Life in between – 3

Sigh. Lockdown 5.0. How did we get here, again so soon after lockdown 4, which we all thought was The Very. Last. Time.

I’ve been getting texts from friends and family to see how I’m feeling about another lockdown. I’m fine – resigned to the point of numbness. I mean who even makes plans anymore.

The lockdown this week has been overshadowed by the impending loss of 200 jobs at my workplace. Two hundred hardworking people with lives and families, who have done nothing to deserve what is happening to them. So while coronavirus continues to make a mockery of our lives, at the moment, its existential threat is secondary to the horror of watching things unfold at my workplace.

Anyone working in the university sector knows the restructuring drill all too well. Every 3-5 years an area in the university gets targeted. If you’re lucky it’s a re-alignment of positions and a name change, if not its redundancies, spill and fill, with those impacted carrying on working for months while it’s sorted out.

Restructuring is a feature of modern work, with varying degrees of success. Every organisation I’ve worked for has restructured at least once if not multiple times while I was working there.

When I worked as a receptionist, I was restructured out of my job – a sweet relief – I was terrible. At a shire council, the library was merged with customer service and then nine months later we restructured again to remove positions. At my current workplace we seem to have been in a constant state of restructuring since 2018.

Restructures are done primarily for cost cutting – people are expensive, so having less of them is an obvious saving. And because the Federal Government refuses to support universities during the pandemic, universities have been cutting positions and restructuring like their lives depend on it – so far 17,000 jobs have been lost.

Making people redundant needs to be made palatable, so its aligned to the strategic directions of the organisation. Exciting words are used like transformation, new ways of working and bright new future. The news is delivered with the right amount pathos and regret that there is just no other way. There’s dedicated counselling services and talk about self-care.

Restructures are usually accompanied by change management workshops for leaders, where change will be painted as both inevitable and an exciting opportunity. I have attended many of these workshops and have always found them uncomfortable and far too wrapped in HR speak for my liking.

As people we deal with change everyday – life is change, both in small ways and big. Sometimes in life you are lucky enough to be able to choose the changes like getting married or moving interstate. Other times the change chooses you, getting sick or a  sudden death in the family.

The former is of course preferable, who wouldn’t want to be in complete control of their destiny. But life isn’t like that. What makes life so hard – and wonderful is that some times change chooses you and you have to deal with it the best way you can.

Change management theories try to quantify people’s experience of dealing with change. They explain things using models like Kubler-Ross and they talk about how people’s reaction to change is linked to their feelings of security. I’ve always found these models to be deeply flawed and dehumanising.

The change management models lack deep compassion for the people who are impacted by change, which is to say, everyone. Feelings are reduced to something on a spectrum that supervisors need to manage. Raging against the universe because of the unfairness of the situation isn’t allowed, feelings are quantified into an acceptable range.

I recently went to a change management workshop but left before the end. I just couldn’t sit through another session where we talked about how to manage change, as though the whole last year where work pivoted, the world became smaller, and illness and death stalked us, didn’t happen.

HR departments mean well but often come across as cold and theoretical. Saying things like “people seeing having a job as a conduit for paying their mortgage” is both blindingly obvious and totally lacking in compassion. And yes, this was an actual thing that was said at the session I went too.

The thing is, the hard work of getting people on board with change mostly doesn’t need to be done anymore. From my experience, people are pretty jaded and are aware that their “permanent” jobs are only secure until the next restructure. So if they survive this round of restructuring, they see accepting the changes as the price of keeping their jobs.

The system is incredibly broken.

Life in between – 2

We are at the end of lockdown 4.0. Since the anxiety inducing 11 cases of two weeks ago, we have had zero cases for the last few days and no new exposure sites. This is good news even if they don’t all know the chains of transmission of how the Delta variant got out.

But the end of lockdown doesn’t mean the end of restrictions, which makes things hard. The arts have been particularly hard hit again because the restrictions mean theatres can only be partially filled. The Australian ballet June seasons I was so looking forward to have been postponed until later in the year and plans for concerts or other activities are on hold.

In Australia, the effectiveness of the virus suppression strategies means we became a bit complacent about getting tested and vaccinations. The latest outbreak in Melbourne was caused by someone who didn’t get tested and then spread it. That’s not to blame them, I had a cold recently and did not get tested either, but I should have.

