Returning to writing professionally. It must be time

I’ve been sitting on this, and sitting on this, and sitting on this.
This thought, that it would be valuable to speak up about my experience in New Zealand, of navigating the transition from librarianship to motherhood. Of professional registration while on maternity leave. Of Librarian to Unemployed. Of the transition between professionalism in one arena, to trying my best in another.

The aspiring librarian’s career trajectory in New Zealand

What prompted me in writing this post, is reading about Christine Busby contending to be the next President-Elect for LIANZA. I have met Christine a number of times, mainly at social occasions back when she was with SLIS and living in Wellington. Christine’s career progression (and many others in my pre-kids Rolodex) reminds me of all the things I mean to get around to. Librarian position (tick), managing staff, speaking at a conference, LIANZA committee chair, Councilor, then naturally on to President-Elect.

I used to rub shoulders with Laurinda, now I rub shoulders with this one.

Photo of A and I
A and I

Watching how these women progress in their careers, I see the chasm between their career progression and mine. The movement in theirs, and the movement of mine along another trajectory. These are some harsh words to read.

I know that I’ve never learned so much and so quickly, in all my life, as I have in the past four years. I am learning so much from that inspiring little girl there. And her sister. And her brother.

I’ve learned so much about the human spirit, about empathy, emotion, love, compassion, the meaning of whānau. And of acceptance. I never ever would have learned this, without doing it. Without putting myself into the thick of it. Three children under four years old.

Women in the library profession, at some point – if all things are aligned how they want them to be – consider the question of when. When is the right time to start a family?

When is the right time to start a family?

The answer is different for everyone.

If I can help you with finding your own answer to this question, by sharing my experience of librarianship to parenthood, then I’ll feel even better for being here. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be right now.

Be honest with thyself

When you read someone’s credentials – their bio, their e-mail signature, their signoff, their profile; what do you think? What’s your first instinct? “Oh yes.. he must know so and so.. “, or “Hmmm graduated in 2010, just a newbie..”

I’m shooting myself in the foot here because I know many many fantastic individuals, great inspiring people and I could care less where they work and what they have to their name.

Maybe I exercise a Māori world view, one similar to how Sally Pewhairangi describes it.  When I meet someone, I do ask them where they’re from and where they work.

In a Pākeha world view, those two questions may result in the same answer.  I am open to interpretation.

When someone asks me where I’m from, I evaluate the question based on who I’m talking to.  Pākeha – Answer: Wellington.  Māori: East Coast.  In a lot of cases with Māori, all I have to do is say my surname.

I’ll go back to the leaving statement in Sally’s post,

People are more than just a job title or a box in an organisational chart.  The Māori world view recognises this.  People matter.

Amen.

I remember one of the first proper professional talks I gave with Kathryn and Con to an audience of 20 or so library and information professionals back in late 2008.  In my first talk, I felt it necessary and vitally important to articulate myself as indigenous, or Māori to this audience.  I remember one of my colleagues at the time, when testing my talk out on my mates at work, asking me why I was talking in Māori and whether I was doing that to show off.  I told him to listen to what I was saying and then he might understand.

I identify as Māori and a New Zealander.
I need you to see me as an individual regardless of my name.
I need you to see me as an individual, regardless of the fact I have three children clinging to me and I’m not working because I choose to be home for my family in these early years.

Identity by surrounding yourself in letters

Identity. That old beast. I jokingly asked my Twitter PLN one day that I wanted to write about identity relating to the number of letters you have after your name.

Identity question put to twitter
Source: http://twitter.com/#!/thewhaanga/status/78257023820632064

I got a small handful of replies.

Edit 28.02.2016: This is one of those topics of writing that has lots of good nitty gritty questioning everything juice to it. I’ve been sitting on it for a few years. I think now is a good time for it to see the light.

Here are my letters in case you were wondering if I have any qualifications / right to speak – Dip ILS RLIANZA.

Do you surround your identity in letters? Do you surround yourself with other professional adornments?

Or do you stand alone with just your name to introduce yourself with?

I prefer the latter, only because I have a relatively unique and recognisable name.  If the occasion calls for it, I’ll bring out the ‘ol R and LIANZA to sweeten the deal, however, it shouldn’t be needed in normal conversation with library folk.

How do you personally define yourself as an information professional?

Do you define yourself by the number of people you’ve helped today?  The number of reference stats you have for the week?  The number of people through your doors?  The years of service to an organisation and the industry?  The number of letters after your name?

Do you define yourself and your worth as a productive employee by numbers?? If you do, well that’s just plain silly. We all know it’s about the stories. Why would you ever even consider defining yourself and your productive worth with numbers alone?

I’m quite aware of what’s on my e-mail signature now:

Nāku noa, na < a wee bit of te reo māori to set the tone
Hana Whaanga RLIANZA < obligatory full name, and the all important professional accreditation
~~~~<a line break to give you a break from all the foreign words
* Library.geek http://library.geek.nz < My primary web presence
* LIANZA http://lianza.org.nz < My secondary web presence

I am super aware of it now.  Super aware in that I think I’ve just analysed my e-mail signature, and drawn a diagram….(!)

edit 28/2/16: This was my e-mail signature pre-children when I worked tirelessly for LIANZA as a volunteer, hence adding them to my e-mail signature identity. This is my current sig:

Nice’n simple. I’ve been thinking I should add my Playcentre affiliation to it 🙂

I like the subtlety of not stating my position on anything or affiliation with anyone in particular, though LIANZA is the exception here of course.  I affiliate myself with myself, and my Māori lineage.

Surrounding yourself in letters is akin to couching yourself, propping yourself up with capitals in the hope that they make you look bigger?  It’s ok, I do it so I’m really hassling myself here.  Shall I go on?  No, I think I shall stop.  I might end up shooting myself in the foot.

A cross-section of letters

These are from the small handful of people that replied to my tweet. They sent me their letters and have allowed me to use them for the purposes of this post.


I used Tagul, a simple tag cloud generator where you input some text, and the word with the most occurrences comes out the biggest in the visualize step. Simple.

This is just from four colleagues, five if I include myself.  What a bunch of smart, educated and qualified people we are!

I hope to one day have some more of these letters after my name, and not because it gets more cushy the more letters there are.  It’s what the letters mean to you of course!

What does your personalised e-mail signature say about you?