12.10.2018

week two of training and counting days to go home

It was wonderful to have Allan and Diego with me this weekend. The weather was "cold" -- cold for the island, between -2 and +3 C -- and wet, and I wasn't prepared for that, so we didn't do a lot. We went to Ideal Cafe twice, a famous local haunt with amazing breakfasts, now a must for all Campbell River outings. (I can also recommend SoCal Restaurant, in Willow Point.)

We drove down the coast, which was wild and windswept, and very beautiful. And we read, and watched a few episodes of a new series. I was so happy to see my guys! And sad to go to work, knowing they wouldn't be there when I got back.

I really want to go home and begin my new life and new position. But training continues apace. Last week was all the big-picture stuff, and some orientation with my manager, including an introduction to approving payroll. This week is all the nuts and bolts, the how-to -- circulation, collection management, more payroll, time off requests, daily revenue reports, and so on.

In a bit of excellent timing, this week there is also an all-librarians meeting for the whole system. Unfortunately it means driving back and forth to Nanaimo in one day, two hours each way.

I'm staying in a funny little place, an old-fashioned motel, very bare-bones, but also very clean and convenient, and it's really nice to have a kitchen. I picked up supplies for breakfast and some healthy snacks to bring to work. For dinner, I'm stopping at a supermarket every night after work to pick up some prepared food. Five more sleeps.

12.09.2018

this week, give 15 minutes of your time to defend human rights #write4rights

Are you writing for rights? I almost gave myself a pass this year. I'm living out of a hotel room and I don't have easy access to a printer, and... what the hell? I'm one of the most privileged people on the planet. Surely I won't skip Write For Rights because it's a bit inconvenient!

On December 10, 1948, the newly-formed United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first document of its kind in history.

Every year, on and around December 10, people who have human rights use them to help others whose human rights have been violated or negated.

Here are the 2018 Write For Rights cases. Notice anything different?

Join me and thousands of others.

Join the biggest human rights event on the planet.

By giving 15 or 30 minutes of your time, you can join thousands of others who believe that all humans have rights, no matter who they are, where they live, and what they believe.

The right to peaceful protest.

The right to inform others.

The right to be free from torture.

The right to not be arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned; the right to a fair trial.

The right to express their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The right to worship in any faith and the right to not worship.

The right to organize a union.

The right to refuse military service.

The right to live free from involuntary servitude (slavery).

The right to be free from sexual violence.

Read: Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

What you can do.

Think you don't know how to write a letter defending human rights? Take a crash course.

Want to know more about Amnesty? Here you go.

Here are the 2018 Write For Rights cases.

Write because an issue resonates with you.

Write because you've been to a country and you feel solidarity with its people.

Write because you're angry.

Write because you're horrified.

Write because the world breaks your heart.

Write because you believe in something.

Write because it works.

Write because it feels good to help others.

2018 Write For Rights case are here.

This year, all the Write For Rights cases are women. Write because you are a woman, or because you love a woman, or because you believe in a woman, or all three.

12.08.2018

in which an old-fashioned mom-and-pop motel saves me from union busters

For the portion of my training taking place in Campbell River -- two days this week plus all of next week -- I was booked into the Coast Discovery Inn, a Coast chain property. Before this trip, I was unfamiliar with the Coast chain. Their slogan "Refreshingly Local" means they acquire already-established hotels and bring them into the Coast brand. We stayed at one in Tsawwassen the night before taking the ferry to Vancouver Island, and my employer booked me in one in Nanaimo. They were both very nice -- lovely rooms, amenities, and service.

Based on those experiences, I was very disappointed when I saw my room in Campbell River. It was tiny -- one bed, and the bed took up the entire room. This is fine when you're out exploring Paris, but when you're living in a room for 10 days, it would be confining and inconvenient. In addition, Allan and Diego are spending the weekend (yay! can't wait!), and I don't see the three of us living in a shoebox together, even for a few days.

I asked if I could change rooms, and explained why. I was told: "All our rooms are the same size. The only difference is the size of the bed."

I asked, "You don't have any rooms with two beds?"