Since the outbreak, it been great to see so many people getting tested and lining up for their vaccinations. A stat from one of the pressers the other day was that 1 in 5 40-49 year olds had gotten their first shot, that was within two or so weeks of it being opened up to that group. I’ve now booked in for my second shot.

Brett Sutton the Chief Health Officer for Victoria (who is definitely a doctor) said “there’s no doubt people are over this” and he’s right I think most of us are wearied down to our souls. Lockdowns are hard, the disruption is hard, the anxiety about cases numbers and exposure sites is hard, sickness and death, being bombarded by news and the would have, should have, could have are hard, and we are all so tired.

There are very few people who are thriving at the moment, most are just trying to get through and make sense of what has happened. It’s like we need to stop, take stock and find new ways of being now.

I think back to June last year after the first wave, after the whole of Australia had been in lockdown or 6 weeks and we were all so happy that it was over. It felt like we could just go on as before. But when case numbers started rising in Victoria and second lockdown loomed I got the distinct sense that nothing would be the same, there was no going back to life before.

A year later and the pandemic isn’t over, and a whole bunch of things have now been normalised, like working from home and remote teams. And for a lot of reasons it’s better with flexibility and proper work/life balance that businesses have been dancing around for years.

In my team, a few of us don’t see the necessity of going to the office, we are more productive and work is more enjoyable if we do it from home. And while the pandemic is still swirling around us and people have caring responsibilities it feels like they shouldn’t have too.

The arguments of about a workplace community and culture just don’t seem to cut it as reasons to go back, which is not a reflection on my colleagues because I really like them. Just that while it’s important, I think community has grown in a different way and being online has brought new opportunities, like collaborating with a wider range of people.

For me, the benefits of working from home have outweighed the bad – although it was a struggle to start. I can plan my workday and make time for things that matter to me – like going for a walk or taking a proper break at lunch time. I also have lots of thinking time to plan and make good decisions, which I believe makes me more effective.

There are lots of stories around at the moment about workers reluctance for going back to the workplace. And of course employers want people back. The flash point between workers and their desire for flexibility and organisations need for them to be back in an office is the most obvious example of the way the world has changed because of the pandemic.

We bandy the word apocalypse around a lot without understanding it’s real meaning. Apocalypse in Greek means a revelation of great knowledge. I think the pandemic was an apocalypse and it revealed (and perhaps continues to reveal) so much about how our lives were unsustainable.

One of the ways it did this was to reveal how miserable most of us were about how much time and energy going to a workplace took. My daily commute was usually over an hour each way and regularly more than that, by Friday I was exhausted but of course it was completely normal and part of having a job. Now it  just seems like a waste of time and an energy snapper that polluted the air and made you stressed.

The revelation I had and I think many others as well, is that work while important, a proper work life balance where there is time and energy for the things that matter is more important. Putting work into proper perspective and making it sustainable seems to now be at the forefront of people’s minds. Having the flexibility to make time for things that make life worth living is not just a want it’s a need. And one I hope we can hang onto.

On being a tech librarian

Last week wasn’t great. There were a lot of tech issues that required diagnosing and fixing. Sometimes the solution was to put in a ticket with the vendor, other times I read a bunch of documentation about how google scholar indexes to solve an issue with our old repository that should just be thrown into the sun.

In the middle of all this, there’s the other work I do – managing data and metadata that’s collected about research outputs. This is complex work with multiple people and systems involved. There’s also hard deadlines and time constraints, as this work forms a core of the university’s internal and external reporting functions.

Often these parts of my role sit together uneasily. One requires time, deep thinking, and relationship management and the other quick responses and problem solving skills.

I was talking to a friend about how techie librarians need their own special sort of therapy because we have a lot going on. It requires a level of agility to switch from one task to the other quickly and you always have to be “on” because tech problems don’t happen when it’s convenient. It can be draining.

There is apparently a term for this called context switching. All jobs suffer from context switching – you’re focussed on a task and then you get a ping from a chat message and you lose focus on the task and then find hard to get back to it. Being the systems support person means context switching is an everyday occurrence that can’t be avoided but it also means you’re exhausted and feel like you never get anything done.

