Justin Hoenke, team leader of libraries and community spaces for the Wellington City Libraries in New Zealand, has been talking to all types of library staffers for A Day in the Life, his column in Information Today. Among other things, he asks them about their typical days, moments that made them proud, their current projects, and how they balance their library work with the rest of their lives. Here’s a look at his columns from January/February 2021 to June 2021, which have been lightly edited and condensed for the web.
Here are the previous parts of this series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
You can read the full interviews in Information Today, starting with the September 2017 issue.
If you’re doing something exciting at your library that you’d like to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @ITINewsBreaks.
Living With Uncertainty
According to Matt Finch’s professional bio, his “work spans scenario planning and foresight, policy consultation and strategic direction, plus facilitation and professional development for staff at all levels.” Let’s dive in and see what that all means.
GIVE READERS THE BASIC OVERVIEW OF WHAT YOU DO.
I help organizations, communities, and people make strategic decisions by looking at their situation, figuring out where their blind spots are, finding the brightest ideas, and helping those ideas happen. That involves paying close attention to the environment they operate in now, and all the relationships within it—but it also means looking ahead to the future and what might be emerging or developing. Scenario-planning is one of the tools we use to look at what’s coming next. It involves constructing plausible stories of the future, not as predictions, but to challenge our assumptions. COVID-19 has reminded us how often the expected future gets pulled off course; scenarios help us understand what’s going on beyond predictions, hopes, fears, and the things we take for granted.
HOW DOES YOUR WORK OUTSIDE OF THE LIBRARY FIELD INFLUENCE WHAT YOU BRING TO YOUR WORK IN LIBRARIES?
We live in an information age, and libraries are information institutions! They’re fascinating because they have a really different power dynamic to many other spaces and services. The community uses libraries for exploration and discovery on their own terms, in a way that’s really unlike the interactions you get, for example, in a classroom where the teacher is in authority. Libraries are also a significant common ground for society in these polarized times; however imperfectly this goal is realized, they do strive to be a place of welcome for all.
Working outside of the library sector gives me a rich and panoramic view of some of the wider challenges within which libraries will have to operate and make strategic judgments—it’s always great to bring additional useful context to people’s decision making. It’s not that you necessarily offer “magic insights,” but it helps you to ask different questions and have different conversations about the library’s future.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU’D LOVE TO SEE A LIBRARY DO IN A POST-COVID WORLD?
Recruit staffers who closely resemble the demographics of the people you serve and train them well. Attend at every level to issues like inequality, inequity, lack of representation, and lack of diversity. Be honest about what’s not working and let go of it to make space for new things to grow. Be brave, take risks—but always with a focus on meeting the needs of your specific community and satisfying the requirements of your funders. That’s always a lively political dance, but I know librarians are up to it!