"But you are booked by yourself. Do you need two beds?"

I was amazed. One person staying in a room with two beds is standard. Rather than argue about that, I noted that my partner was arriving on Saturday, and bringing our dog, and we needed a larger room. He said there was a room available on Sunday. I said never mind.

I had arrived in Campbell River that morning and was checking in on my lunch break, so I would be able to crash right after work. I went back to the room, found another pet-friendly Campbell River hotel, cancelled the rest of my reservation, and went back to work, grabbing something for lunch along the way. (Not exactly a relaxing break!)

After work, I went back to the Coast Discovery Inn. The moment I walked in, I began to cough -- quite a bad "fit" requiring use of my inhaler. The whole place smelled very strongly, either from cleaning products or air "freshener". Luckily my room didn't also smell, or I couldn't have stayed even one night.

I went to the hotel restaurant for dinner. It was dismal. It looked like a coffee shop -- which is fine for coffee shops, but strange for a supposedly upscale hotel -- and the food was marginal at best. I had a decent night. Breakfast was the usual limited hotel self-serve options. I packed up the car and went to work. 

Later that day, as we were getting ready to leave, I mentioned to my manager that I was checking in to a different hotel. He asked me where, and gave me a tip on how to find it. Then he said, "I'm glad you're not staying at the Coast anymore. They are extremely anti-union."

Hooray for working with someone who cares about such things! Apparently the owner shuttered the hotel for nine months rather than work with the union representing hotel workers. Googling, I didn't find a lot on this: one story from the local Campbell River Mirror, and one in the Times Colonist. My manager is well-versed in the story, because one of the organizers works part-time in the library.**

So, after work, I drove off to find the Heritage River Inn. The name is misleading, because it is an old-fashioned mom-and-pop roadside motel. My room is huge, with a full kitchen! This is very welcome, since I'll be here for a full week. It also has a wooden floor. The feature of mom-and-pop motels that is often an issue is old carpeting. On our road trip from Ontario, we stayed at non-chain motels in two towns, Wawa and Ignace. Both rooms had carpeting and a corresponding musty smell. They weren't mouldy -- I know that because my body is a mould detector -- but the carpets were somewhat icky. The bare floor solves this problem.

There are other chain hotels in Campbell River, but they are not pet-friendly. So if this room didn't work out, I would have to change a second time, after Allan and Diego go home, and I did not want to do that.

** I found this story from Unite Here, about a one-day strike earlier this month at this same hotel -- which means they did unionize. And from the small-world department, the union bulletin was written by someone I know.

12.06.2018

training continues: another perspective on the lovely island

I've decided to stop referring to my new employer by its full name. The communications director already casually mentioned that he read one of my recent blog posts, because it came up in his daily media sweep. It was a very positive post, and he kept the conversation very light and jokey. But I can read between the lines. I'd rather not continue to come up in searches. And I'd rather not censor myself.

I've heard from senior management that this system has been, for a long time, a story of haves and have-nots. Big shiny libraries with all the bells and whistles in the more populous -- and prosperous -- areas; long-neglected, run-down libraries in the more remote areas. They want to address this -- my hiring is part of that effort -- and I believe their intentions are genuine. But it's going to take a long time, and to some extent, the gap will never be fully bridged.

Today I met with my manager for the first time. Most of the branches he is responsible for are in remote areas, so he sees the need, and he works with the limited resources, every day. He talked about the problems that are burgeoning on the Island, driven by income inequality, spiraling housing costs, and the opioid crisis.

Tent cities have sprung up all over the Island. Councils are rushing through vagrancy laws, as people from rural communities stream into the cities in search of services. I already knew there had been an overdose death at one of the branches. Today I met the librarian who tried to save the customer's life and watched him die.

This manager's branches are tiny and under-served. One town, formerly a robust community of 4,000 people, has been shrinking since the pulp and paper mill closed down 15 years ago. Now it's home to barely 500. Another library is accessible only by a 90-minute drive on an unpaved logging road. When the regular staff is absent, no one wants to fill in -- using their own vehicle, unreimbursed. So the library is open only part-time.