An added complexity for me is that I’m not an IT professional or as Lissertations wrote in this piece, “[I’m] too library for the tech staff, too techy for the library”. While coming at things from a different perspective is sometimes a big plus, it also means I don’t have the background knowledge on how a system works. This means I need ask a lot of questions, read documentation, make wrong assumptions before I understand or can fix it.

This can be quite daunting in a world of tech bros who can sometimes be, well, rude. I’m fortunate that the people I work closely with are not but in dealings with the wider IT community sometimes their responses clearly scream “female who doesn’t know what she’s doing”. In such an environment it’s hard to not feel intimidated or embarrassed.

My role wasn’t always as tech focussed as it is now. Last year someone who’s role was front and backend systems administration took a VR and as the person who knows more than others I’ve had to pick up a lot of their work. And while it’s been largely rewarding – I mean I learnt how to use an api – it’s also highlighted how little libraries understand the complexities of technology and how much of this work is under resourced and undervalued.

The recent repository replacement project I was involved with had a core team of three. There was only one person with specialised tech skills, who left before the end of the project. It was also sold to us as connect system A to system B. Never mind that crosswalking took four months with multiple rounds of testing and that the test plans were just made up as we went because only when we got into it did we actually understand all the complexities.

Compare this to another tech project I was involved with on a much smaller scale but run outside the library. This project included scrum masters, business analysts, project coordinators, specialised developers and people’s who’s job it was to create and undertake the testing. I mean it was probably way too many people but that was what was considered necessary.

In my 10 years in libraries there’s been a definite move toward vendor supplied solutions for most library systems. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it’s given libraries the false belief that systems just run themselves. It’s hidden the complexities of technology and the work of keeping them running.

Systems work is the back of house, under the radar, it leads to good user experiences but it’s not glamorous. No funder is going to open their wallet (or not cut a budget) because I fixed a problem or because someone worked out how to use preferred names in the catalogue. User experience is all well and good but it’s not exactly making headlines (unless you are a systems person and honestly what I’d give for a good user experience in a library catalogue).

Under the circumstances, it’s no wonder libraries are addicted to the bright and shiny things that get them good publicity and make them popular with funders. But what is often forgotten is that for libraries to do the showy things they need good systems and librarians who can make that happen.

More often than not, tech focussed librarians are not invited to have input until the decision is already made. This leaves out important voices that have knowledge and experience, and who understand the long term implications of these decisions.

Libraries need to do better than this. Systems drive libraries and they need to be a focus rather than an afterthought. And systems librarians need to be at the heart of the library knowing their contribution is valued and their voices are heard.

Life in between -1

This is the first post of my new pandemic life series. Despite everyone wanting “things to be back to normal” and seeing the world as post covid, we are still in the middle of a global pandemic – 3.5 million deaths, 168.9 million cases, yesterday across the world nearly 13,000 people lost their lives due to coronavirus (source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-51235105).

Melbourne is having another outbreak – at the time of writing we are in another seven day lockdown. A man became infected in hotel quarantine in another state and then as is the case with this virus infected a whole bunch of other people who then did the same. There’s about 15,000 people in isolation and about a gazillion exposure sites. It’s grim.

My workplace has just been announced as a tier one exposure site. So far a whole bunch of my colleagues are potentially exposed and need to isolate, and that’s not counting the students, academics or people grabbing coffee that might also have been there. It must be so stressful waiting for test results, and I’m worried for them.

Let’s face it the systems are not up to scratch and that’s why we are back here. Hotel quarantine has seen multiple breaches and is really just not suitable for this sort of airborne infection. Quarantine is a federal government responsibility but they aren’t really good at taking responsibility, so 18 months into this pandemic, there still isn’t purpose built facilities.

On top of this, the federal government’s vaccine rollout has been a bloody mess (to be nice about it). There’s been no campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated, many front-line workers, nursing and disability care home residents have not even received their first dose. The government has claimed that everyone who wants a vaccine will have their first dose by October but at the current rate it will be 17 more months before we are all fully vaccinated.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that it wasn’t a race and so with no community transmission no one eligible saw the urgency in getting vaccinated. The Victorian state government, growing weary of the federal government incompetence, has opened up the vaccination in state run facilities for everyone over 40. Chaos has ensued. It’s amazing how the prospect of another endless lockdown means that suddenly everyone wants to get vaccinated.

