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Thames 1915-1917

This is a reflection on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings during WW1. As far as I know none of the men in our family went to this war but instead, as farmers, raised “fats” – slaughtered, frozen to ship to the troops.

The following is an excerpt from my grandmother’s unpublished memoirs. Thanks to my sister Andrea for information and the photo of our grandmother as a girl.

“…In the early days, long before our time, Thames was a very busy, rowdy, prosperous gold mining town and boasted, according to old identities at least a hundres hotels, and at closing time it wasn’t safe to be about, but in our days there were only three or four hotels, and the township was gentle and law abiding. This was during the first world war and everyone was knitting jerseys, balaclavas and socks in khaki wool. Large fruity cakes were cooked and soldered into tins, and biscuits by the hundreds were sealed in air tight tins. We school children helped in the packing of parcels and were allowed to put our names and addresses and a cheery message in with the goodies. The soldier who received the parcel with my name in it wrote back to me so I wrote to him again. He was killed in action soon after this, and when we saw his death notice in the paper with his parents’ address we thought it would be a kind gesture to send the very interesting letter he had written to me to his parents. They were very grateful as they had not had any mail from him at all. In those sad days transporters carrying mail etc. were being sunk frequently. I was sorry to lose my letter, but pleased that his mother had at least something he had written from overseas. She sent me a memorial card with a photograph of him in uniform.”

 Winnie Hutchinson,  my grandmother as a young girl, 1910s
  Winnie Davies, nee Hutchinson (at right) at a Country Women’s Institute jubilee. 



End of the Archives

At the end of last year I prepared to hand-over my part-time role as Archivist at Otumoetai College to a new person. Because I work full time in another role, this job involved working one Sunday a month. The hand-over involved ensuring all the procedures I had set up were up to date and accessible, and training the new Archivist.

I am proud of what I achieved in this role which I held for 5 years and that the systems and procedures I set up to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of the school are robust and professional, ready for the new person to take over. However I was also pleased to relinquish the role because this allowed me to begin some study have more energy for my other job.

I love Bookrapt

Here’s a chance to reflect on my ongoing involvement with Bookrapt, the Bay of Plenty Children’s Literature Association.

For two years from October 2011 to October 2013, I held the role of President of Bookrapt.

As well as supporting committee members with their tasks, chairing meetings and writing annual reports my activities included helping organise the judging panels for the regional heats of the Kids Lit Quiz, speaking at four book launches, completing a successful funding application, organising and MC-ing two seminars, coordinating our 30 year anniversary celebrations involving Dame Lynley Dodd and adopting a new Patron – Phyllis Johnston.

I found my time as President rewarding, with the most enjoyable aspect being able to acknowledge the achievements of local authors. Bookrapt gives me the opportunity to network with librarians from other sectors, writers, illustrators, teachers, parents and others who share a love of children and young adult literature.

Such fun!

Money Matters

In the second half of last year I completed a  ‘Financial and Managerial Accounting’ paper – the  second of four papers in the Post Graduate Certificate in Leadership that I am undertaking through University of Waikato. Although at post-graduate level, the financial concepts were covered at a basic level suitable for managers like me, who although they may have  some financial management experience and skills, do not have accounting qualifications or in-depth financial analysis knowledge.

Topics covered included taxation, depreciation, ratio analysis, reading financial statements and cost accounting. Group assignments involved completing a Financial Analysis and a Balanced Scorecard for an organisation of our choice. We chose BoPPoly for the former, and Waikato Students’ Union for the latter.

learning accounting... by rnav1234, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  rnav1234 

This paper has developed my understanding of financial concepts which will be useful in my current role managing library and health services within in a tertiary institution.  I now read financial statements with more understanding, although my ratio analysis skills are still developing and I could do with more practice. I learnt that a financial analysis not only considers the financial health of an organisation but political, social and environmental factors too.

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Paddling the Waters : Our Journey to Ako Atea

Recently I gave a presentation at LIANZA Conference 2013: Wai Ora, Wai Maori, Waikato: the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa’s conference in Hamilton. My paper was called Paddling the Waters : our Journey to Ako Atea, and it was written with my colleague Justin Heke. It is about our new model of integrated learning and library support at Bay of Plenty Polytechnic. The presentation explains some of the drivers for the change, outlines some of our successes and challenges, and ends with my thoughts about the skills and leadership practices that seem to me to be suited to this model of service. Here is the link to the visual presentation on Slideshare with accompanying notes. You can read the full paper here : Paddling the Waters

Nga mihi nui


Love and Banality in Social Media

Today’s post for #blogjune is inspired by Megan Nicol Reed’s column in The Sunday Star Times’ Sunday Magazine. Reed writes that social media is the home of “banality” and “Twitter is just another vehicle for those aboard to wedge their own heads up their arses a little further”.

I love Reed’s colourful way with words, and I respect her views about social media. I always enjoy reading her columns, even this one. However in this case I have a different view. But first I’d like to say that I don’t think it really matters whether you’re on board with social media or not. It’s a personal choice whether you engage with it or not, and as DK, the social media guru (@justadandak) periodically reminds his own network, “Real life has more bandwidth”. There’s nothing quite like getting out on the mountain bike, or having a face to face conversation with friends, family, or workmates.

However I don’t agree with Reed when she says “there is no love on Facebook. Nor is there on Twitter”. From my observations I see plenty of it. Especially on Twitter. Perhaps it is the nature of the people in my network or the type of people I follow, but I think social media is full of kindness, generosity, and much uplifting of spirits in general. When people tweet, or share a link, or say something that’s important to them, other people are generally very encouraging. And if they’re not, then it’s easy to unfriend or unfollow. There’s a real learning culture there too – Twitter has become my best personal learning network.