Sometimes some of the fancy tech from the more prosperous branches goes on the road, and the northern libraries will promote special events. Hundreds of people queued up in the pouring rain for the opportunity to try the virtual reality equipment. During a community consultation about a library renovation, in the more prosperous communities, maybe 5 or 6 people will show up. In the northern branches, 35 people -- from a town of 300 -- will attend.

My manager works in a tiny space shared with two other librarians. He absolutely agrees with me that professional librarians need an office in order to properly do their jobs. Yet all the branches in our zone, including the newly renovated ones, were built without any office space. Meanwhile, I spent three days this week in the shiny new admin offices, with adjustable ergonomic chairs and state-of-the-art everything.

So there are challenges.

The good news is that my manager and I come from similar perspectives about library services and the potential of libraries to impact lives. He's committed not to bolstering "the numbers" -- the statistics that library boards everywhere are obsessed with -- but to delivering quality programs that make a difference. I was hired to make a difference, and he's going to support that.

Friends have asked me how often I'll travel to the other branches in my area. It looks like at first I will visit them all. This is exciting! I didn't know if he would support that, but he definitely expects it.

After that, I'll be in contact with all the branches by phone every day. For the big picture, I'll be responsible for all five branches. For service delivery, the library worker currently there and I will divide the branches geographically. I wondered if she would feel resentful or threatened by my arrival, but apparently it's very much the opposite. They're all looking forward to more support.

12.05.2018

the vancouver island report: two more days of training and on to campbell river

I've completed another two days of training and orientation. It's been pretty awesome. In the past three days, I've had a tour of the Nanaimo Harbourfront branch, which is something of a showpiece and central library, and a tour of the Nanaimo North branch, which is new and beautiful. I've met with managers of: library systems, payroll, scheduling, facilities, human resources, purchasing, health and safety, communications, finance, technical services, the Creative Commons, and e-resources. Each one has given me an overview of their functions and talked about how I will interact with their departments. And each one has been warm, friendly, welcoming, genuine, and generous with their time. It was both overwhelming and wonderful.

I've also been watching videos for all kinds of regulatory requirements. This is pretty typical when you work with the public and/or are a supervisor -- health and safety, respectful workplace, violence prevention, emergency preparedness, among others. I don't know if all workplaces do this now. When I worked in law firms, support staff got exactly zero training on any of these. My current employer is taking the correct approach: giving a new employee time to complete all the training before starting the job. My previous employer, not so much.

I also have to learn a new "ILS," the software that links the catalog, customers, materials, circulation, and library staff. It stands for Integrated Library System. We all use it all the time, and if you don't understand it thoroughly, you end up frustrated, or screwing things up, or both.

I continue to be very impressed with the organization and efficiency of this library system. Vancouver Island's libraries had been badly neglected for a long time. The new leadership has turned it into a model of what's possible.

Also today, I saw some photos of the interior of the Port Hardy library, where I'll be based. It looks like I won't have an office, just an alcove. This may prove very challenging. You can't really be visible to the public but not available to the public -- and if I'm always available to the public, I won't be able to attend to many other aspects of my job.

Early tomorrow morning I drive two hours north to Campbell River, where I'll meet my manager in person for the first time and begin more specific training and orientation with him.

I can't wait for Saturday, when Allan and Diego will join me for the weekend. I really miss them.

guest post: allan and diego's first week in port hardy

Allan wrote some really nice things about our new life, both in emails to me and on one of his non-baseball blog. With his permission, I've collected some of them here.

* * * *

I drove into town today, thinking I would go to the library and museum, but I forgot they are closed on Monday. I went into the Cafe/Book Nook. Small book area in a semi-lower floor, way more new books than used. There is a craft store upstairs that has all kinds of nice things, including earrings I'm pretty sure you like - and a wonderful golden-haired adorable young dog. Quiet as a mouse, s/he followed me around and then went back to the register and laid down. I got a tea and walked over to the library (sign on door said something like "No bathrooms - Key is missing"), went over to Mo's pizza/sub place (they deliver for an extra $2, fwiw).