Walk in clinics are reporting up to 4 hour wait times and there’s only a hotline to book, which is weird given it’s 2021 (why isn’t there an online form?) but also has meant phone lines have been jammed. I probably spent at least 5 hours trying to call and waited for about 40 minutes before I got to speak to someone.  But yay I’m booked for Sunday.

There’s a certain feeling you have in the pit of your stomach when you know they are going to announce a lockdown – it’s anxiety and then resignation and just wanting to hear how long and how severe it will be. We were having a team meeting at the same time as the presser, and so we listened together, a deeply uncomfortable experience when I was already emotional from news reports earlier in the day.

I pulled myself together after a few hours, and while concerned for colleagues, I’m even finding things to enjoy in this lockdown. I had marmalade toast for breakfast this morning and it made me way happier than you can possibly imagine. I’ve also been chatting to friends, reading books and planning my vaccination outfit – because why not.

But let’s not pretend that this is anything other than terrible or that we are anyway close to this being over…

 

 

 

400 days later

The first thing I notice is just how piercingly bright the lighting is. Then the bareness. Plants that used to dot our workspace were taken elsewhere before we started working from home and now the space feels cold and austere.

Across the two floors, most of the desks are empty. Once the workspace was full, now the empty desks remind me of all that has changed over the last year.

My team are there before I arrive. No hugs just a huge relief in seeing them again. They are already busy, and I’m spared the embarrassment of crying all over them.

My desk is exactly as I left it, the farewell card I got for a colleague in February 2020 is still there. The screens are at the same perfect height as when I left all those months ago. Notes on our white board stand as a reminder of the time before. The chair needs some adjusting.

Messages about a tech issue start coming in. This is the part of my job I love – problem solving. For a moment I feel at ease.

It’s nearly 11.00 and we go for coffee. Work seems to be the least important thing today. My team and I catch up, it’s so much better than doing this online.

For weeks I’ve been dreaming of the eggplant and potato curry from the Indian place on campus. It’s everything I hoped for and better that I can eat it with a friend.

Throughout the day there are friends and colleagues to meet again. Seeing them is like finding the thing you didn’t know you needed. Zoom has been a lifesaver but it doesn’t quite match bumping into a colleague in the hallway and seeing their smile.

By 2.30 I feel out of sorts, my head is aching and I want to go home. I’m not sure how to be in this space anymore. It is deeply unsettling how everything is both familiar and new.

To get to the office, I had to find things I had not thought about for more than a year – my pass, a mug, cutlery. I packed snacks, as though I’m a child off to their first day at school. Putting on work clothing feels like I’ve dressed up for a special occasion.

I’m out of practice driving on busy roads and have forgotten the level of concentration needed. On the ring road, I have to remind myself that I can’t daydream, as cars move in and out of lanes and onto exits.

How normal the twice daily commute used to be – being stuck in traffic was just a part of life. How much better is it that these are now a rarity. Although as fate would have it, not on Friday.

Listening to the news while driving reminds me that we are still in a global pandemic. We are safe here. For now. But life is different. The kind of normal we now have is not the same as before.

At home, I check on the cats. Of course they have been fine without me. I’m not as sure that I’ve been fine without them.

I get changed into my trackies – were my work clothes always this uncomfortable  and turn on my computer. There are messages from support sites, and other things to be deal with.

It’s getting late, I’ve eaten a toasted sandwich and had a cup of tea. I’m almost too wired to sleep. It’s been an emotional day.

Eventually, I’m tired enough to go to bed. Hemingway sleeps next to me.

I don’t sleep well, my brain is still catching up. I feel disorientated about the world around me. And a sense of slipping, like we haven’t hit the bottom yet.

But the sun rose in the morning, and there are cats to feed and life to get on with. And maybe for now these small things are enough.

 

 

So you lost your library job? What next – part 2

This is the second part of a post about looking for library work. Read part 1 here.

