in which i say goodbye to cupe 1989 and mississauga library

Many friends and co-workers have said they'll check this blog for updates on our drive west, our new town, my new work. Welcome and a disclaimer: when I travel, wmtc becomes a travel journal, full of details that I want to remember but are probably super boring to anyone else. You've been warned.

For the past few weeks, every night that I wasn't working, I've been out with friends. Not exactly my usual schedule! But hey, I'll have more than enough time to do nothing on the road trip. It was wonderful to see people.

I've also found that, no longer being local president, I have so much more energy for socializing. I'm realizing -- not for the first time, of course -- that the union leadership position is a lot more than the hours you put in (although there's plenty of that). It's the responsibility, the mental weight, that takes the toll. It was an amazing experience, absolutely one of the most meaningful experiences of my life -- but I'm glad it's over.

Two nights ago, we gathered at Failte, the pub near my (former) library, to celebrate and say farewell. Spectacular bad timing: it was also the first snow in our area, early for the GTA, and it hit just in time for the evening commute. A lot of people bailed on the party, and I was so disappointed that I nearly called it off, texting various people to see if they were still planning to attend. (Two years of apartment life without wmtc parties: I was out of practice! There are always a ton of last minute cancellations and "we'll try"s that turn into "no"s.)

Most of my union team was able to be there, and good friends and comrades from Toronto, and dearest friends drove down from London. Some 1989 members stopped by; I also invited a handful of managers who I respect and have enjoyed working with. The (new) (post-strike) Library Director and two senior managers came and stayed for quite a bit.

We were out late, plus the usual post-party hang out, so I was thoroughly exhausted and hung over for my last day of work. More goodbyes, a wonderful, frank, wide-ranging talk with my manager, and one last stint on-desk. Then I packed up my office, turned in my staff badge, and slipped out to the parking garage.

My most recent position in Mississauga Library has been great. I was a senior supervisor, part librarian and part administrator, responsible for keeping the department running smoothly. I loved it. I fully expected to stay in the position for at least another year, and experience it without the added time and responsibility of union leadership. Fortunately I'm moving into substantially the same position in VIRL.

For the last few weeks I've been receiving emails from members thanking me for my work with the union. The words I keep seeing are strength, dedication, and passion. That's been beautiful and incredibly gratifying. But I've also gotten thank yous from junior staff about a positive work environment -- and that is equally gratifying.

When I started my new position, the department was mired in negativity. Gossip, infighting, and backstabbing were the norm. Staff was treated completely inequitably, with a well-stroked in-group played against a dumping ground of overworked outsiders. People were burnt out and disgusted, and the ways they dealt with those feelings only created more negativity. Attitudes sucked, with good reason.

I knew that every one of my co-workers cared about the library and wanted us to succeed. I knew that potential was there, but it was buried under a huge pile of crap. My manager and I set out to turn it around. I worked hard to create a work environment where people felt supported and valued. Hearing my co-workers' reflections this week showed me I succeeded.

There was one person in particular who I was hoping to hear from. They had had a particularly rough time -- mountains of work dumped on them with no consultation -- hell, barely an acknowledgement -- and no time or space to develop the parts of their job they liked best. As a result, this person had withdrawn from the team.

I made it my mission to turn that around, gradually re-distributing workload, giving them more agency, and acknowledging their contributions -- which are considerable, both in quantity and quality. My manager and I both had a sense that this person was much happier at work now. But I did wonder. Was I interpreting this change accurately? When a person is private and doesn't disclose much, you never really know.

Before leaving for the day, this person stopped by my office. "You made a real difference here," they said. "You and [manager] made this a great place to work again."

Honestly, that meant as much to me as every union member who thanked me for my representation.


Amy said...

Wonderful! You must be filled with so many emotions---happy, sad, proud, grateful. And so on.

And, by the way, I never find your travel posts boring!

laura k said...

Aw, thanks for that. Very good to know!

Yes, it has been and is very emotional for me. You must have gone through similar when you retired. Both library and union work are very collaborative, so when it's workin well, you become very close to your team.

My union team... saying goodbye has been so hard, for all of us. That's a testament to our awesomeness. :)

Amy said...

It was easy for me for many reasons, including that we were not leaving the area, so those colleagues who were friends continue to be people we see, and also many of my colleagues either had retired or retired within a year or two of when I did. And I really, really wanted to get out because things were changing as colleagues left. Change is often good, but at that point in my career, I was not excited about the direction things were going.

So although I was emotional about saying goodbye to the students and some of the faculty and staff on the day I left, I have not had one feeling of sadness about leaving since that day!

mkk said...

Once again I feel compelled to echo what Amy wrote! I can imagine your mixture of feelings, as you transition from one living and working environment to another. I felt much of that when I retired, though at that point I was so ready to leave my work situation and so thrilled about our move to Oregon that I felt mostly excited and very little nostalgia.

As you know, I love reading your travel blogs, including all the details!

laura k said...

Yes come to think of it, my colleagues who retired were never too emotional. Just happy!

Unknown said...

Hi, Laura.
I'm sorry you didn't stay with us at Mississauga. You did a fine job as a union leader. I'm glad you found a position with the Vancouver Island Regional Library.

laura k said...

Thank you Hugh. All best to you.