Life in between – 6

Lockdown in Melbourne ends at 11.59pm today – Thursday, 21 October 2021. We have had 262 days of lockdown since March 2020. A world record no one wants.

Tomorrow we will reach 70% vaccinated and around the end of October we will get to 80%. In the last few days 100,000 people have been vaccinated, which is brilliant. This should be the last lockdown of this pandemic. Fingers, toes and everything else crossed.

There’s still very high numbers of virus circulating in the community, which is scary. Opening up will be amazing but it does need to be done cautiously. This approach suits me, as it’s going to take some adjustment to remember what you do when you’re allowed outside your home for any reason you want.

After two years of  isolation and lockdowns, so many of my pandemic behaviours have become normalised. Working from home is the most obvious example – I can’t even imagine going to a physical workplace anymore but the sense that the world outside is a risk is not going to be easy to let go of either.

Besides catching the virus, I’m worried that I will have a very low tolerance for noise and crowds. I never exactly thrived in places with lots of noise (I was not a fan of nightclubs for this reason) and crowds were ok as long as I could get fresh air or see an escape route. Who knows now? Maybe all the noise and the people will send me into sensory overload or maybe when I am bumped into by someone I’ll cry because how amazing is it to be around people.

It’s been rough the few years – I’ve more or less been ok mental health wise, being a home body who likes their own company has helped.  But introversion has its limits – you can only spend so much time with your own thoughts before you need external stimulation of seeing new things and the energy you get from other people. And this has been sorely lacking in recent times.

We crave novelty, it stimulates our brain, helps us learn and makes us feel nice.  In the last two years there’s been little novelty – just working, staying home, worrying about case numbers, and whether we are all going to die. The lack of novelty lately has made me feel like I’m going a bit stir-crazy being cooped up at home, doing the same walks, not seeing new things. It’s not exactly boredom – more like stagnation, and its had physical impacts, as well as this overriding feeling of just not being able to do this anymore.

For this reason, despite my anxieties about re-entering the world, I need to start going back out there.  The outside world will be different now because we are all different now. Negotiating and finding my way in this new world will take some time. Working out what matters to me – what brings me joy, is both exciting and daunting.

The pandemic isn’t over but for now lockdowns are. And that right now is everything.

Complicated feelings

I’ve had gastro for a few days, I’m now at the end of it and am feeling much better but it’s been a rough. It’s been a hard few months with too much stress and uncertainty. My tummy and appetite made their objections known to this state of affairs for weeks, so it’s not surprising I’ve been sick.

What is it about being sick that scrapes you not just physically but emotionally raw too? It’s like your body is telling your mind to stop acting like you’re ok and sort it out, which is quite unkind of it really, I mean you already have a lot going on.

In the restructure at work, my position has been made redundant. Fortunately, I’ve been directly matched to a similar position. I really happy with the position I’ve been given, it’s probably my dream job, as much as any job is a dream job. As excited as I am for what’s to come, there’s also realising that I’m losing the job I’ve got now, a job I’ve loved.

When I started at my place of work three years ago, I wasn’t certain where it would all end. I just knew that I’d been given a fresh start and wanted to grasp it with both hands. Who knew I would find my feet among systems and data, and in research output assessment, collection and storage, it’s not exactly where I thought my career would go but there is just something about this work that suited me.

This job has challenged me and allowed me to extend my knowledge of systems and metadata. I’ve learnt how to read xml, use an api and constantly look at the way we do things to make more efficient. In the two years, I’ve tried to learn everything I can about the system, driven by a need to help make this work manageable for the team.

The Scholarly Publications team are some of the best people I’ve worked with. We are agile in our thinking and adaptive to change. We meet every deadline, and make sure our work is of the highest quality. While I can’t say we all love what we do, we seem to share a unique quality of being invested in being really good at it and curious about how to make it better.

With this change, I feel there is a risk that the outstanding work the team has done in the research assessment space will just forgotten about. To the university it’s just a process but to me (and us) it’s years of work: thinking, planning, testing, implementing, training and the hard hard slog of processing 5000+ publications every year.

Can you both be devastated to lose something you love and be excited that the future holds good things? That’s where I am right now. I’m sad that my job that I probably cared way too much about is ending. But I’m also looking forward getting stuck into my new role in the new year.

Managing the stress and uncertainty for the next few months will be a challenge.

Life in between – 5

There’s been many hard days in the last 18 months; the day the pandemic was declared, the first lockdown, the second lockdown, lockdown three, the day with 725 cases, lockdown five and then lockdown six hard upon it. Perhaps the hardest day was last week when the CHO and Premier announced we wouldn’t get back to zero and while we could slow the spread, we now needed to prepare ourselves to live with covid.

Living with covid is a scarier prospect than lockdowns and the elimination strategy. If you have watched the news outside Australia, you know what living with covid means – lots of very sick people, some of whom with die of the disease.

That’s not a small thing to agree too. It’s not a decision we should take lightly because we are over the pandemic and want to go to the pub with our mates. The flip side of having our freedoms and so called “normal life” again means sickness and death to other people, particularly those who are unvaccinated. As a society is this something we want to agree to? Is going to a restaurant or seeing your family more important than another person’s right to be alive?

The argument is that you can get vaccinated and reduce the risk of getting covid. It really is a miracle that we have vaccines this early into the pandemic and as someone who is fully vaccinated I’m very happy to have done so. At the time, I didn’t think about this but by getting my vaccination, I was upholding my social responsibility to help protect others in the community as well.

Our social responsibility is what we agree to as societal norms and how we act together to live by them. At their most basic, they are the unspoken agreement to not do things that might harm each other – for example, not drink driving. They can also be actions that benefit society like picking up rubbish in your neighbourhood or planting trees in the park. Getting vaccinated is an action that fits into both of these categories because it minimises harm to others and allows us to consider safely reopening again.