Looking for jobs

The first and most important thing to know about searching for a job when you don’t have one in the field you want, is that it’s the perfect time to try something else. You really have nothing to lose at this point, jobs are not forever, nor do they define you, so be bold and consider taking your librarian skills into the wild.

The second thing; short term contracts and casual work can be a lifeline at these times. They can keep money coming in, while giving you the time to find something permanent or work out what next.

Top job seeking tips

  • Carve out time everyday to look for and apply for jobs but don’t do it all day unless absolutely necessary. Doing things for yourself that are not related to finding a job is important to stay well during this time.
  • Keep weekends for weekends
  • Work out your parameters e.g. I want full time or part time, I can travel this far everyday etc. There’s no point at looking at jobs that are too far away or won’t fit into your lifestyle
  • Setting up alerts for all the major job seeking sites is useful but you need to manually search them as well. Broad keywords and generalised searches outside the normal parameters will help you find jobs that would fit your skills that you may not find otherwise. Think records and information management or even administration.
  • Filters matter – if you want the broadest possible search think about the filters you do and don’t want at anytime
  • Register with recruitment agencies for both library/GLAM and adjacent fields. Have a look at different recruitment agencies and see what kind of work they offer and if it’s something you are interested in, register with them
  • If you are an ALIA member they send out a weekly jobs newsletter. If not it’s available on the website.
  • The federal government has a temporary job register in lots of different areas, you can register with them for short term contracts
  • Don’t be proud, you may have worked at a higher level but consider applying for jobs at a lower level especially if you are changing sectors. At this time it’s about new experiences and having money coming in
  • Give yourself plenty of time for applications – key selection criteria are the devils own invention and take time to do properly. Also proofread, like your life depends on it
  • Linkedin – get one or jazz it up if you haven’t already. You can set it up so you are open to recruiters, and sometimes they do contact you about jobs

Some job sites

Here’s a bunch of sites I checked almost daily while looking for work

  • Seek
  • Ethical jobs – often has community development, research jobs for NGOs
  • Individual council and university websites
  • Federal and state government jobs sites
  • Career one and Indeed
  • Recruitment agency job sites

Why search broadly?

When I was unemployed, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to stay in libraries. So, broad searching with only basically parameters was about trying to find jobs that interested me in whatever field. But a phenomenon I have noticed is that sometimes library jobs are not categorised correctly so your library job search might miss these. Think about the filtering and add or remove as necessary.

A special note for women

When you read a job add that might be sideways or higher than where you are now, your first reaction is to assume you are not qualified. The single best piece of advice I ever got is, if you can do about 50-60% of the job, you should consider putting in an application. No really, you should.

So that’s it, all my knowledge about looking for work. Hope it helps you navigate the world of job searching in this industry. If you’d like me to review your CV or if you have questions please get in contact.

 

 

 

 

So, you lost your library job? What next… Part 1

As many readers of my blog know, I’ve had a mixed experience with library jobs. For most of the eleven years in the industry, I worked casually and had stints of being unemployed. The most devastating was in 2017 when after working 18 months at an organisation they gave the permanent job to someone else. My contract ran out at Christmas.

In this Covid world we now live in, it’s going to be harder to get jobs in libraries, not easier. So many people already lost positions and employers can afford to be fussier than ever. Also libraries are super easy to cut budget and positions.

So, if you find yourself unemployed, yet to get your first library gig or wanting to do something else…. here’s some tips from my experience.

It’s not personal but it also is

For the organisation you worked for, it’s a business decision. But for you it’s going to feel like you have been stabbed in the heart by a blunt spoon. Having said that – you need to know that you did nothing wrong, you didn’t deserve to lose your job (not get the job) and you aren’t a bad person. Take some time to grieve and process, do nice things for yourself. 

You’re going to feel super anxious

There are multiple ways in which suddenly finding yourself unemployed sucks – the worries about money; the loss of relationships, a career and purpose. Frankly it’s terrifying especially when you have no idea what to do next or where you next job will come from. First and most importantly please seek medical help if you need it. To be able to get through this, you need to be able to think clearly in the midst of one of the shittiest times of your life, if your anxiety is preventing you from doing this then you should see a doctor. You will also need the support from family and friends – never underestimate the power of a text message saying “how are you doing today?”, these can be a lifeline. Utilise these people, for career chats, perspectives and time outside your own head. 

