A new transition

Hakuba Japan

I started this blog with a view to sharing thoughts on how people and systems change over time – given the lack of posts, it’s easy to feel that things haven’t worked out. That ideas were unfulfilled.  That family, work, and energy got in the way. Well it’s often not until you look back on something that you realise you were actually in transition.  Recently I came to the conclusion that I had been, which is why I have just resigned from my job at the State Library of Victoria.

I left the world of classroom teaching seven years ago – I almost felt it had eaten so much of my passion away that I might never want to be a teacher again. But after a short break, some deep thinking and reading, some failed interviews, and some side steps in employment, I not only rediscovered my passion for enabling learning, I did it within Australia’s oldest library. I count myself very fortunate that I have often landed in jobs which have had little to guide them, where there was freedom to innovate and personalise, with colleagues who were supportive and ambitious. Rather than follow in foot steps or ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ I have tended to push for transitions which allow for different perspectives, alternative networks, and diverse partnerships.

These are not easy paths, particularly within well established systems like education and libraries. You take your wins when you can, and you make a decision about whether it’s worth having another crack. Ironically these moments of success are the experiences that keep people working in education and libraries for many years. I know every teacher stays in the job because they’re waiting for that next learner to offer them an unexpected moment of heartfelt thanks – those moments when your capacity to help improve another person’s life exceeds what you were given to begin with. I can tell you it’s no different in the library world: libraries are one of society’s great magicians – making one dollar turn into three dollars of value, or one experience turn into a lifetime of interest. That’s what makes them surprising – places where our assumptions are challenged and replaced with anticipation.

My transitions seem to come in shifts of about 7 years; although I’ve never quite seen a full seven. I guess we all reach a point when we realise we could be repeating the same territory, when we think we know what to expect, when we begin to stick to a proven formula. I am at once proud and bashful that I have rarely repeated anything the same way twice – repetition just isn’t in my nature. Surprise and risk give me a guilty thrill. The down side is that it makes predictability hard, planning tricky, and processes fluid rather than rigid. Pick any kind of transition, mental or physical, and you can guarantee that these will be elements of them. This does not discount the incredible importance of practice, experience, and reflection – these are the elements looking to create order and accountability in systems. This is why I think all of us, young or old, are always in transition – we’re just not always aware of whereabouts we are in the process.

I leave one knowledge and information system with an open mind about the next. It scares some people that I have not pinned down what that will be yet. I know what it will be though – something where learning about what’s possible and what’s current matters, where learners are at the centre of the system. A transition to something else…