I recently had the absolute pleasure and privilege of being invited to share with librarians in the SLANZA Waikato/BOP area around the weighty and timely topic of library advocacy.
After being affected by fog in Christchurch and three plane rides later, I finally arrived in Hamilton at 9 o’clock at night (original arrival time was scheduled at 3.30pm! There’s a potential separate blog post on my stressful, circuitous journey, but I digress) and drove across to Tauranga to meet with the SLANZA Waikato/BOP crew the following morning.
While the weather that Saturday morning may have kept more faint-hearted souls in their beds, that is certainly not the case for intrepid librarians! They are like the Pony Express riders of the historic Amerian West, “heroes for the much needed and dangerous service they provided for the nation” and cheerfully turned out in good numbers. (They were admirably rewarded with a stunning morning tea spread to keep their energy levels at high! Thanks, team!)
The workshop covered 10 key areas:
- Taking a look at the big picture
- Identifying our vision
- Acknowledging what we already do
- Collaborative strategies
- Working with our whole community
- Telling our story
- Promotion and marketing
- How to gather evidence and what to do with it
- Tools of the trade
Since coming across it several years ago, I have often reflected on Lauren Cohen’s Librarian 2.0 Manifesto, which is startlingly, now more than 10 years old, and it had inspired me to want to write my own, but it never got to the top of my “to do” pile.
So, while preparing for this workshop I revisited it, along with re-reading the UNESCO and IFLA School Library Manifesto and the School Library and Learning in the Information Landscape: Guidelines for New Zealand Schools, which is now more than 15 years old. It made me realise that there has been little of significance published about advocating for school libraries and learning in more than a decade and given the rate of change in education in those dozen or so years it certainly gives pause for thought.
It also made me revisit my goal of writing my own manifesto but chose a different path and instead I incorporated the UNESCO manifesto and the NZ guidelines with my own library world view and this is what I came up with:
If you’d like more details about the advocacy workshop you can access it here:
And if you are looking for even more inspiration then you should invest in a copy of This is What A Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information by Kyle Cassidy. It is awesome! Expect a blog post soon on this amazing book.
Thanks to the Waikato/BOP Committee for inviting me to come and share with them. They’re an awesome team, ably led by Glenys and Linda. And thank you guys for the most precious of gifts you can give a librarian, a newly published book!
Finally, I’ll leave you with what has become a bit of a catchphrase for me in recent months as I continue to explore the intersection between libraries and learning.
The Robin Hood Library Initiative
We all need inspiration and validation for what we do. Today I received this in spades when I watched the Ted Talk by designer Michael Bierut about his involvement in creating a logo for a Robin Hood project.
About a decade ago, this philanthropic organisation wanted to do something to improve the public schools of New York but didn’t have the level of funding required to update all the schools’ buildings so instead chose the place in the school that would reach the most students – the library! It’s called The Library Initiative and has redeveloped libraries in almost 60 schools in New York City.
These libraries look like places of magic and wonderment! And while I loved everything Michael spoke about, I was particularly struck by his theme of unintended consequences and how speaking with one of the school librarians about turning out the lights at the end of each working day became a touchstone of what unexpected consequences can look like.
I think it’s also a reminder that doing something we feel strongly about can bring unexpected consequences as a result of the action we take and how it may impact us personally. And I love that! Receiving of unexpected gifts.
If you want to see more of the libraries and their unique murals, you’ll find some at Environmeant.
I am an immigrant. I came to New Zealand in the mid-sixties as a toddler with my parents, a young couple then in their early 20’s who arrived with £20 in their pocket and a huge dream for a new life. After 50 years they acknowledge it was the best move they ever made!
This meant I started my schooling here at the beginning of the 1970s, and while at primary school I learned to make a poi* and to play tī rakau, the Māori stick game, (I can still sing the song!) I learned very little, if anything about Māori history or culture and have remembered even less.
*poi – a light ball on a string of varying length which is swung or twirled rhythmically to a sung accompaniment.
As an adult, and since beginning my career in education almost two decades ago, I have muddled my way through situations that required some understanding of Māori tikanga, feeling uncomfortable and somewhat out of my depth while also feeling it had no bearing on me or my heritage.
However, that is no longer true, and the catalyst for this change was the Mātauranga Māori within New Zealand Libraries workshop I attended just over two years ago. It was delivered by Anahera Morehu and her team through Te Rōpū Whakahau at the Murihiku marae in Invercargill and it was awesome. I certainly came away from that day with more knowledge about tikanga, te reo & kaupapa Māori, but it was the epiphany about my relationship to these that was transformative. If you get the opportunity to attend one of these workshops, please please please do it! It is because of this very positive experience I began my journey towards understanding Māori ‘s connection with their whakapapa & their place in the world.
As a result of attending this workshop and listening to Victor Manawatu speak to our staff about local Māori history last year, I approached Leon Dunn, one of our wonderful staff members at Southland Boys’ High School about helping me to write my mihi*. I came to realise that a large part of my reluctance to use Te Reo Māori was my insecurity regarding pronunciation and not wanting to offend Māori by speaking their language incorrectly. Big thanks to Leon for helping me to face my fears and do it anyway!
*a Maori greeting, formal welcome speech, or expression of thanks
Then the rubber met the road when I was recently provided with the opportunity to use my mihi in public for the first time. I had been invited to present to the senior students at Aurora College about successful learning and felt it was not only appropriate but necessary for me to begin with my mihi. I admit to being more nervous about delivering a 30-second mihi than an hour-long presentation on information literacy skills!
Being courageous paid off when the Year 13 group applauded my mihi efforts! I was stunned and delighted, and when I shared with them that this was the first time I had been brave enough to do this in public they further encouraged me with a “well done, Miss! That was awesome!”
I now treasure a whole new appreciation gained about the power of mihi, mixed with the strong sense of pride and belonging it can bring, putting your own story together, sharing your lineage, your family roots in this way.
My regret is not embracing my fears earlier as it would have been very special to have been able to introduce myself in my country of birth using my adopted country’s native language when I presented at the LILAC Conference in Glasgow in 2012. I will not miss another opportunity like that again!