It’s a good opportunity to try something new

I’m not going to pretend for a moment being unemployed is anything other than crap but it’s also an opportunity to try something else. You really have nothing to lose at this point, jobs are not forever, nor do they define you, so be bold and consider taking your librarian skills out into a different sector or into the wild.

De-library-ify your skills

This is one of the hardest bits to do but it’s time to think of yourself not as a librarian or GLAM worker but as a person with skills, experience and knowledge. You need to take the library out of your CV and selection criteria responses. Yes, even if you are looking for a library role. 

There’s a couple of important reasons for this: firstly, you might or want to look at work in a different sector like information management, or outside GLAM all together. You are not going to be appealing to potential employers if you’re using lots of library jargon that they won’t understand to describe your skills.

The second, being unemployed is awful, but if you breakdown your roles into skills you will have a long list of things you know you can do and you can be way more confident in yourself  – you can’t sell yourself if you don’t know your value. Even when looking for work in the GLAM sector, reflecting in your CV that you have thought about your skills shows someone who understands libraries, is mature and likely to be an asset to the team. 

Here’s how to go about it…. 

Look at your roles in and out of libraries and break down the roles into skills. This requires analytical and reflective thinking, it’s also really useful to do some research to see how people in similar industries might describe their skills. 

I’d suggest a piece of paper or post it notes is good for this. If you have copies, it’s useful to pull out any position descriptions you have for your roles, as they often list skills required. 

Here’s an example of what I mean. Many librarians would list preparing and delivering story time on their CV. It’s perfectly fine to do this but you’re assuming that the person reading it knows what that involves – maybe they don’t. So, thinking about what knowledge and skills are being drawn on to create story time is important. 

Here’s a list of some of the skills that are involved in delivering story time – agile thinking, creating engaging content, managing interactions, public speaking and teaching literacy through stories and songs. The even broader skills here are around communication, time management and people skills e.g. clear communication and ability to engage a diverse group of people. 

Obviously the point of this isn’t to list a whole bunch of skills on your CV, it’s to be able to market the skills you have in a way that makes you appealing to employers in different library, GLAM or outside sectors. Library skills can be a bit niche, so being able to make them relevant in a broader context is really important. 

Which leads me onto…

Putting your CV together 

You have now gathered and understand your skills. Great! Hope this has makes you feel empowered.  

I still have no idea how to set out the perfect CV. There’s a million different ways and everyone will tell you something different, so, take your pick. My advice is to be concise, use bullet points if you can – a lot of dense text will be hard to read and the selection panel might miss the gems in your experience. 

In mine, I have a career summary and list my achievements under each role but that might not work for you so just find something that’s going to show off your skills and experience. I’m personally not a fan of career goals because I feel they often unfortunately highlight the lack of experience rather than what the candidate could bring to the role. 

It’s really useful once you have done your CV to see if someone who’s been involved in recruitment outside of libraries (and inside too) takes a look at it. It’s a hard time to get feedback but it’s also necessary to make sure your CV is the best it can be. Also CVs are never done, it will always be a matter of updating and refining it. 

(In part two I’ll talk about job searching strategies) 

Life interrupted – 2021 edition (1)

Here we are again. Lockdown 3.0 – five days, masks everyone, four reasons to leave your home – which is fine because there’s no where to go anyway. I’m back to wondering what time Dan’s presser is, whether he’s in business casual or family hike wear, anxiously refreshing twitter to see when the DHHS daily number of infections have dropped.

If I thought this year was going to be less of a bin fire then 2021 has already proven that we are in for tough times. There was an insurrection on the US capitol and the former President has been impeached for a second time. Perth suffered massive bushfires. The number of deaths from Coronavirus is over two million, with the US death toll close to 500,000 people.

Coronavirus variants are wreaking havoc – the current lockdown is because the UK variant got out of the hotel quarantine program. This piece explains the worries with these variants and this one how much more contagious the new strain is, which is why we find ourselves in another snap lockdown. We are fortunate that we have vaccines that are effective when the virus seems to rapidly mutating.

