Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Pacific Institute

In December 2012 I attended a 3 day course entitled Investors in Excellence, run by Pacific Institute (PI). I had never heard of PI before, but it is compulsory training for all employees where I work. I’d heard lots about it from colleagues – positive and negative accounts – so I was a little apprehensive about what to expect, but I must say I needn’t have been…

My PI models
Investors in Excellence is a self-awareness psychology course, with the aim of promoting positive thinking. The belief is that if you think positively, you are a happier individual who is likely to achieve much more than if you don’t think positively. The course takes you through various steps to help you learn positive thought patterns, such as making affirmations and the power of self-talk. There were a number of practical activities to help you realise there are different ways of viewing a particular situation, and if you ‘think outside the box’ you may be able to increase your effectiveness. These ranged from simple paper-based puzzles to more physical group-based tasks. Several of them were quite fun and raised a smile. My favourite was being paired up with a partner and standing quite close, face to face for a minute. We then had to turn away and change something about our appearance before turning back and seeing if we could recognise the change. This was repeated 4 or 5 times (there was almost nothing left to change!). I took my earrings off and felt quite exposed; it’s a silly thing, but I am never ever without my earrings. The thinking behind this activity was to show how we are influenced by outward appearances, but do we actually see the whole picture? Another activity I enjoyed was making small figures from modelling clay. It was fun to be creative in a non-pressured environment. One model had to represent something important to us. (I created a heart to represent my boyfriend.) We then had to tell our partner why we had made this particular model and why it was important to us. We were then asked to crush our partners’ models – and even though it was just silly modelling clay, nobody in the group wanted to do it. I remember having strong feelings of guilt that I was about to crush my partner’s ‘son’. It was quite surprising, to be honest. I’ve kept my PI models on my desk at work, as a reminder of what I learnt.

I wanted to wait a while to gather my thoughts before blogging about this course. To start with, I was a little worried that I was being brainwashed, but then I realised that what the facilitators were describing was simply common sense: if you focus on negative aspects, your outlook on a situation will be different to if you focused on positive aspects. It’s something we all know, but sometimes we get so caught up in life we can easily forget, and it was nice to be reminded of this. On a personal note, I was intrigued to see how PI could help me as I sometimes do have pessimistic thoughts, and I’m pleased to say I think it did. I follow the PI Twitter feed, which shares positive comments, and I occasionally listen to the PI CDs in the car on the way home. Almost everyone in the library department has undergone PI training, and I do think it’s making a difference. Whenever a team member does the training we discuss it in our weekly team meeting, and it’s interesting to hear the different opinions and impressions. We remind ourselves of the importance of positive thinking, and overall I'd like to think we’re gradually moving towards that as the team’s natural state.

Since completing the PI programme, I've learnt that it's also rolled out for staff in a secondary school near where I live. I wonder which other establishments make use of it? It'd be interesting to know...

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Mini world tour

A while ago I had a few days off work and decided to drag my boyfriend along on what I called a ‘mini world tour’ of libraries. There are several libraries in the near-ish locality (West Mids) which had made headlines and being a library fan I wanted to explore them. I chose the following ones to visit because they each offer something different to the communities they serve.

Choice number one had to be the Hive, in Worcester city centre. It took about an hour to drive there and I fell in love as soon as I saw the place. My boyfriend (a dedicated non-fan of libraries) wasn’t very impressed with the exterior of the building, saying it looked almost silly, but I disagreed. A modern library has years of stereotypical images to fight against and what better way to start than to make the building look different? I thought it looked interesting and exciting and I was curious to see what would be different internally. I was not disappointed – it is amazing inside! I could ramble on about everything inside the building but I won’t, I’ll just say my favourite section was the local history floor. The gigantic tablet-like touchscreen table for viewing maps was fun, and I enjoyed walking under the sound domes to hear oral history recollections. It was also interesting to look at the book stock and see the way university collections and public collections were available to everyone but on different loaning terms. I think we'll see more combined public and academic libraries as times goes by.
The Hive, Worcester, Worcs
Next up on the ‘mini-world tour’ was Oldbury public library in Sandwell. Although this isn’t my local library I do live in Sandwell, so it was only a ten minute drive from home. The new building – Jack Judge House – is huge and very impressive with its purple, blue and whilte exterior, but I was slightly disappointed inside. The library only occupied part of the ground floor, the remainder of the building was dedicated to council offices. I’m not saying this is a bad thing – if libraries have to share buildings to survive in the current economic climate then so be it – but for some reason I presumed (hoped?) the whole building would be the library. But not to worry, inside it was cosy, friendly and attractive. Focussing mainly on fiction books, this library was in complete contrast to the Hive. Every inch of space was utilised, whereas the Hive was spacious with an almost minimalistic style foyer. Oldbury library was full of people, a real hub of activity, and it warmed the cockles of my heart to see it so.
Oldbury Library, Sandwell, West Mids
Our final stop on the ‘mini-world tour’ was in Belbroughton near Stourbridge. The decommissioned phone box library is run by the local history society and was purchased from BT for just £1. It is crammed full of books – biographies, children’s, fiction – all donated by members of the public. The phone box is unsupervised but open 24/7. People simply take away any books they fancy and leave behind any they no longer want. Technically, it’s more of a book exchange than a library, but it’s still a wonderful idea. It works well and is something the locals are quite rightly proud of. This library is positioned in a reasonably affluent area and it may not work so well in other areas where it may be abused, which would be a shame. Also, when I visited it was heavily raining and because the phone box was so full of books I couldn’t actually step inside. I had to browse from the pavement through the open door and, being the good librarian that I am, was concerned the books would get wet. That aside, this library phonebox is a hidden gem.
Book Exchange Library, Belbroughton, Worcs
All in all it was a lovely few days pottering round libraries, exploringtowns and reminding myself that size really doesn't matter - all libraries are beautiful. 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

My desk buddies

Welcome to my ever-growing Lego family. I originally started to buy Lego mini-figures for my eldest nephew and they brought out the big kid in me. Wondering which Lego person is inside the sealed packet is exciting, and I found myself thinking some of them were just so cute I had to keep them.  Whenever there's a new Lego mini-figure series I can't wait to see which characters have been released. Series 1 included a clown with red curly hair. It sells for about £10+ on Ebay now - would love to adopt him into the Lego family, but dare I part with so much cash for a teeny tiny Lego man? I'd also really like to buy a customised librarian mini-figure from minifigs.me. We'll see how long I can resist these Lego temptations...

They sit on the window ledge immediately above my desk and keep my company at work. They may not project the 'professional' image of a librarian in the traditional sense of the word, but this is my small step towards breaking down the stereotypical librarian image. My own little rebellion!

The Lego family helps with my work-life balance by raising a smile when things at work are a little hectic. A little bit of colour in life is never a bad thing I say. Also, they are a great conversation-starter - I've lost count of the number of people who come into the office and comment on them. Through these little figures, I've chatted to people from other departments I may not have spoken to as much otherwise, such as the college carpenter, chaplain and various lecturers. It seems everyone has a Lego story to share! The Lego family probably isn't to everyone's taste (I'm sure my boss hates them!), but I think the positives outweigh the negatives. I like to think the Lego family helps to break down barriers and make me a little more approachable, especially if I'm working with students at my desk. I'm all for showing your personality in your work, and if the Lego family helps students realise the 'boring' librarians aren't quite so boring after all that's no bad thing!