Giving back to the profession in other ways #mentoring

We all lead busy & varied lives, and sometimes we feel like we just don’t have the time to be on a committee, be a mentor, run a workshop, take part in a MOOC, or even just fill in an online membership feedback survey, because it all seems too big, too hard, too much.

What if … we flip that thinking?

Instead of thinking I can’t participate in [insert task that seems overwhelming] at the moment because I am too busy/tired/fed up [insert adjective of choice], what about contributing in other ways instead? Think small & achievable contributions rather than bigger-than-Texas.

We all bring different strengths to the table – look at your peers, can you see the writers, the organisers, the workhorses, the dreamers, the leaders, the artists? Every one of them has something to offer to the library industry. Instead of relying on a small group of committed individuals who regularly step up to industry committees/project groups/conference organisation, we could share the load if we broke it down into more manageable sized “tasks”, we could play to people’s strengths and achieve something truly awesome as a profession.

The collective is stronger than the individual.

Continue reading


Stepping up #mentors

What began as a post reflecting on my journey of finding a mentor has morphed into a different post altogether.

I’ve come to realise that I believe more strongly (than I originally thought) that the mentoring of new information professionals is vitally important for the GLAM sectors going forward, whether it is inside the structured framework of a workplace program or under the umbrella of a professional association).

Structured mentoring is about actively supporting & encouraging those who are stepping out in their sparkly new shoes into the professional world, and we owe it to new graduates to provide a support network & to welcome them into the exciting world of the various GLAM sectors that we work in. Leaving newbies to find their own way might work for some individuals, but I think that expecting total independence & self-assurance might actually increase the level of floundering and leave many feeling quite lost & isolated, and wondering why on earth they decided to get into the gallery/library/museum/archives sectors in the first place. Continue reading

Round-up for February 2013

So what’s the outcome for this topic for February 2013?

Push it until it happens.

I *want* this to happen. I want NZ to lead the way. Show the world that it is possible.

It’s up to me to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve committed to improve my own Te Reo Māori skills this year. Next up is extending my skills in te reo Māori, gaining a greater of understanding of tikanga and increasing my waiata repertoire.

And somewhere along the line, I will refresh my NZSL skills.

I need to keep planting the seed to everyone I know in the GLAM industry to incorporate bilingualism into our training curriculum.

So my goals are to –

  • Keep the discussion going.
  • Find out who to lobby, who to influence and who will make this a reality.
  • Find others to be part of this.
  • Start the groundswell.
  • Keep momentum going.

Make it happen.

What would a bilingual workplace look like?

I have worked in a bilingual organisation. I had to learn a new language (NSZL), and with it, a new cultural paradigm (Deaf culture). It opened my eyes up in different ways than living overseas in countries where English wasn’t the first language of most people.

There’s plenty of interesting resources out there about what bilingual workplaces are like, and what impact bilingualism has for employers, employees and communities.

Two pieces that caught my eye are :

  • Multnomah County Library (USA) working with immigrant communities.”Technical services and bilingual staff have worked together to build library collections in Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Vietnamese. That work has resulted in a 27 percent increase in library materials in these four languages over the past three years. During that same period, usage of these materials has increased 81 percent.” Usage increase.
  • Research by Christofides & Swidinsky (2010), using Canadian census data, to show that bilingual workers earn more than unilingual workers. There are gender differences, as well as regional/geographical differences. Economic benefits.

While there is some NZ research that addresses language & culture in the workplace (but not so much on bilingualism), from the Language in the Workplace project*, there doesn’t appear to be much recent or public discussion about the issue of bilingualism in New Zealand libraries. While libraries may have documents which purport to a bilingual and/or bi-cultural workplace, anecdotal discussions indicate that this has often not been implemented or integrated into the workplace.

I really do believe that New Zealand could lead the way in commiting to making our cultural & educational institutions bilingual, which may also ensure that our workplaces are also truly bi-cultural, and subsequently more widely aware of other cultures. It is a case of making it ordinary to have more than one language used in the workplace. I remember Andrew Green from the National Library of Wales speak at the 2011 LIANZA Conference about how he mostly uses Welsh in his workplace, rather than English, and that was  ordinary for his workplace.

I believe that making it a compulsory component of future training, we increase the depth of understanding of those of us who are collecting, collating, re-purposing, showcasing and sharing our cultural heritage, as well as increasing access for our customers and encouraging wider discussions about our past, our present & our futures in the GLAM and education sectors.

So I do remain hopeful that we can implement this as part of our current LIS & GLAM & educational sector training, as I do believe that the positives heavily outweigh the negatives. It is a commitment to our current customers, our future customers, ourselves and our country. By learning another language, your increase your understanding through a different cultural lens, which also shows that information & knowledge are created, collected, shared & redistributed in different ways. Awareness of this can only be a good thing.

* Note: I was a casual research assistant on this project in my pre-library life.

So what do other countries do?

There’s plenty of other countries that have two or more official languages. Two that immediately spring to mind are Canada & Wales.

So do they encourage librarians to be bilingual? Do they make it compulsory for librarians- in-training to be bilingual? Or is it commonplace to just “encourage” bilingualism?

Why can’t we just put a stick in the sand here in New Zealand and say, right, in five years time, anyone who wants to work as a [teacher, librarian, social worker] or in the [medical, government, tourism] industry must be bilingual? Get started now. Five years notice. Go.

Perhaps I’m too idealistic about this.

Yes I know that learning another language is hard.

Yes I know that not everyone wants to learn English, Te Reo or NZSL.

Yes I know that we are all too [busy/tired/overworked].

Well that’s too bad. If we are doing [insert various job titles] for future generations, then it isn’t really about us is it?

Our future customers & communities & employers & employees deserve better.

Commit to it. Learn it. Use it. Show your community that you give a damn. Show them it can be done.

Be that change you want to see in the world. It might sometimes feel like an overused cliché, but until we actually show others how and why it can be done, then how can we expect it to be any different?

So let’s just draw a line in the sand – do you want to work in the GLAM sector in New Zealand? Then get yourself at least one official language fluently, another one beyond the absolute basics, and if you added in another language (official or not), then that is a total bonus.

So my mission is to find out this month whether any other countries make it compulsory. And then turn the spotlight on whether we can make it happen here in New Zealand.