Library Letters Part 4: Dear Mirla

Dear Mirla,

I wonder how you and your colleagues in senior management are getting on. Are you OK? Are you sleeping well at night? Are you worried at all about how your steady income will be affected by the FFF changes? No, I didn’t think so. I just thought I would let you know about some of the effects this is having on YOUR  hard working colleagues at the coal face – although it sticks in my craw to say colleagues – as there is nothing collegial about how staff are being treated.

These colleagues of yours, I would like to remind you, are the very people who have made the libraries the heart and soul of their communities. It is not you and your team of “change analysts and consultants” spewing out wordy documents full of FTE’s and number crunching equations. It is the staff at the coal face who have personal interactions with all sorts of people, helping them with issues to do with books but also a million and one other things.

I want to tell you, Mirla and co, about one memorable customer interaction.

A customer comes and sits down for a reference enquiry. As I am a trained counsellor one of my strengths is my ability to really listen even when there are many other things on my plate to do. We have always been taught to put the customer first, other jobs can wait. This customer tells me that she has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness and she is looking to empower herself by finding as much literature to inform herself about her condition. We sit for a long time – maybe 3/4 hour. I don’t rush her. I order in a couple of relevant books and find some up to date articles and print them off for her. I also listen as she tells me a little about how she is doing. She thanks me at the end and asks how much that would be. I reply that it is $3.60 for the printing. She looks incredulous and says something like ” you know I’ve been to quite a few medical specialists who have charged hundreds of dollars but I didn’t get nearly as much as what you have given me”.  This is just one of a million examples of what staff are doing for customers.

Mirla, every single librarian, library assistant, casual, shelver will have many their own stories. I guess I gave you that personal example as I (foolishly and naively) have always expected that the way we treat our customers would be the way you – management would treat your staff ie with respect and compassion. How misguided I was.

What makes me so so sad about this process is that you now have these beautiful, hard working, compassionate people sick with worry, in tears and many times too intimidated by everything about this cruel process to stand up and fight. It broke my heart to see one of my colleagues the other day just a broken woman. I have watched her go from a proud, hard working, quiet, no nonsense person who more than anyone else I knew never complained, happily gave an excellent service to all customers, always kept abreast of changes and passed all knowledge onto everyone in the team. In short this is your ideal employee. She has gone from that to being depressed, hurt and angry finding it difficult to concentrate or enjoy anything else in her life.

So Mirla, really this letter is coming from my broken heart. Broken hearted that a group of people who work so hard and passionately could be treated in this way. You the creators and instigators of the flawed design and inhumane process of FFF SHOULD BE losing sleep with the knowledge of the huge toll this is having on your fellow workers.

Oh and one more thing while I’m writing to you. How condescending for you to say that those who have left do not want to be part of the future. I resigned from the job I love because I felt intimidated by the FFF process and because of the secrecy, lack of information and insecurity of not knowing if I had a job and what that job looks like and on what days, hours etc. I have worked extremely hard during my time at the library, I have also upskilled myself by learning Te Reo Maori for five years. I am definitely part of the future Mirla. It seems as though its you that can’t keep good people around due to this diabolical process.



4 thoughts on “Library Letters Part 4: Dear Mirla

  1. What an excellent summary. Well written.

  2. Claire Scott says:

    Lovely and feartfelt

  3. Pauline Oates says:

    Well done for speaking out about this difficult process. I know what you are feeling from my own personal experience after several long serving staff were discarded during a recent downsizing of the service to schools.

  4. karen mac says:

    Well said. Well done for speaking out! It’s a criminal shame that ‘the lead team’ (those people earning themselves $150,000 plus, with dubious credentials, and an eye for nothing but their future bonuses and sense of self-importance) are so lacking in integrity and compassion – let alone any interest in standing up for the values of libraries.

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