Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A wee bit of naval gazing

As I have been travelling around I am seeing so many different libraries and meeting librarians and I am thinking all the time about my profession. This is because I have reached a crossroad in my life and have needed to decide where I want my next 15 years of working life to take me.

I have worked my guts out (for non-Kiwi readers that means 'really hard) over the last 3 years creating a new model of a public library in Horowhenua. This was 'public library on steroids' plus a whole added dimension of needing to raise significant amounts of our operating budget (like 30% of a $3m budget) and to run it as a 'business' AND as a 'charity' - not as a council department like my peers. It has been a brutal few years and I gave it my all.

Just when we had managed to hid our stride; when I was feeling confident that we had developed a great strategic framework, a sound business plan and a high functioning organisation both in terms of structure and of individuals and teams, the rug was pulled out from under our feet and within a week I was gone. Council would take over the running of libraries and I was out of work. I have to be very careful in what I can say about my exit but it was heartbreaking. The shock was almost physical. I kept extremely professional throughout because I wanted that to be the enduring memory of me but I took it really hard.

After 2 really horrible weeks I discovered, while trying to study for an exam, that my brain could not actually retain or recall information. I realised I needed a real break, a complete change of scenery and a way to get my mojo back. The idea of a Koha tour came to me and within a very short timeframe it was happening and I was on a plane.

I have spent the last 6 weeks reflecting on how I want to live my life going forward and have been an observer in all the libraries I have visited, and in my all conversations. I realise I am trying to pull together the essence of what libraries are about, the threads that are common across the Koha community. What was the last 30 years of my working life about? How did I get it so wrong that I could be dumped so unceremoniously from leading a very successful organisation that I had created?

Two Council employees have said that Council was not getting the credit for the success of Te Takere and the Horowhenua Trust. The public know that the Trust ran libraries and while we always made sure that the Mayor got to 'front' events there was still a feeling, it turns out, that they weren't getting enough of the kudos. I wonder if one or more of the elected representatives, or perhaps council officers, have been so hellbent on securing the credit that they were prepared to sacrifice the successful Trust and management to  pull it back inhouse. I am starting to realise, and some of the Trust board members got there weeks ago, that our biggest sin was be too successful.

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