My career at the Library began as a volunteer. What a wonderful way to integrate into the community. A win-win. The library gets help with manpower and volunteers have a sense of being an important part of their community. I came to be a volunteer after a serious car accident which led to my being unable to continue with my previous career which was in the counselling/disability/mental health area. Truth is that I have found it hard to accept that I now have been the one needing help in these areas. Harder still has been the loss of confidence that I experienced.
I worked as a volunteer for about a year and loved every minute. With the amalgamation of the councils came some new processes, I secured temporary paid employment sorting the books to go to the other libraries. I did that for 6 months. Then I became a casual worker until I successfully got a part permanent role as a Library Assistant.
My contract was 2 days a week and when I could I would do extra hours. This suited me due to my ongoing health issues after the car accident. I made really good use of my time by deciding to learn Te reo Māori. See my Te Reo blog to read about my amazing journey.
Despite some ups and downs due to my health challenges I thrived and loved my Library work. I could utilize my counselling and advocacy skills and my strength of being patient with people and following through to the end with requests. Being slightly obsessive compulsive there is nothing I love more than shelving books, putting them in order, straightening, tidying. I also used my growing knowledge of Te reo Māori.
With the amalgamation there were some big changes happening. Centralizing human resources and other departments felt to me like a move away from a feeling of community. To me it seems like there is one set of principles and values for customers and another for staff. Lots of fabulous programs happening everywhere, happy customers, feedback always good – no, feedback always excellent! With the feedback about staff always the best. We loved hearing the feedback and it made us feel good but we never felt valued by management. In 6 years of employment I never met anyone from HR or is it People and Capability? I can’t keep up with the name changes. I never saw senior management or HR people visiting us in the library. Shouldn’t they do a shift of work out in a community library once in while to actually experience what we do?
Over time I found the culture more challenging. No-one dares speak up about anything for fear of losing their job! How ridiculous – this is across the board in our society. Also there is no support for vulnerable people. The strongest survive by “sucking it up” I never heard that term being used as much as when I worked in libraries.
Because I loved the job and was privileged to work with the most awesome bunch of both staff people and customers I hung in there. I tried my best to ignore the goings on in upper management. Till the FFF. I was dealing with quite a few personal challenges along the way but I knew this challenge was too big. I did try to talk to my branch managers and although they are supportive people who genuinely want the best for their staff, I don’t think they are trained well enough in people management. I also tried to talk to someone on the “change team” and they were actually quite dismissive. “we don’t know the answers to your question” This has has been the refrain throughout the process.
Knowing that my position and extra hours were going to be axed, not knowing what the new positions would look like, what hours, what days or where they would be. The unknown created too much anxiety in me. I need to know where I am and what I am doing so I can plan my time. The thought of going up against my colleagues was something that made me feel sick. Going to an interview to justify my existence without even knowing the details? – couldn’t stomach it. And maybe above all, the lack of respect I felt throughout the process. Just FTE’s not people.
The conclusion: The survival guide is that you need to be able to put your blinkers on, spew out all the jargon and spin that they want hear. I’ve never been good at that – There’s no room for vulnerable people – maybe that was part of the plan – to get rid of the weakest. Basically I have left a job I was bloody good at and had lots to offer.