happen’ (sic) ad nauseam with perhaps the occasional ‘Revolutionary Thinking’ inserted, for years now. A continuous business cycle of vacuous declarations sprinkled by a self-effacing neo-feudal overlordship which actually believes its next annual release of 20 Solid Gold Bullshit Hits.

But what really matters, what really counts, was given to you, to all of us, a long, long time ago.

It was little more than the ability to be curious, and ask, ‘What if?

What if things were different – different BETTER – for people than from the way they are now?

What if I designed my life around giving it meaning through the pursuit of helping others find meaning in theirs.

That is true renegade thinking.

Not little-bit-cutesy-aww-Pikachu-feels-sad-levels of cube-farm rebellions, getting kicks from planning another maker space programme; not robotically crafted, impersonal press releases trumpeting our value to our communities by extending the borrowing period over the Christmas holiday period; and not by demonstrating a unique brand of ‘Customer Service’ through the fostering of improved revenue gathering schemes which make no contribution whatsoever to keeping the library operations above subsistence levels, yet cause harm to real people.

No, we’re talking Borg-menacing-planet-destroying-levels of meaning. And they won’t like it.

But being liked by civil servant power junkies is not what your life was ever meant to be about.

Okay, so, before all the doors slam shut on your professional energies, in some kind of obscene Get Smart opening sequence, design meaning into your version of your personal librariany talent; meaning above and beyond small-minded and perfunctory task fulfilment. Designing meaning for yourself and others lends itself towards the attainment of a level of self-determination and mastery which can alter that which only recently felt preordained.

Being recognised as some Voodoo High Priestess of a specific shelving area in your library should not sum up your life’s design.

You know, a very wise doctor – a Senor Seuss he went by the name of – once articulated, ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’

[Amigo in dark corner of the little cantina] ‘Hey Senor Zapata, It seems like you’re never going to bloody shut up so I’m going to leave now and I’m going outside. And Senor Zapata…I am going to walk against the wind. See you later amigo.’

[Zapata] ‘Si, see you later my brave little amigo. And may your pencils always outlast their erasers.

 

Outro

In the end, what does it all mean? Ha! We would need more a lot more tequila before we stumbled upon the likely answers to that question, friend. Hhmm, possibly, the song was right all along; the answer my fine amigo is blowing in the wind. Whoosh. Yes, just like that. Did you catch it? But what you can do, what we all must do, is live our library lives more urgently and DESIGN the hell out of them.

 

Postscript

Your Life.

A Consensus Reality.

Made in China.

Commoditised at 1 Hacker Way, Merlo Park.

Bankrupted at 700, 19th St NW Washington.

Pardoned at the Apostolic Palace, Vatican City.

 

*John Steinbeck wrote, “Learning to read is probably the most difficult and revolutionary thing that happens to the human brain and if you don’t believe that, watch an illiterate adult try to do it.”