Mid-year musings, at 40,000 ft.

Serious, unexpected illness called me back to Brisbane over June/July to nurse, to keep house, and to care for my daughter’s 2 babies.  There was seldom an opportunity to stop and think.  (Whoever scoffs at homemakers should try it and see how long they last!)

Allow me to share this pic…



life is so hard







…and this one… 😉



artist in the making







Four weeks later, while boarding the plane in Brisbane to return home, I had no inkling of the drama that would shortly play itself out, merely because I chose to drink the awful coffee served on the domestic flight to Melbourne (specially requested because it was cold on board; sending it back would’ve seemed ungrateful, or so I thought).  The rushed transfer to international departures consisted of an ungainly jog, long queues & just-in-time arrival at the gate.  Four hours later, at 40,000 feet, all I wanted was to lie down and die. Sick as a dog.

When you’re stuck on a plane for 10 hours, so sick that even a movie holds zero appeal and sleep escapes you, you think.  A lot.  Reevaluate. Take stock.  It’s amazing how priorities have a way of changing rapidly, as you face up to truths that you usually prefer to evade… like aging.  As an expat.  Like having the feeling of not belonging, to any country really.  Like contemplating the importance of family relationships and friends, and work-life balance.  Of realising that you were deluded in thinking that the immigration visa would take 18 months to 2 years, and hearing that it may take 3 years, or longer.

Facing up to truths…like not having a job. Of knowing you can’t afford to embrace the big R…Retirement. Of calling yourself a librarian and knowing it isn’t true in the world’s eyes, at least until that title appears on your name badge, officially.  Of knowing those chances are slimmer with each passing month which encroaches on 60 years of your walk upon terra firma.

Yet…there must be a way. To realise a dream.  To earn a living. To earn the title.  To exercise a passion. To make a difference. To do more than just survive!

Is it in trying to beat the 20-somethings, fresh out of uni, with a hit resume? No, especially not as a foreigner. (An ‘aging’ foreigner at that.)  Is it in the mastering of one particular area of librarianship?  I think not. Librarianship, in the true sense of today’s meaning, requires multi-disciplinary, tech-agile, super humans. (To stakeholders, preferably younger ones.)

Is it in volunteering for 5 years henceforth, with the hope of getting a toe in the door?  Nope! Firstly, volunteering won’t put bread on the table, nor pay the rent. Secondly, the age clock ticks on relentlessly…tick-tock, tick-tock!

Entrepreneurship? Now there’s a thought! Ah, but… this is not an area for just anyone to venture into is it?  And yet, for years now, the thought has held appeal. Could I pull it off? Mmmm… Yes!

Earning a living online is not easy. Earning a living online with information as a commodity is absolutely not easy! After all, libraries are there, for free!  I can only imagine that it would take dedicated input, continual marketing, versatility, innovative thinking and absolute integrity.  Knowledge of your subject. Knowledge of your environment and business competition. A good business acumen. A bulldog-like tenacity.

And experience!, I hear the sceptics shout.

On a side note: we all know that to provide value, (not only as a commercial resource), information needs to be organised, locatable, retrievable; utilisable; applicable to today’s dilemmas or needs; preferably connected and searchable in today’s user language.  Therefore, the drive to modernise knowledge organisation systems to those that encourage open access, shareable metadata, linked data, is vitally important.  To this end also revolutionary cataloguing, and catalogers like Alissa,  who question existing, often archaic, rules that no longer make sense.

On IFLA’s website I found the Statement of International Cataloguing Principles (ICP) 2016 .  Note no’s 10 & 11:

10. Interoperability. All efforts should be made to ensure the sharing and reuse of bibliographic and authority data within and outside the library community. For the exchange of data and discovery tools, the use of vocabularies facilitating automatic translation and disambiguation is highly recommended.

11. Openness. Restrictions on data should be minimal in order to foster transparency and conform to Open Access principles, as declared also in the IFLA Statement on Open Access.5  Any restriction on data access should be fully stated.

These combine to make one hopeful of even more ease in future data availability, access and retrieval, of global connectedness.  Okay, sorry, I’m rambling.

Returning to my musings at 40,000 feet…my thoughts went to freelancing. Could I pull it off? A domain where many have met their match.  Yet, no one knows where that might lead until one actually tries? Minute by minute, I felt my anticipation and resolve growing. By the time the plane had landed, my mind was made up. Without much to lose, but a lot to gain, I’d make it happen or die trying!  Libsandy. Infopreneur.

Two weeks later, having shaken off food poisoning, jet lag and the effect of a fall from standing (I’d fainted on board that damn plane), I have these in front of me…

… and exploring for more on the web, like Metadata for information Retrieval and Management, by David Haynes.  The knock to my head might’ve resulted in fuzziness for a while, but my resolve is unchanged…to offer a personalised info service! Librarian for hire.  Vitalis informatio facile.