I found the Ministry office but this was the 12-1 PM closing time, so nothing was going on. I walked back to the main street. One business had a handwritten sign saying it was closed ("More Medical Procedures!"). I saw the post office down one street, so I went and got our mail. There was a taped green envelope addressed to "Laura and Allan". No return address. I figured it was one of those 'welcome' flyer things with junk mail inside. I opened it and it was a card for you from library people. They said extremely nice things about you. I walked back to the car and came home.

I sat out on the deck reading for a bit with Diego on the stake in the side yard area. Our neighbour in the house beyond the deck came over and said hello to Diego. Brenda and her husband are retired and they travel a lot in their massive RV (Arizona, Florida, "down island"). She asked if we were retired. (I guess I looked really old today.) When she heard you were a librarian, she said she used to work as a librarian and her husband was a school principal. They apparently are famous for having the most Xmas lights on their house, but they are getting a late start. She wanted to know if she could come into our yard to string lights on the fence because there are plants and whatnot on their side. I said sure. (I think that was the real reason for introducing herself.)

I am going to grill some burgers tonight and maybe have a fire. M got it all prepared, so I can't really call it my first fire. ... Also, a lot of frost on the grass this morning. The roof looked like there was a very light dusting of snow.

I really liked walking around in the town. This seems like the right amount of town for me. (That may change, who knows?) Plus, I like the uniqueness of every single house, the water nearby, the cool weather, etc. And being in a house instead of an apartment is such a wonderful difference. Everything else has worked out according to plan - and then some - so that aspect had better do so, too.

* * * *

For more of Allan's thoughts and some pics, including one of the house we're renting, go here: Port Hardy After One Week.

I'm sorry I haven't posted any pics. This is all I can deal with right now.

Funny note: Cafe Guido, mentioned above, has the spare key to the library in case staff gets locked out.

12.03.2018

first day of work braindump

I've just finished my first day of training and orientation at [my new library]. I have a lot to report on! Much of this may be of interest only to library workers, especially my union buddies.

I took notes all day, and I'm getting it all down here -- in no order, with no attempt to weave it together. All questions are FAQs I've been getting since announcing my move.

1. Who had this position before you and why did they leave?

It is a newly created position; I am the first person to hold the job. The position is part of a larger strategy to bring more robust library services to the North Island, to put them on par with the rest of the Island.

2. My position, the "Customer Services Librarian II", is the equivalent of the senior librarian position I recently left. However, there are only a handful of CSLIIs in the system. I will have an opportunity to attend a special CSLII meeting.

3. Will the manager be in the branch with you?

I will mostly work on my own. I will report in to a manager, but he will work out of Campbell River, 2.5 hours away. The manager is also new to the North Island and has not yet been able to visit all five branches.

4. I have the opportunity to make this position what I want as I go along. Not only am I the first CSL II in this area, there has never been a CSL at all -- meaning no librarian.

5. What are you going to do for two full weeks of training?

Today I was given a schedule for my first three days, which are taking place in Nanaimo. I spent the day at the North Nanaimo branch, a beautiful, huge facility that opened in 2015; it previously housed only the administration and back-office functions.

Today I met with senior staff representing HR, payroll, finances, health/safety, and IT. A full hour with each. This is so amazing. I'm more accustomed to being thrown in with no or minimal training. This system is also way more efficient. I can't begin to describe how much time is wasted trying to track down the appropriate person for an issue.

I also had a tour of this branch, and I met the union steward for my union. (There are two unions.)

The COO/Deputy Exec Director and the head of all the branches (both new this year) took me out to lunch.

Tomorrow I will be at the Nanaimo Harbourfront branch, right near the hotel.

6. I was given a laptop and a cell phone. There are eight hours of online training to complete, and I can do it in bits as I find time over the next two weeks.

7. As professional staff, I am allowed to modify my hours as needed. For example, one of my branches is on a different island. If I need to work different hours because of the ferry schedule, I can do that.

8. I will be responsible for approving payroll for my branch. Many of my responsibilities are managerial responsibilities in my former library system.

