Moving on #blogjune 21

I’ve been dreaming of leaving this job since about 3 days after I started. I try not to think of anything as a “mistake” (because everything’s a learning experience, right?) but that’s certainly what it felt like here for about…oh, the first 12 months.

Preschool storytime 2016
Action Shot

Yet now, as I sift through work files and school event photos on my laptop and start to Trash and Burn, I have a sudden rush of … feelings.

This is the second-longest job I’ve held. Not necessarily because I have a short attention span – sometimes I’ve moved on in a hurry, but general Life events have also played their part (study, travel, child rearing). My last job before this I stayed 3 years, and it was the first time I left a position because it was the right thing to do, rather than to escape a tyrannical boss or poor working conditions. I was wholly unprepared for how leaving would feel. In the past I had left under cover of darkness, or in such rage against the machine that there was no room for feelings of sadness.

Primary library lesson
Listening intently, which students always do, whenever I speak lolololololololol

Here is a little of the latter, but it has been a long period of my life. And there have been some great moments, and some fantastic people – coworkers, students, random old ayis in the street. It’s also my last school-based teaching job (although, never say never as my teaching college buddy always said). At least by choice. And possibly my last librarian job for a little while. In a few days I will officially be unemployed.

So it’s all a bit emotional. And it will be a bittersweet farewell to China and all who sail in her.

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Not the most inspirational 21st century library environment, but I’ve stared at it every day since August 2014. Incidentally, what is it with me and getting jobs in ugly libraries? (Ayi joining the shot…)
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Final week #blogjune 20

Last week at school. Racing to get my bi-annual report done before Friday, book my tickets for our 2 week train jaunt around China, pack our bags, prepare gifts, clean the house, finish updating the Library policy, clear my desk…

And I get this page:

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What do you think the Chinese Government have against infographics? Every single site seems to be blocked. I’m even trying with the VPN on (which we are not supposed to use at school) and it still won’t load. *cry cry cry*

At least I have an outline for my bi-annual report – I’m borrowing the headings from my Library Policy, which I think is a stroke of genius but is more likely biting off more than I can chew (a particular skill of mine):

Library Mission, Aims, Goals etc

  • community profile

Library Services

  • Teaching and learning (or curriculum)
    • Overview
    • Library orientation
    • Collaborative teaching
    • Development of resources
    • professional development/training
  • Reader Services
    • Book Week
    • Panda Book Awards
    • Displays
    • Book talks, discussions, book groups
    • Reading lists
    • Classroom support e.g. guided reading
  • Tech support
    • ICT lab
    • laptop / ipad loans
    • Library website
    • Recommended sites and tools
    • Training
  • Use of library space
    • Bookings

Collection development

  • Collection snapshot
    • new books
    • new collections (home language, graphic novel)
    • new digital resources

Circulation

  • circ stats e.g. top 10 primary, top 10 secondary
  • top borrowing homerooms

Staffing

  • Snapshot
  • Professional development and training attended

Evaluation and Goals – moving forward

  • Library services
  • Collection
  • Circulation
  • Staffing

Can I finish for this for Friday?? If not, I will blame the internet 🙂

Exit strategy #blogjune 16

Only 6 1/2 days of school to go. I’m tidying my desk, my Inbox, my Documents folder…and I’m sifting through the “Things I Started But Quickly Discovered Nobody Cared About So I Stopped” pile. It’s an unfortunate side effect of this role that I have developed a Very Bad Habit that goes completely against my character: I have stopped completing some tasks I know to be important when I’ve learned nobody cares about them, or worse, if I learn that other staff, or managers, mock me for doing them. It’s last minute, but I am so disappointed to make this realisation that I am going to try to rectify it to some extent by setting myself the challenge of creating an annual report for the Library using infographics.

I’m testing these sites:

Canva (can’t get the templates to load without VPN *cry cry cry*)

Piktochart (like a lot. Easy to use, pretty templates, loads without VPN)

Infogram (could be great, but templates won’t load without VPN)

Easelly (already annoying because weird layout and templates won’t load without VPN)

So I reckon I’m pretty much stuck with Piktochart, but that’s cool because it is cool! There’s some excellent advice about creating interesting annual reports here and here.

While I was playing about with them, it suddenly occurred to me that an infographic would make an awesome CV. It seems I am not the only person to have this thought! There are even companies who you can pay to create amazing graphic CVs for you, like Story Resumes, the people who created my favourite below:

lucyin

Chapter 1

I’m torn by indecision about whether to commence a new blog for my studies in paper, or mesh it with my original. This indecision (perfectionist much?), has been a great tool for procrastinating! So I shall begin, and to hell with it.

