Work according to values

The following is an edited version of the speech I gave at my farewell from the State Library of Victoria on Friday, which I deviated from quite a bit – and a good lesson that when you have something personally important to say to an audience of colleagues, try to stick to the script as much as possible. Names have not been changed to protect the need to praise ­čÖé

Roof of the Library dome

“Believe it or not I have been thinking recently about the Library’s core values, and I realized I’d never committed them to memory or learnt to understand them better in the work of the organization. When trying to explain the work we do to groups outside the Library I used to refer to the themes of the Mirror of the World exhibition: inspiration, imagination, exploration, and innovation. I think these are still good triggers, and similar to how I would like share a few reflections about my time at the Library, but aligned to the actual organisational values –

Innovation: this aptly describes my experience of the Learning Services team in a nutshell. Innovation requires you to bring a new perspective to something, to make it do something for which it wasn’t intended to do. It’s a bit like hacking. Of course there is no innovation without risk, so it was great to be empowered in my work to experiment with formats, partners and spaces; taking programs and audiences in new directions. This happened organically through programs like Collection Reflection, XperienceXpo, Listen2Learners, Freeplay, TEDxMelbourne, and of course Outside-In Cinema. Innovation also existed in the work we began to do online, where it was partly trial and error and partly maximising opportunities. I think it’s important to share that innovation is a reputation this Library has established for itself, and I am often asked to explore ┬áthese concepts with various audiences, particularly connecting technology with innovation. If the Library wants to heed a bit of advice from my experience, it is that games, and the massive communities that come with them, are the golden ticket for the very things we seek to innovate around.

Collaboration: more than anything this defines a great deal of my work over the last few years. I simply couldn’t list all the organizations, national and international experts, government departments, community groups, businesses, institutions, and schools we have worked with. Ironically it was this work that shaped how we worked – we became shaped by the work from the outside-in, not from the inside-out. What started as a conversation for a way to use Library spaces, our major playing card for dealing into all kinds of collaborative programs, quickly became a working relationship in which the external parties were amazed at the networks, ideas, programs, and resources we could offer beyond what they assumed. I have often told audiences that this is one of the functions of libraries – taking library assumptions and turning them into expectations and anticipation.

Engagement: this gathered momentum each year as networks and programs grew. To be honest for the last two years I have not had to plan a yearly program. I just waited for the flood of eager partners and collaborators to pitch programs and ideas, in the same way thousands of schools expect the Library to be ready when they have a program need. I can put my hand on my heart and say that nothing I did failed – I simply learnt how to make it work better, how to engage audiences and engage networks. One area of engagement I would particularly like to acknowledge is an internal initiative: the creation of SLV Social. As something that grew out of a Shared Leadership project for a desire to build better relationships around the Library, SLV Social has been successful in facilitating internal networks through the introduction of things like Yammer, table tennis tournaments, film nights, staff discounts, new furniture and of course those seasonal BBQs!

Excellence: nobody who works here settles for anything less than excellence. That’s because we are all passionate, knowledgeable, and committed to the work we do. Excellence comes at a price though – it’s takes endless amounts of time, support, and patience. If you take on too much, you put excellence at risk. If you don’t resource what you want to achieve, you put excellence at risk. And if you rush… Well actually sometimes acting swiftly is what it takes to make something excellent. In my opinion the public and our partners really want a responsive, adaptable library.

Respect: it goes without saying that I could not have achieved anything in my time at the Library without the incredible support of people all over the organization. There is such incredible creativity, goodwill, and wisdom around this building. When you’re working with multiple programs and partners and tight deadlines, I always was ready to excuse people for flipping out when I came to them for some support. But they rarely did. Instead they did what they could to help, which is all I ever needed to make something meaningful happen. I do want to acknowledge and pay respect to the amazing work of our Education team: Emma the shining star, Linda the diligent provocateur, Yen the passionate information specialist, as well as the ever expert work of our other team members as casual teaching staff. The team has really excelled in some pretty tight and tough environments over the past 12 months; thank you for being focused and creative. I want to also sincerely thank my co-managers Kelly, Leanne, and Anna – who have been the perfect balance to exploring all kinds of ideas and programs together, as well as some of our past managers like Indra and Paula, for helping me to pave the way. But of course one person I need to thank most dearly is Andrew. I could not asked for a wiser mentor and manager. Often a partner-in-crime in all sorts of crazy and cool schemes to make incredible things happen, we should have claimed the duo of ‘Hamish and Andy’ long before those other guys took off! Thank you Andrew for trusting in me, in my pursuit to make people of all ages genuinely surprised at what a library can do and what a library can be.

Thank you all for coming today, and for the wonderful afternoon tea. I look forward to watching from the outside-in as I explore new opportunities in my career.”