9. VIRL has 39 branches -- on the Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, the Queen Charlotte islands, and in two mainland locations. They have been building or renovating branches since 2010. By 2020, all branches will either be renovated, rebuilt, or newly created. Previous to this, the entire system was falling apart or communities were simply not served.

10. With a few exceptions, the entire collection is floating! Customers must be adept at using the catalogue and placing holds to get what they want. There is a lot of staff instruction available for customers.

11. There is a YNF collection! I first saw a youth nonfiction collection in Vancouver Public Library and absolutely loved the idea. I developed a proposal and pitched it to the Mississauga Library. They rejected it, of course, but I love that VIRL has this.

The youth collection also includes "Playaways" -- digital audiobooks with a rechargeable battery. They are very popular.

12. How long does it take for a hold to come in? "It depends."

Drivers do not go to all branches on all days. Many branches get weekly deliveries. The North Island is served by private courier service. (I don't know if this is a good or bad thing for union members. I will find out.)

13. Books are sent by mail -- delivered by float plane -- to customers in remote locations. These are sent weekly. Loans are six weeks with no fines.

14. Next year children's materials will all be fine-free. !!!!

15. On December 12, there is an all-librarians meeting in Nanaimo -- CSLs, CSLIIs, and managers. It's perfect timing for me, as I'll still be in training. I will be in Campbell River on that day, but they will pay for my travel to attend.

16. Today I felt and appreciated how much I've learned in the last five and a half years as a working librarian. I was very comfortable with the information and asked a lot of good questions. I didn't feel like I was faking it. That is huge.

17. Yesterday I had a horrific getting-lost experience, and so was a bit anxious about driving to the branch and back to the hotel. Both drives went smoothly, and I even did the last bit by feel.

18. Almost all the front-line (CUPE) staff are part-time... but they are looking to turn many of those part-time jobs into full-time jobs. The employer and senior management see full-time jobs as a win-win-win -- better for staff, for the library, and for customers. I was agog. When I said, "That's exactly the opposite of current trends," she said, "We don't want to be part of that. We want staff to be more engaged in their jobs, better supported, and more accountable. We want people to want to work here." !!!!!

19. Their intranet is friggin amazing. When I remarked on that, the person working with me -- also from Ontario -- said her former library's intranet was also a mess. (Almost everyone I've met so far is originally from Ontario.)

20. The COO/deputy director said, "We have all the same problems on the Island as everywhere else -- homelessness, addiction, social isolation. But here, no one has talked about it until very recently, so many people think the problems themselves are new." In her observation, these changes have given rise to a conservative backlash. The catalyst for this discussion: an overdose death in a branch.

21. The provincial government here is a "fragile coalition" of NDP and Green. One NDP MLA stepped down to become mayor of Nanaimo. This means a byelection could shift the balance of power. Scary!

22. There is a room in the admin offices called "hotel". Guests can park their stuff, login to a computer, and take breaks there.

23. For one of today's meetings, I was sitting next to someone who was walking me through some processes on her computer. The desk and monitor were too high for me, so my neck was straining the whole time. Her screen backgrounds were the default white, and the room had harsh flourescent lighting -- all of which give me headaches. I was becoming very uncomfortable. This made me think about accessibility for interviews and training. I repeatedly tried to adjust myself, but was unwilling to straight-up say I need help.

24. Until very recently, there was very little (understatement) understanding of or attention to health and safety. That is all changing now. Violence prevention, mental health first aid, ergonomics, and working alone (including travel) policies, procedures, training, and standards are all being assessed or implemented.

25. I will be coming in to my branches as the new senior supervisor -- the new boss. Typically, some people will like this and feel relieved and happy, and others will be threatened and see me as encroaching on their turf. I will enjoy the challenge.

12.02.2018

a walk on the bay and a drive to nanaimo, plus photos of the rockies

I am in Nanaimo and will be in Campbell River, for two weeks of training. My former co-workers in the Mississauga Library are amazed and envious. Training in Mississauga ranged from nonexistent to inadequate.