Before Friday’s announcement, I’d been thinking that I need to make more of an effort to go out and do things. I mean I’m happy but there are worrying signs that I’ve spent way too much time alone – like writing bad poetry, so I probably need to get out of the house soon.

But the thing about this global pandemic – you have to pivot so swiftly from I had plans, too now I’m staying at home; wear a mask in all settings, you don’t need a mask now. It’s dizzying. Who wants to make plans when it’s all so uncertain? It feels like a monumental effort with the prospect of disappointment, so it’s easier to just stay home.

Of course you have to go with whatever is changing around you but processing takes a lot of energy and space. It’s been hard to find that because the rapid nature of the changes means there is always something else you need to respond to. It’s like you have 25 tabs open and someone is pinging you on messenger – so much stimulation.

In the beforetimes, activities outside my local area were something that required planning, I couldn’t just decide on the day. As a classic introvert social interactions, noise and lots of people can be exhausting – so I needed to prepare myself for that. Living an hour outside the CBD means there are practicalities of getting there and back to factor in, which adds to the emotional energy needed to go do the thing.

After a year of staying at home, I have lost my match fitness for going out – even locally. The energy needed to do things just isn’t there, so I’m being more picky than usual. It’s not that surprising; so much has changed, how you feel and what matters to you.

The upsetting thing about this new lockdown is that I was just starting to feel like things were maybe ok. Not the old normal, but the new one created by the pandemic. By normal I mean safe – that I’m not going to spend the entire time I’m outside my house stressing about if I’ve been exposed to a deadly virus. Clearly, this lockdown means that normal isn’t here yet.

Of course, I’ll get through the next five days, though I’m not going to pretend to be cheerful about it. But for all our sakes, I hope this is the last one.

Life interrupted – the last post…maybe.

It’s the end of the year, and I’ve gotten through it.  As I write this, there have been three cases in Victoria after 61 days of no locally acquired cases, it’s concerning, and we are all on tenterhooks, hoping this doesn’t lead to another resurgence of the virus in the community.

When the year started most of Australia was on fire. So much burnt, millions of hectares; so much death and devastation. I still can’t look at most of the news coverage of the fires without feeling sick. If you believe in such things, it was an ominous start for the year to come.

On the 12 March, the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic, a week or so later, Australia closed its international borders and by equinox we were under stay at home orders. The pace of change in those first few days of the pandemic were dizzying, emotions were all over the place as you suddenly faced a whole different world to the one you knew.

The rest we know – lockdown one, a short reprieve, a second harsher lockdown in Victoria; mask wearing, hand sanitiser, being restricted to an hour a day outside, having to stay within five kilometres from your home, Dan’s daily presser and through it all a sick feeling in your stomach that maybe, just maybe this was going to lead to something worse.

All in all for us to survive this year has been nothing short of a miracle.

It’s always good to do a bit of a reflection at the end of the year. What happened, what are you proud of, what did you learn and so on. But this year, there’s almost too much to process, my thoughts lack clarity about how to even begin to understand 2020.

And maybe that’s ok. This year has been something of a roller-coaster so lack of clear insight into what you learnt or felt isn’t that surprising. There have been a few thoughts swirling around mostly about work, which I’ve tried to articulate below.

-I don’t like working from home but don’t want to go back to one-and-a-half hour travel twice a day either.

-Replacing a repository during a global pandemic is like one of the Labours of Hercules. It was so difficult, and I have very complicated feelings about the value of it and my role in it. We lost key staff during the project and there was a huge emotional cost involved in just getting it done.

-Libraries are not good at tech projects. I’ve been involved in multiple tech projects in different library sectors and libraries really aren’t good at them. The issue is lack of adequate resourcing – often libraries are trying to do them on the cheap, meaning that no extra budget and trying to do complex projects as part of everyday work. There’s also a top down approach to project management ie senior leaders deciding the project means they are not adequately scoped or the complexities understood before go ahead is given.

-Expecting business as usual in a year where nothing was usual was weird.