I am a librarian who has been dreaming of running away to a remote island for over a decade. Part of the dream involves becoming a wildly (or even moderately) successful writer or artist, so I am able to spend my days pottering around my garden, or in my studio, or down the Co-op chatting to the old folks.

This is the hitch. If I’m a writer, I don’t know it yet. And an artist? Hilarious!

But the idea of it keeps nipping away. And every day I get a little bit older…

A few months ago, amid planning for Christmas holidays in Thailand, I stumbled across Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park.

So now, I am a librarian who is writing a research proposal and learning how to make paper by hand. And it is thrilling.

This blog is going to check in on my progress from time to time. And in the tough times, when it seems impossible, it is going to nip at my heels to keep moving.

baibheil

P.S. I totally started a whole other blog and posted this over there, then changed my mind and dragged it bag here…hopeless!

Panda Awards

Discovered a very cool thing when I started here and joined the Beijing Librarians Network: the Panda Book a Awards. Librarians from international schools all over China nominate recently published works in 4 categories: younger, middle, older & mature readers. A steering committee shortlists them and schools buy the books and promote over summer. After Lunar New Year, online voting takes place.

Our books only just arrived, so we’re behind the 8-ball, which means our display looks a bit bare, but we’ve had enthusiasm from the kids, and staff are keen to get more involved next year.

Our display, with charts for readers to mark off which books they’ve read:

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QR code linking to website for the awards:

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I found the first question was “what do we win?” And as I have no idea that meant kids lost a lot of interest. Quite a lot simply don’t get the idea of “reading for pleasure” This is a struggle for me to adapt to, as I have always been a serious bookworm, but also because I’ve just spent 3 years in public libraries, where people come in because they love reading.

Hopefully get the kids more engaged over the next week or two before voting.

The most important place in town

I’m missing public libraries enormously. There were a lot of sensible reasons for moving back to a school library job, but they faded before the end of the first week. I miss my community. I miss working with other staff. I miss my networks, who haven’t really gone far, but I’m just not part of the crowd any more.

One of the those excellent reasons was to find out whether school libraries were my ‘calling’ and I’d just had some negative experiences, or if public libraries were really my niche.

It is well and truly the latter.

One of the things I used to do while I was a student teacher was gaze longingly out of the window (while I should have been planning to teach Shakespeare to Year 10) at parents, cars driving past, bin men, and longing to be “out there” in the real world.

15 years later I find myself once again staring out the window.

The other realisation I have made is that my skills, my abilities, my ‘talents’ if you will, are best suited for public libraries. There are reasons my most recent job (in a public library) was the longest I’ve ever stayed in one workplace. I LIKED IT. I WAS GOOD AT IT.

So, here I am in the 2nd month of a 2 year contract, wondering what an earth I have gotten myself into!

Community Centered: 23 Reasons Why Your Library Is the Most Important Place in Town

Library life

Despite (unbelievably) still feeling queasy, this week was definitely a lot easier to live through than last!  Travelled to Qingdao side to catch up with some of the other new staff on the weekend and I managed to eat western food, even though I was sweating just putting it into my mouth.  I actually shared a meal with one of the other ladies – at least we’d both go down together!

My new library
My new library

Spent the week getting to know my library – and upsetting the apple cart!  Shifted shelves and furniture, much to the consternation of Chinese staff.  Interestingly each time I requested something be moved, they would phone my Chinese co-librarian to check.  I think I am starting to get a feel for how things work around here…

Library ICT room
Library ICT room

They have moved the ICT lab (I know, a lab? In 2014?  Interesting…) up to the 4th floor so the old lab has become part of the library.  For structural reasons it is still a separate room, and due to cabling issues all the computers will stay in that room.  I have a lot of misgivings about this (lets not build walls between  print and digital) but this is how it stands.  I got all excited to see a guy in there ripping up the floor (thinking it would be replaced with carpet so it genuinely looked like part of the library), but alas, it was replaced with the old floor.

I am going to have to get involved in cataloguing here, which I have not had to deal with in too much depth for 3 years.  In some ways, I enjoy it, but there are so many other things I am better at in the library that I tend to let it slide.  However the other staff do not have any library training (and there has not been anyone in this library with training) so there are some big issues that we need to sort out.

Starting with the fact that the collection code for all the books is “LB” – for “Library Book”.

Eeek.

Relax / Move

We are on the move again after nearly 3 years in one place (my hometown, no less). In between jobs I am taking about 2 months off to visit family and friends in Scotland and Europe. It feels like years since I had this much time on my hands, or since I sat still and I am struggling to switch off. It’s been such a busy 3 years. Heck, it’s been a chaotic DECADE….with a baby, becoming a solo parent, career changing, completing my Masters…

And amidst all this I’ve been constantly on the move. I’ve just completed a federal police check, which required me to list the past 10 years of jobs and addresses. The process burned holes in my brain as I flicked through old diaries, phone messages, emails and trying to recall every single one.