I'm at a lovely hotel in Nanaimo with a view of the harbour, but I'd much rather be home setting up my office or organizing closets. Allan and Diego are going to visit me on the weekend. I don't know what this training will entail, other than mandatory first aid. I'll keep you posted.

Yesterday we took a break from working on the house to take a walk on the bay. We drove five minutes from the house to a paved path right on the water. It was so quiet and peaceful. A few other people were walking, some families were in a playground. Mostly it was just water, trees, and sky. It was overcast, making the scenery even more dramatic. It's hard to believe that this is our backyard. (Photos to follow.)

On the walkway, there are interpretative signs posted about the wildlife. Even better, there is wildlife. I saw a bald eagle swoop down over the water, then sail up to the top of a tree. By the time I got the attention of Allan, M, and SIL, there were two of them, perched on two nearby trees, surveying their kingdom. It made my day.

Also yesterday, we drove to the tiny Port Hardy Airport to rent a car. No one was at the counter, but there was a phone number to call. A woman asked, "You're at the airport? You have a credit card, driver's license? OK, I'll be right over."

Ten minutes later, she appeared, her feet in slippers. "I was pickling. Beets! I think I brought some with me on my shirt." Later: "You're lucky, yesterday a guy called, said he got a ride. That's the only reason I have anything available." The Ontario driver's license raised a few questions, which we answered; she shook my hand and welcomed us to town. She was hilarious.

Unfortunately we forgot to make both of us drivers... so we ended up calling her in (and possibly waking her up) today as well. The rental car outlet is supposed to be open on Sundays, but if there are no reservations, no one comes in. Who can blame them? After all, the airport was locked! We were very apologetic, she was very good-humoured.

While Allan and I were dealing with the rental car, M and SIL were driving to Campbell River to return the U-Haul truck. I drove down shortly after them, then we met up and went to Nanaimo.

This was my first opportunity to see the north island drive during the day. It is beautiful. A winding, hilly road, forest all around, with mountains beyond. Often the hills were shrouded in mist and low-lying clouds. Sometimes you can see the mountains on the island's west coast, huge and snow-capped. Signs are posted for the turnoffs to the few north island communities, but the road feels so remote and solitary.

On a decidedly less beautiful note, I'm not happy about all the damage from the careless movers. I know they're only material things, and replaceable. But it was all completely preventable. This makes the scam with the US dollar conversion rate even worse. I don't know what recourse we have, if any. I'll investigate this week.

Bonus: photos of our drive through the Rockies are here on Flickr. They're not great -- taken on the fly through the windshield -- but it might give some idea. By the way, I believe those two black animals are dogs.

12.01.2018

eleven things about our new life in port hardy

Here are some really nice things about our new life in Port Hardy.

1. It is very quiet. In the house, we hear bird song, the occasional barking dog, a car going by. No sirens, car alarms, bus announcements, school bells, screaming children. We have never lived anywhere quiet. It's lovely.

2. People are friendly. Very friendly. Also lovely.

3. It has not rained since we got here. It is sometimes misty or foggy. I can tell the air is humid by how long it takes damp laundry to dry. But so far, no rain.

4. We are very near water. Mississauga and Toronto are technically on a huge body of water, but you never feel it unless you're right beside it.

5. Having laundry in our own living space again is very wonderful.

6. All of the appliances in this house are shiny and new, and not the bare-bones that we usually find in rentals. I always say, I am destined to have crappy kitchens. This seems to have changed.

7. We have had two very good meals in restaurants in town, including really good pizza at a pub. There are still two or three cafes we haven't tried.

8. We have outdoor space again. There's no describing how wonderful that is.

9. Diego seems completely adjusted and at home.

10. Allan is happy. This sometimes feels like a rare event, so seeing him happy fills me with joy.

11. Having M and SIL with us for the move-in has been so wonderful. SIL is a great organizer and has unpacked a ton of stuff. M is Mr. Fix-It -- actually more like Mr. Fix-It, Break Down and Rebuild It, Repurpose It. All that plus the four of us have been having a great time together.

Life is good.