-I don’t think I did a very good job as a leader. Leadership requires emotionally energy to give to other people, I didn’t have any spare this year. My team, some of whom were new, had a sink or swim a bit, I feel pretty bad about it but just couldn’t summon the energy most of the time. This year leadership came into sharp focus, Daniel Andrews showed what good leadership is, lots of other people didn’t but regardless it just hard work.

-Friends from MPOW, across the library sector and everywhere else were a godsend. Friends from twitter who I’ve never met and some who I have, called me, sent me things in the mail to keep my spirits up. Particularly friends who were single, understood the double edged sword that this year was, and together we circled the wagons to look after each other.

–After some passive-aggressive wellbeing nonsense from a newsletter at MPOW a friend dispensed this pearl of wisdom to get through the pandemic: don’t worry about how much you weigh, just buy stretchier pants. And honestly it’s the best advice for 2020. See also: is it ok to eat your own bodyweight in cheese?

-I like my own company and find god in quiet places. I haven’t missed going to church nearly as much as I should have. Instead it’s been in those moments where I’ve seen flowers bloom, or laughed at the cats, listened to Luka Bloom, received a care package from my parents or with the small group of women who met together every week to pray. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to go back to attending every week. I have, as it turns out, complicated feelings about organised religion, I will probably always feel a bit like an outsider and not be entirely comfortable. I’m ok with that.

-Never underestimate the life giving power of growing things, making things and doing jigsaws.

In this year of chaos and loss there’s been too many low points and not enough high points. We will hopefully never live through such extraordinary times again and while the pandemic isn’t done with us, at least there’s hope in the form of a vaccine. Because there’s always hope, always.

Life interrupted – 16

It’s advent, the christian season in the lead up to Christmas. Advent is the season of waiting; of looking forward, the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, the promise of new things in the dark.

Advent ties in well with endings and beginning, it’s what we need right now at the end of the 2020 hellscape as we hope for better things in 2021. For me it means taking a break, having time to reflect, to count blessings and regroup for whatever the next year brings.

Since April this year, I’ve been leading a prayer group. There’s mostly been just four of us, with a few others dropping in every now and again. Unable to meet in person, we have used Zoom, which has had the usual difficulties we have all come to know and love.

The weekly ritual of preparing for the group has been grounding in a year where events seemed out of control and time meaningless. The technology has sometimes been awkward and our words imperfect but said with great hope and conviction – it’s been a revelation and a blessing.

This Wednesday, will be our last meeting for this year at least. It’s time for a break and see the fruits of our prayers. It’ll be a wrench to stop, as you’d expect we have developed friendships over the 33 weeks we met together. I’ll miss seeing them.

In the middle of things you are so busy getting through that you don’t see what’s shifted. Indeed this year when things seemed to go from bad to worse it was hard to see if we weren’t just praying into the void. So, our break is a chance to pause and give ourselves space to look around us and see what has changed.

I’d like to explore prayer more in 2021 – its rhythms, practices and ability to change you. It’s hard to think about what next year might look like right now. No one had global pandemic on their 2020 bingo cards and I feel being too hopeful or forward looking could just lead to disappointment. Who knows what will come my way.

I have had to make some decisions about next year already, which has been hard when you are tired. I didn’t nominate for parish council again, for lots of reasons but mostly because I need space to do other things.

I was never felt entirely comfortable in that role. Despite loving traditional Anglican services, I have little interest in church laws or the proper way of doing things. Where I wanted to break down barriers, I often felt like I was part of a system that maintained the status quo, entrenched inequality and white voices.

This is not a criticism – all who serve in this capacity are good people doing their best. My fundamental issue is with the structure itself and it’s hard when you look at things a bit differently and feel like you don’t quite fit. But I made some good relationships with people and learnt a lot, which is never a bad thing.

Because of Covid, we aren’t able to have our usual Christmas services this year and the flurry of catch ups and busyness seem ill fitting under the circumstances. In a year where death has stalked us, and we have both literally and figuratively been on fire, I need this time of quiet waiting and preparation for what’s next.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this verse this year it was written for these dark times and this advent season of waiting… “The light keeps shining in the dark, and darkness has never put it out.” (John 1:5). For those like me who are wearied by this year and struggling to be hopeful about 2021, my prayer for you all tonight as we meet together for the last time will be that we see that light that never goes out shining in the darkness.