18 for 2018: Goals to update with happier librarian status…

What I learnt in 2017 is to make your New Year’s resolutions early because I was in hospital on New Year’s Eve and unable to do one of my favourite things: make New Year’s resolutions. Lucky for me I had already completed the Happier podcast’s 18 for 2018 (which I found in my phone a week later).

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Gretchen Rubin, one of the hosts of Happier, encouraged listeners to make a list of 18 things they wanted to do in 2018. Here are five of mine:

  1. Make a new friend: I love meeting new library people but I also like to have friends outside the profession so I’m waiting to see what surprises 2018 will bring me! As I’ve said many times on this blog, friendships are vital to happiness.
  2. See all the Sydney Living Museums: Cultural activities increase happiness so exploring some more of these should give me all the feels!
  3. Finish my scrapbook of Russia trip (I took in 2014): This is way overdue but creativity is linked to happiness and also to being more innovative at work so I’m hoping that getting in touch with my creative side again will inspire some strategic thinking…
  4. Try a new Professional Development activity (like making a video or a podcast): Learning a new skill boosts happiness. Now in my last year I’ve exhausted most of the suggested activities on the ALIA PD Scheme so it’s time to challenge myself and do something different.
  5. Eat icecream in Japan:I had to modify this one due to getting sick and not being able to undertake a trip to Japan in April (see my previous blog post on mental health and travelling). Instead I’m going to buy a sherbet cone and eat it Nara Peace Park in Canberra, in Spring, during the cherry blossom season. If you’ve seen the movie, New Year’s Eve you’ll know where I get my inspiration from.

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So that’s some of my 18 goals to make me a happier librarian in 2018. Among the others are volunteer with a social justice organisation, make a chocolate beetroot fudge cake (with candied beetroot garnish) and read Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out(as my lifelong ambition is to read every single one of her books and I’m about halfway through).

I look forward to seeing what everyone else will come up with this month, how we’ve grown and continue to grow. A warm welcome to any new GLAM blog clubbers out there!

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Collaboration, happiness and why I’ll never read a political memoir…

Collaboration, the theme of December’s GLAM Blog Club, is the essence of what libraries and librarians are all about. We can’t share collections, develop digital creations or serve clients without collaboration between work colleagues, between institutions and between libraries and the communities they represent. Collaboration, not surprisingly, is also important to happiness. Being part of a team, such as a choir or a bookclub, is recommended by happiness theorists like Gretchen Rubin and Martin Seligman as something that increases meaning and connection in our lives.

For the final GLAM Blog Club post of the year I thought I would make this blog entry a collaboration of ideas from me and a podcast that has lately made me very happy: Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb’s, Chat 10 Looks 3.

The presenters end the year by listing their ‘best’ experiences, what they’ve read, watched and seen over the last 12 months that had an impact on their happiness. In the interviews I conducted for my PhD several participants referred to listening to podcasts as a happiness strategy and this is definitely a happiness tool that makes me a happier librarian! So in collaboration with content from the podcast, Chat 10 Looks 3 here’s my ‘bests’ of 2017:

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Best film: Loving Vincent

Best TV series:Rosehaven

Best fiction:You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan (YA fiction)

Best non-fiction:It’s Not You, Geography, It’s Me by Kristy Chambers

Best political memoir: I would never read one! Yuck! (I have no interest in helping politicians promote themselves.  It’s ghastly and uninteresting and not even a memoir by former Senator Natasha Stott-Despoja, the first politician to wear Doc Martens in the Senate, would convince me to read this genre).

Best political moment: ‘Yes’ vote on same-sex marriage

Best podcast: Turbitt and Duck (followed closely by Chat 10 Looks 3 and By The Book)

Best art exhibition:John Olsen: You Beaut Country at the Art Gallery of NSW (followed closely by Hyperreal at the National Gallery of Australia)

Best discovery: Delicious recipe for Vegan Blueberry Cheesecake Bars (I’m not vegan but a lot of my friends who come to dinner are)

Best online thing: The Bookish Manicurist’s Youtube channel Cook, Read, Create

Feel free to use this as a template (taken directly from Chat 10 Looks 3) for your own ‘bests’ of 2017. A Popsugar article I read on happiness strategies lists going to a museum (or art gallery) as the number one activity to increase your happiness so I’m glad their ‘bests’ include best art exhibition.