Reed notes that FB is losing millions of users, and I admit I’m getting bored with it, especially now I have to navigate around all the ads that seem to be taking over. I’m not into Candy Crush Saga or NZ on Sale thanks very much. Maybe FB is losing a bit of its love factor. But Twitter and other social networks like Tumblr are still growing, and I think it is because they are overwhelmingly positive and encouraging places. I’m not naive, they do have their dark corners, but they’re avoidable.

As to social media being the home of banality, yes, there’s definitely a lot of that. But there’s also a lot of inspirational, clever, witty, incisive commentary coming through. Following the Twitter conversation whilst the Marriage Equality legislation was going through Parliament was incredible. There’s a lot of irony, but not so much cynicism. And what’s wrong with a bit of banality anyway, it’s pretty much the stuff of everyday life, so why not share a bit of food p0rn every now and again. Like this, a chocolate sacher forte my son made:

Most of the conversations we have with each other in real life are pretty banal (unless you’re the Dalai Lama perhaps) and that’s what many people say Twitter is all about: the conversations.

So thanks to Megan Nicol Reed for inspiring my post. It’s helped me clarify why I enjoy social media. I don’t think anyone is missing out by not using it, but I don’t think it’s going to go away anytime soon.

So here’s to Twitter and its ilk. Long may the love and banality last.

Letting Go

First blogpost here since 2010. I’m taking part in BlogJune (write a blog post a day for the month). So here goes:

I work as a manager of a learning commons in a polytechnic. As a result of reflecting on my ‘leadership practice’ for some study I’m doing, I discovered one of the things I really need to do more of is ‘let go’.

One of my key values is autonomy – I like to be able to work in an autonomous way, and I enjoy seeing my colleagues work autonomously. However sometimes I have a tendency to retain control of situations. For example in team meetings, if an issue comes up which is a bit challenging to find an answer for, rather than throw it back to the group to work on, I might say “Leave it with me, I’ll sort it out”…which doesn’t actually help to foster anyone else’s ability to be autonomous, or develop new skills, or confidence, or inspire creativity. Not entirely sure where this tendency comes from. I think this must partly be about power. Maybe I like to think I know more than anyone else, and I have all the answers. Or maybe I’m scared of what will happen if I’m not controlling the situation. It might all turn to custard, and then someone will put the finger at me…yes me!

I do know that teams have great capacity for finding creative solutions to problems. I’ve witnessed this over and over, and most of the time I’m pretty good at letting this happen, and allowing people to make learning mistakes. But just occasionally…

Anyway I’ve been practicing letting go, and am getting a little bit better. In fact maybe I’ve gone a bit overboard. For example, I’ve pretty much let go of worrying about the Help Desk Roster (which I coordinated for a long time) and whether we’ve got enough cover, as the two team members I’ve delegated it to have both been so awesomely excellent at sorting it. But late last night, I was asked who was working tomorrow, as the Saturday staff member was on annual leave. D’oh…no one! Arranging this is still my responsibility. I’d let go to such an extent I had forgotten to arrange cover, and as it was too late to ask anyone, I’ve ended up working myself. (Which I don’t really mind at all, and it’s very quiet, so it’s giving me the time to write this blog post!). I haven’t asked the staff member who does the roster to arrange cover for Saturdays, so the ball was in my court.

So this letting go is a bit of a balancing act. Yes, my colleagues are perfectly capable of doing most (in fact probably all) of the things I do, and I need to trust they will find their own solutions. The team have figured out the things they now own, and are responsible for. I just need to remember the things I haven’t quite let go of!

Happy BlogJune everyone.

Family history

I am discovering a rich vein of family history after visiting Walhalla, Vic. with Dad and Paritosho. On my return a work colleague suggested I search the Australian newspapers online. What an amazing resource!. I found a court report in a 1904 newspaper about my great great grandfather James Douglas who sued Thomas Noble for 99 pounds for the “seduction” of his daughter, Mary Douglas (my great aunt)..and for the “loss of the girl’s services in consequences thereof”. Tom’s lawyer asked for the court to be adjourned, and when they regathered announced that Mary and Tom had just got married! The case was adjourned “sine que” and the judge wished the couple a happy life. This confirms the birth records we found at the Walhalla Museum that list Mary having a child Estelle, “father unknown”. Dad remembers his aunt “Stella Noble” but knew nothing about this fascinating story, surprise surprise. The times they were.

The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point : How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell (Little Brown and Company, 2000)

A fascinating book that looks at how epidemics (both medical and social) spread. How for example did New York change from being the most dangerous city in the world, to one of the safest? What and who contributed to this? Gladwell explains his philosophy of a tipping point, where a single person or thing can start an epidemic. The moment they take off or reach a critical mass is the tipping point. There are various types of people : connectors, mavens and salesmen. Connectors are the type of people who know everybody (the most critical people in the 6 degrees of separation process!) Mavens are first adopters and know everything about everything FIRST, and Salesmen are people with charisma and influence. They all have a different role to play in how things change. Gladwell emphasises that often it is really small things that make a difference. Interesting because many people think you need a comprehensive, thorough plan to ensure change occurs…but sometimes it is just the small, seemingly inconsequential things that contribute to the tipping point of change. Lots of good examples of how this works – deciding to clean up the graffiti in New York being a prime example of something small that can have a massive impact.

Gladwell can Writewell.


Slippers : Service and Selling

Slippers : Service and Selling by Mark Blumksy (Hodder Moa, 2009)

An easy to read and short book about the business lessons Blumsky’s learned as a shoe shop owner and Mayor of Wellington. He’s a great story teller and uses conversations and lots of personal anecdotes to get his message across. The slipper story is a good one…it’s all about identifying exactly what will make a difference to your customers…read this book to find out why the slippers matter!

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