Oh the dreams…of being on the move, a different schedule each day; meeting clients’, discovering needs; untethered to a desk, working with info across all formats; exploring across different sectors; perhaps cataloging, or indexing; possibly training; or interviewing folk, documenting stories, creating knowledge. So many possibilities.

It’s time! Rise up. Refresh. Review. Prepare. Equip. Move forward.

After a few years, when we arrive (God willing) upon the shores of our new country, I shall throw all I have into an infopreneurship venture. Until then, I’ll use whatever means I can to plan and to equip myself, not only for survival, but for successful survival!

My librorum journey is far from over. I am determined!


Gif: https://giphy.com/create/gifmaker

Images: public domain (woman in office and featured image) taken from unsplash.com


What we want is not always what we get…

November and December were spent on cloud nine! The first because of a fabulous holiday and the other because our daughter and granddaughter came for Christmas, all the way from Brisbane.  January arrived and suddenly everyone was back at work except for me. The house was depressingly quiet and the dog and I were looking at each other equally as gloomy. My volunteering stint at the Museum of Islamic Art was over. With no job prospects at present, and my Australian visa application in a queue – a very looong queue – for the last year already, what was next?! I felt myself descending into the abyss of depression.


Reflection by Fumigraphik_photographist on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Why can’t I get a job you ask?…the only job I honestly stand a chance of securing locally is as a school librarian. I feel uncomfortable with the level of censorship required in this country, so for this reason I do not apply for any. Having interned for +-320 hours in an American private school, I heard and saw much. I reached the final round of interviews for 2 teacher librarian jobs, was accepted for one, but declined at the end of internship, as I realised that the local school environment is not for me.

Other (academic) libraries, under the banner of a major local holding company, have a cut-off age of 55 years, unless you are already in a position of worth. I have received zero replies from the National Library’s HR. Without appearing to make excuses, 3 factors work against me – I’m Western, I don’t have a Master’s degree and am considered ‘old’. The majority of entry-level jobs are seemingly filled by Middle Eastern nationalities. I graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree…a late career changer, chasing a long-held dream. At 59, with no experience bar +-500 volunteering hours, not many are willing to consider me employable. (If only they knew what a good librarian I’d make!)

My home country? No, not possible. An entrepreneurial venture? This would be another way forward, but I do not relish local red tape, and besides, this culture is very much a ‘man’s world’. My hands are tied – not cut off – just tied. For now.


To be away from this particular expat situation and to be in a country where I feel I could belong is my dream. Someplace where I can become involved in community projects, volunteer freely, join librarian meet-ups, feel that life has a purpose, and to be able to possibly find a job. However, what we want is not always what we get.

longingDry Pots by Mirjana Veljovic on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Recently I began to think…perhaps what I want is not where I’m supposed to be? Have I another task to perform? Listening to the two people I live with (hubby and son) I began to see that my role had huge value.  I realised just how much they need me to keep things going so that they have a measure of support and sanity after crazy days in their respective working environments (you’ll only know to what I refer if you’ve been an expat in the Middle East). The mundane, unglamorous, task of running a home (which the world largely holds to scorn) acquired a new sheen. Added to that, a new granddaughter will arrive in April, in Brisbane.  Once again I’ll be required as home-carer-cum-babysitter for a good few weeks. (Not that I’m complaining, since I’ll be in Brissie! Yay!)

And so, resignation dawned – stop fighting the urge to escape, to build a new profession, stop the striving. Support those you care for most. This is a season in which they really need it. With that decision made, I felt at peace.alone

Pto. Madryn by Christian Ostrosky on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

So where does that leave my ‘librarian’ aspirations? Either I throw in the towel or I plod on.

Well, since retirement is not an option I am not about to cast myself aside as a ‘hopeful wannabe’. I choose to plod on! I will walk through PD opportunities that come my way, keeping my eyes fixed on that distant goal of ‘librarian’ position.  I will think positive, stay fit and healthy. I will not accept defeat and I will put my hope in the right place – in the One who can make all things happen.


Beginning by Aftab Uzzaman on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

One morning a few weeks ago, I read an article that inspired me to keep my dream alive. I sprang into action and signed up for a MOOC through Coursera, Deciphering Secrets: The Illuminated Manuscripts of Medieval Europe, and enrolled for ALIA’s Born Digital course. I felt my spirits lift because some great learning would be coming my way soon. Simultaneously, I learned of another volunteering opportunity – a very exciting one – that may be available once I return to this ‘land-of-sand’ in May. I do hope it materialises.

What we want is not always what we get. For me, serving my family while waiting for the right time to realise a dream, feels like the right thing to be doing just now.

Here’s to you librarians everywhere…you rock!  I really envy you, but in a good way. 😀 Keep up the great work!

“Good librarians are natural intelligence operatives. They possess all of the skills and characteristics required for that work: curiosity, wide-ranging knowledge, good memories, organization and analytical aptitude, and discretion.”

Marilyn Johnson in This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians can save us all.

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