Merry Christmasand happy holidays to all the other GLAM Bloggers. It’s been a whole year of GLAM Blog Club posts. We did it!

Be happy, choose life! Rules for work-life balance…

I probably don’t need to say that this month’s GLAM Blog Club theme, balance is vital to happiness. Work-life balance is an actual thing and having it makes you a happier person. I know this because work-life balance is something I’m very good at it.

I work full time, volunteer with three organisations and I’m doing a part-time PhD. Yet in spite of these commitments (and sometimes because of them) I have excellent work-life balance. I don’t have children, flatmates or a partner that I’m obligated to but I’d like to make the point that single people are entitled to work-life balance too. It’s not just for people with children.

If you’re wondering how it’s done, here are my three rules for maintaining work-life balance:

  1. Don’t stay past 5pm: I am lucky to have flexible work hours. Being what Gretchen Rubin calls a ‘lark’ (a morning person) I start work at 7.40am and most days I leave at 4pm. I have one rule: don’t stay past 5pm. THERE IS NO NEED TO! There’s honestly very little in a librarian’s job that would require you to stay late – unless you choose to. Instead leave unfinished work until the morning. Get home early and go for a walk. Read a book, listen to jazz music, call your Mum. Write a blog entry. These are meaningful things that add to happiness and that you actually have time to do if you leave work at 5pm.
  2. Put your friends first: I choose my friends above work, volunteering and PhD study. I think friends are the most important part of happiness. Having friends to share experiences with is a good reminder that you are someone outside of your job. Your friends like you for who you are, not what you do. It’s a far better thing to lose a job than a friend.
  3. Prioritise your happiness: Make being happy a priority. This might mean leaving work unfinished or handing in a less than polished PhD chapter. But happiness is not about working long hours or getting perfect grades. Happiness is the people you have in your life and choosing to spend your time wisely. Reading, being creative, volunteering, visiting cultural institutions, exercising 30 minutes a day and spending time with friends are the top activities recommended by happiness theorists to make you happier. Working, whether at the office or studying, is not one of these things. So think carefully about how you spend your time.

My top three tips for work-life balance are less about work and more about life. If you have any other tips to add please feel free to share them with me in the comments field or on Twitter. And while work does bring a sense of achievement and meaning, make sure that you also be happy and choose life!

Many pairs of ruby slippers: How I ended up here…

I became a Project Officer for a prestigious research library in much the same way that Dorothy found herself in Oz: by following a yellow brick road, one paved with experiences in different industries and workplaces, one that has meant wearing several pairs of ruby slippers and having different versions of ‘home’.

In this blog post I will look at the jobs outside the LIS sector that have shaped my career and the lessons I’ve learnt about happiness from them.

My top three non-library jobs I’ve ‘worn’ like pairs of ruby slippers are:

  1.  Sports newsreader for community radio: This was my first job when I was sixteen and in my second last year of high school. While my friends were serving customers at the local supermarket I spent Saturday mornings at a microphone broadcasting the sports news into the homes of loyal listeners. This experience still gives me confidence in my public speaking abilities. I learnt that being able to communicate with people about the news of the world makes me happy and having a good team really contributes to happiness at work.
  2. ‘Nightfiller’ at Big W: Having avoided the retail ‘rite-of-passage’ I knew it would catch up with me. In my second year of uni I had to defer for six months due to illness. I got a job at Big W where I worked from late afternoon until 3am stocking shelves in the confectionary aisles. Working in retail made me very unhappy but taught me that sometimes a job is just a job. It gives you money to live on and that’s all. We can’t always rely on our jobs to bring us happiness or to add meaning to our lives. A happy librarian knows that career success or fulfilment is not the only way to achieve and maintain happiness – it’s an inside job!
  3. High school tutor: While studying in Canberra I was lucky enough to find a job tutoring Indigenous students in high school English. I enjoyed working with young people. This job gave me skills which I still use today – teaching others, communicating and building empathy. I only lived in Canberra for a short time but, however brief, tutoring Indigenous students was meaningful to me and happiness theorists will tell you that happiness comes from meaning.