None of our societal obligations are predicated on the fact we all agree or even like each other. They are purely an acceptance that all lives have value and everyone has the right to live. If you choose to act in accordance with your societal responsibilities then that choice benefits both the people you agree with and those whose views or actions you find abhorrent.

Opening up raises many uncomfortable questions for me around the belief in the value of other people’s lives and my obligation to minimise the risk to them. I’m going to repeat myself, opening up means some people will get sick and some people will die of Covid-19.

People die everyday, it’s inevitable and part of life. This isn’t to minimise its impacts; merely to state that it’s not something we can stop, and it is the end we will all come to. Accepting its hard inevitability is necessary and perhaps even healthy, though not welcomed or easy.

The question I keep asking myself is where does our responsibility to minimise harm to other people fit in with the plan to open up? For over 200 days, I’ve been in lockdown to flatten the curve, protect our health system and the most vulnerable in the community. If we open up and people get sick and die, is that just inevitable and the consequence of having to get on with life or is it something we should continue try to prevent?

In normal times these are not questions you would ask yourself. We already know the rules that help us to minimise harm to each other. Coronavirus has changed that equation. I believe it increases our obligation to act in a way that doesn’t harm each other. Of course the obligation runs both ways, but if you choose to participate in your social responsibility you do it even for those people who would refuse to do it for you.

We need to be very clear then that by opening up we are agreeing to an increase case numbers, hospitalisations and possibly deaths. These are difficult choices with life and death consequences. And we need to understand them and find a way to reconcile them as individuals and as a society.

While I’m sure I’m out on a limb here, I would personally rather stay in lockdown forever than one person die from this disease. My life is no more important than anyone else’s, so my right to see my family or go to the ballet can’t override another person’s right to be alive, even if that person has made selfish choices to not get vaccinated.

I also know it’s not realistic to stay in lockdown forever, it’s definitely not healthy or possibly even useful for lessening the long term effects of this virus on society. We do have to get on with life, whatever that means and looks like after all of this.

Getting vaccinated is the only way out, if you haven’t done so already please do. They are safe, and will keep you and your family, me and my family from getting sick and possibly dying. It’s the right thing to do for the sake of society that values your life as much as mine.

Life in between – 4

Lockdown 6. And I’m at a loss for words, we only got out of lockdown 5 a week or so ago. We celebrated a donut day and by 5pm we were back in lockdown. There’s no resilience for this lockdown, it’s just a slog.

Cases are going up in New South Wales, parts of Queensland are in lockdown, South Australia is out of lockdown but everything feels on a knife edge. It’s a giant mess. The vaccination rollout is an unmitigated disaster, and while I’m now fully vaccinated thanks to the Victorian government, there just isn’t enough supplies to go round.

In previous lockdowns there’s been a routine – numbers at 9am, the presser, work, a walk in the afternoon and a spirit of being all in this together. Now the numbers are a reminder of being in lockdown, and that if not extended, it’s still unlikely to be the last. And that’s way to depressing to cope with.

The transformation program at work is taking up a fair bit of my brain power. There’s a lot to understand and think about, the opportunity to give feedback is important but the uncertainty around what’s going to happen isn’t helping anything. And to watch friends and colleagues go through this when we have already been through so much just hurts.

Rejoining the union has made me think about what resistance looks like when there are almost no effective tools to really fight back against these cuts. Does participating in the process mean I am agreeing to it? Would it be considered a win if we saved one job? If so, who’s do we save?

In the strongest terms possible I want to say that I oppose these job cuts. No one deserves this, I’m furious about the injustice of it all. It’s always the worker who pays, never the executives and it’s just bloody unfair. I’m heartsick watching people go through this.

I’ve always imagined there is some universal tally of good and bad in the world. The needle moves back and forth constantly; we are nowhere near wholly good, and frequently it seems like we might slide right down into wholly bad. The bad stuff is kept in check by people standing against injustice, even when there’s no chance of winning. Opposing the job cuts at my work is like this – there isn’t a hope of saving anyone’s job but it evens up the score on the good/bad tally in the universe nonetheless.

The reality is though, and it hurts to write this, I need to accept the inevitability of changes even though I believe them to be wrong. This is a painful realisation that feels like giving up; abandoning friends and colleagues to a fate they did not ask for.

I don’t want to give up. I want to save their jobs but I have no power to do anything to stop this from happening. It’s like trying to hold back the tide, it’s going to happen whether I push against it or not. So, with regret, I accept the changes will happen and understand that by doing so friends and colleagues will lose their jobs. And that hurts even though I know there is nothing I can do.

Can I then both accept and resist? And if so, what does resistance even look like. For me, resistance is fighting for a fair process and for the most vulnerable in our community. It’s supporting colleagues who stay and colleagues who may not. Resistance is considering my feedback, pointing out flaws, making suggestions for improvements and trying to make things as good as it can be.

During times like this, it becomes very easy to demonise people making these decisions. I think it is an act of resistance in refusing to do this, which does not mean they are not accountable or that I can’t be angry or disappointed. Just that it helps no one to make out they are bad people when they are people trying to do their best with the crappy hand Covid-19 has dealt.

This may all seem counterintuitive and more like capitulation. Purists in the union movement may consider it so. Accepting an outcome that you can’t control is hard but finding ways too resist within the process is still possible and there’s always hope that it may make a difference.

Doing what I can, with what I have to make this process better is this the only act of resistance left to me. So, I’ll do it and do it well because it matters. It always matters, even if we don’t win.

 

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.