It’s exhausting just looking at the list – like looking at the life of a madwoman. I’ve had about 20 addresses (and almost as many jobs) in those 10 years. No wonder my brothers disowned me when I told them I was selling my house this time.

It’s shocking to some people – especially in a small, country town where people don’t just settle but drop a mineshaft and sink their roots 30 kms below.

I’ve started psychoanalysing it, because it was a surprise to me! I have some theories, but that is for another post.

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Social media junkies unite

One of my key preparations for our upcoming European adventure and then Big Move to China has been to find social media that I can take with me.  You may have heard about the Great Firewall of China which blocks many popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter?  Last time I was over there, twitter wasn’t as much of a thing and I found I could survive without facebook, although it was frustrating as living 1000s of miles from your family and friends is funnily enough one of those times when a site that allows you to share pics and updates with them would be REALLY useful.

I did pay around $US14 a month to get a VPN/wormhole thing to circumnavigate the blocks, but it made Facebook look weird and I felt very dodgy.  And that was before smartphones were a thing.  I’m not sure how well the vpn model will work on a phone or tablet.

And I have grown to adore twitter.  I work in an industry where there are very clearly two types of people – those who use twitter, and those who don’t.  99% of my professional reading is via twitter.  I no longer watch the news because I’ve already read it all on twitter 6 hours earlier.  I’ve visited some awesome libraries and met some amazing librarians through twitter, including some who have become very good friends.

So I am more than a wee bit panicked to be heading to work in relative isolation where my colleagues and I don’t even share a common language and losing my PLN.  I need an alternative!

So far I have discovered wordpress works, but a blog is hard work.  I’ve also discovered tumblr works too and I find it a bit more ‘twitter-y’.  It seems to have a more social element than wordpress.  So I have started this blog there and will see which takes my fancy most.  It helps that I know librarians over there already.

I’ve also been revamping my neglected Instagram account after reading this blog post:

http://quicklistenup.com/instagram-in-china-does-it-work/

Loads of tweeps on Instagram, it has hashtags, AND according to the above blog I can set it to auto update my twitter and facebook feeds thus circumventing the Great Firewall of China.

Nice!

Tweeps
Tweep tweep

 

Agencies – or hunting international school jobs

Whether travel or teaching, I’ve never really had much luck with agencies.  I have registered with a few over the years – from teaching in the UK to Manpower in NZ (when we were so hungry we were growing food from scraps).  I’ve found them all like this to begin with:

Friendly Teacher Recruiter
Friendly Teacher Recruiter

But more “this” after about week 3:

Leanne will get back to you...
Leanne will get back to you…

Last time I was looking jobs in Asia I started with Teach Anywhere.  I had previously been in touch with them re: teaching in the UK and should’ve known better.  They’re very keen to sign you up, but once they realised my CV was less than ordinary they became very hard to contact.  They also seem to be incapable of understanding that my interest in librarian jobs meant *gasp* I was looking for a librarian job!  I kept getting interviews (literally principals phoning me) without notice, or for jobs I had told my Teach Anywhere recruiter I was not interested in.  Not surprisingly the recruiter became less friendly.

I found that although their website doesn’t publish names of schools, it is relatively easy to figure them out.  I also made a list of major cities and started googling: “CITY + teacher librarian + jobs”.  Using these masterful techniques I found a librarian job on a school’s website and contacted the principal.  He happened to be on holiday about an hour away, met me for coffee and offered me the job.  Interestingly he had paid to register the job with Teach Anywhere and been told they had nobody available (!)

That said, I am considering a proper agency this time.  Back in 2009 I had no library experience and was working part-time in a rubbish tip.  I had nothing to lose.  I also had no idea how much I loved being a librarian.  I think it’s reasonable to expect a school who can afford to pay to recruit staff should be able to pay to look after them.  Not always the case, but if you’re going to use a free agency you may just get what you pay for.

A friend from Darwin recommended Search Associates and managed to get jobs through them in top schools in Indonesia, China and Cambodia.  She also has a lot more solid teaching history than I do, so may have done just as well without the agency.  And she still had issues with jobs, so it’s not a guarantee there won’t be a crazy staff…

Other agencies I’ve heard recommended include TIC Recruitment and ISS.  It cost my mate about $250 to register with Search Associates, which gave her access to job listings, a dedicated recruiter, an online profile and admission to job fairs.

Still undecided so I’m off to google…:)