I went on to be a journalist for a regional newspaper, a research assistant in Commerce and a Youth Cafe worker helping underprivileged teens before I became a librarian (and then a Project Officer). I encourage everyone to think of their career like Dorothy’s journey through Oz. Expect to meet some colourful characters and fields full of poppies, encounter flying monkeys and the odd wicked witch. But you learn from these experiences. Each job you have, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant, has something to teach about happiness.

A happy librarian is not always a safe librarian… 

One of my favourite ‘wake up calls’ is from the YA novel and film, Paper Towns. Margo Roth Spiegelman holds her thumb and index finger apart and says to the protagonist: “That’s your comfort zone, Quentin. It’s this big!”

The theme of September’s GLAM Blog Club is ‘safe’. So I’m choosing to write about comfort zones, how if we live by the rules of what’s ‘safe’  (whether physically or psychologically) we’d never travel the world or even leave home in the morning.

I have just returned from a month travelling in Europe, which included a trip to Wroclaw, Poland for the World Library & Information Congress. I have bipolar I disorder and medically it’s not ‘safe’ for me to travel. Lack of sleep and changing time zones are triggers for my illness. This is coupled with the anxiety of coordinating flights, negotiating language barriers and navigating new cities. Bipolar disorder is not covered by travel insurance so if I do get sick and I need hospitalisation I have to cover the costs myself. But no one, except for my doctor, seemed to understand how ‘unsafe’ I feel when travelling overseas.

Then I read Kristy Chambers’ book, It’s Not You Geography, It’s Me. She writes from a personal perspective about how hard it is for people with a mental illness to travel. This is due to the risks associated with becoming unwell and the added anxiety that illness brings to travelling. Her book, for me, acknowledged that yes, it’s an actual thing. Travelling is much harder when you have a chronic mental illness like bipolar disorder than when you don’t. There is more to worry about, it’s more ‘unsafe’.

I truly believe that travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer. I saw 17 libraries, including the celebrated Dokk1, on my travels. These are libraries I never would have visited if I played by the rules of what’s ‘safe’ for me. I also never would have chaired an international conference session, sailed on a fjord or swam in the Blue Lagoon.

I think happiness is about creating meaning and adventure in your life, experiencing different places, different cultures, meeting new people and making new friends. None of that comes from being ‘safe’ or not taking risks. It comes instead from stepping outside your comfort zone. For me that’s choosing to get on a plane instead of staying at home, watching re-runs of A Country Practice (though, arguably still the best TV drama ever produced).

If the definition of what’s ‘safe’ is much bigger than a thumb and index finger apart so too is the definition of happiness.

I’m (more than) a librarian: Carrie Bradshaw and identity in a post-librarian world…

I’m a librarian. This is the first thing I thought when I saw the theme of July GLAM Blog Club: identity. My mother is a child psychologist and she likes to pose the question: “Take away your job and who are you?” I think this is worth exploring, especially in a profession which encourages over-identification with our job title through social media hashtags like #ImALibrarian.

For me, even without a job I am still a librarian. I still have a library degree, I like to tweet, read diverse books and help people find things. But my current job title is Project Officer not librarian so I have found myself now in a post-librarian world with something of an identity crisis…

To resolve this I made a list. Here are three things I am (more than a librarian):

  1.  Active advocate:  I’m a mental health advocate, having volunteered with the Black Dog Institute and undertaking a PhD in happiness strategies for people with bipolar disorder. I’m also an advocate for feminismLGBTQI+ rights and the rights of First Nations peoples in Australia. I read diverse books, volunteer with LGBTQI+ groups, write feminist theses, attend protest marches like the Women’s March on Sydney and festivals like NAIDOC in the City and WEAVE. I also participate in social media campaigns around hashtags like #saveIndigenouslanguages.
  2. Freedom writer: I write this blog, my Twitter account and a PhD thesis. I consider this ‘freedom writing’ because I write not for my job but for the things that are important to me. These include UN Sustainable Development Goalsgood health and wellbeing, gender equality and reducing inequalities. My identity is still aligned to social justice goals – wanting to build (or write) a better world.

SDGs3. Good friend: Above all else I want to be remembered as a good friend. I think this is vital to SDG No. 3 good health and well being. No one has this without being a good friend first. My friends are the most important people in the world to me so they are a big part of my identity and my well being.

If I was writing a Tinder profile (but I wouldn’t be because Tinder doesn’t work for gay people) I’d say I’m a 2017 Carrie Bradshaw (with the retro apartment, without the shoes). Carrie Bradshaw loved writing and she worked hard. But the quality that defined her was: she was a good friend. I think identity is about just that, finding what makes you you outside of your job description. Being an advocate, a freedom writer and a good friend is what defines me and allows me to flourish in a post-librarian world…

I’d rather be afraid of clowns! My fear of networking…

Unlike several people I know I am not afraid of clowns. I’m also not afraid of spiders or blood tests or public speaking or travelling alone. My first job was reading the sports news on live radio and the first person I dated was a stranger who I asked out on my train. But I have a colossal fear of networking at library events

I work in client service. My side hustles are online dating and interviewing people for my PhD so I am very good at making conversation with strangers. That is not my problem. I think what intimidates me about networking at library events is the group nature of it, the fact that I am surrounded by my peers. I am comfortable talking one on one but when faced with groups of library professionals in a room where I feel like all eyes are upon me I start to buckle under pressure. I feel awkward and self conscious. It’s like I’m trapped in a hideous side show alley, distorted on a giant hall of mirrors. I just want to run and hide.

I used to set myself a goal of meeting three new people at every library event I attend. However, my position on the ALIA Board of Directors means that I’ve had the privilege of watching the movers and shakers of ALIA at networking events. Meeting three new people seems pretty pathetic when you see what these superstars are capable of!

To add to Elizabeth’s blog post from yesterday, my fear of networking is further complicated by the fact that I don’t drink. So while other library peeps are swanning about with flutes of champagne in their hands I’m standing awkwardly in the corner holding a fat glass of orange juice and looking like the frightened child that got dragged along to a grown ups party. I also don’t have the benefit of false confidence that alcohol brings.

Happiness theory doesn’t have a lot to offer on my fear of networking at library events but it does caution that when you compare yourself to others you decrease your happiness levels. I love Gretchen Rubin’s philosophy: “Be Gretchen.” So being a happier librarian to me is about setting networking goals that are realistic for you and not benchmarking yourself against people who are more experienced and extrovert than you’ll ever be. This said, happiness theory also advocates achievement and resilience. Maybe I do need to increase my quota of meeting new people from three to five…

NLS8 next week seems like the perfect fairground in which to do this. As the social events are alcohol free for once I won’t be the only one feeling awkward and nursing that glass of orange juice! Do you have any tips for networking? If you’re going to NLS8 say hi and be one of the five new people I meet at an ALIA event!

Utopia 3017: Libraries are for everyone…

My first reaction to this month’s topic was Liz Lemon: “commencing eye roll sequence”. It seems to me everyone is speculating what the ‘library of the future’ looks like. As an industry we’re obsessed with it and the media perpetuates our obsession.

To me the library of 3017 is either going to be a utopia or dystopia. I cannot predict what libraries will be like in 3017 so I am going to paint a picture of what I would like libraries to be, my utopia:

1. A welcoming place for Indigenous people: In my future libraries will still have a physical space. They will still act as a community hub and a break out space for people who need it. In this physical space I’d like to see dual language signage and the revival of Indigenous languages, Indigenous artworks and also Indigenous spaces like Katoomba Library’s Aboriginal Knowledge Centre or the State Library of Queensland’s kuril dhagun .
2. LGBTI Safe Places: I see a future where all libraries are an LGBTI Safe Place. Studies show that LGBTQI+ people are at a much higher risk of being targeted or bullied and are in need of safe spaces where they can be without judgement. Perhaps beyond this, it would be nice to envision a future of acceptance and equality where LGBTI Safe Places aren’t needed. By 3017 I’d like to see libraries working more at the intersection of LGBTQI+ and other diverse communities. For example, Townsville Library’s Murri Rainbow Bookclub and City of Sydney’s Library’s upcoming event, Coming Out As Deaf. I also have colleagues in the US who are doing great work with LGBTQI+ homeless people.
3. Digital hubs with free access to technology: I want libraries to still be places for free wi-fi, 3D Printing, AI, VR and whatever else emerges on the technology landscape. As much as new technologies are becoming part of our everyday lives many of them are still costly and inaccessible. The Australian Digital Inclusion Index shows that large portions of the population are falling behind in digital literacy skills because they do not have access even to the internet let alone newer technologies like AI and VR. I’d like libraries to always be in a position where they provide equity of access.

The library of the future to me is a place that doesn’t discriminate based on income, housing status, race, gender, age or any other socio-economic factors. In my utopia the library is truly a place for everyone and where everyone feels like they belong.

Diverse books and free wi-fi: How libraries promote hope and happiness…

Hope and happiness go hand in hand. Almost everyone I interviewed for my PhD research on happiness and bipolar disorder made that connection between happiness and a sense of hope.

Libraries give us hope. In doing so they also bring us happiness. Here are three ways libraries help to foster hope and increase our happiness:

  1. Access to diverse books: In a post for ALIA Sydney blog I wrote about the impact of LGBTQ YA fiction on me as a young teenager visiting my local library. By promoting diverse books libraries provide us with hope. This comes from finding different perspectives, the happiness of knowing we are not alone.
  2. Volunteer opportunities: Libraries encourage volunteer opportunities for students, the unemployed and socially disadvantaged. Volunteering is linked to a greater sense of happiness because it allows people to give back to their communities. I volunteered at my local library by repairing books when a chronic illness made it too difficult for me to study. Working at the library gave me hope for my future. It also increased my happiness as it was a chance to contribute and meet like-minded people.
  3. Free wi-fi and tech classes: Peer support workers tell me that free wi-fi provided by public libraries is very important to people from lower socio-economic backgrounds who are living with a mental illness. Language classes and tech classes increase digital inclusion and are among the ways that libraries provide further hope for people from multicultural populations as well as those who are economically disadvantaged. This process of lifelong learning in turn promotes happiness and a sense of achievement.

Libraries help to break down economic, social and language barriers. Happiness theorist, Martin Seligman talks about positive institutions, that is, institutions that promote happiness. Libraries are positive institutions. They help us to learn and to grow. They give us the tools we need to build hope for the future and with it they help us to become happier.

What I wish they taught me in GLAM school about how to be happier…

The most useless thing I learnt in GLAM school was how to construct a thesaurus and the most useful was a unit we did on change management. This included recommendations on how to help staff manage their mental health and well-being in times of organisational change.

GLAM school was almost ten years ago for me. I hope it has evolved since then. Here’s what I would like to have been taught:

 

  1. A second language and an understanding of Indigenous languages: I read recently that learning a second language stimulates a part of your brain that leads to an increased sense of happiness and achievement. I think learning a second language is vital to building cultural competency. Having a knowledge of the local Indigenous languages in your area can also help you encourage your library to engage more with Indigenous communities, for example, by implementing dual language signage, naming of meeting rooms etc.
  2. Coding and open data: I’ve also read that creativity and making things increases your happiness levels. I wish I had been taught how to use datasets and how to code in GLAM school. I would like to contribute to LGBTQ open data creations around libraries and the LGBTQ population but I didn’t learn how to use open data in GLAM school and it’s not something I’ve had the opportunity to learn on the job either.
  3. Resilience strategies: Happiness guru, Martin Seligman can be problematic, however, he did introduce the idea that resilience is a core component of happiness. In professions that are constantly changing and where jobs can be few and far between, resilience is a key survival tactic. Strategies I’ve now learnt for building resilience include sharing anxieties with friends to gain a more realistic perspective, reframing negative experiences as learning opportunities, reading widely about happiness strategies, focusing on what Seligman calls your ‘signature strengths’ and using mood tracker apps to monitor your thoughts, feelings and  also your accomplishments over time.

I think GLAM school should prepare us both practically and emotionally for life in the GLAM sector. It should encourage us to be lifelong learners who are constantly engaged in professional development but also are emotionally intelligent and able to communicate effectively with our clients and colleagues.