dolorosa_12: (sokka)
Firstly, and most importantly, [personal profile] firstaudrina is hosting a multifandom friending meme. If you're interested in participating, follow the link below:

multifandom friending meme

A few people have added me as a result of the meme, and rather than doing an entirely new introduction post, I'll point you towards my most recent one, done in January after my post-reveals Yuletide friending meme. Feel free to ask me anything about stuff I brought up in that post.

I'd also like to put in another plug for [community profile] waybackexchange, a fic and art exchange for fandoms older than ten years. Nominations will open in a couple of days' time, and in the meantime, the mod is going through a review period where you can make the case for borderline canons (such as works older than ten years which have been adapted more recently, or canons with various continuities, such as comics). Given most of my favourite canons are old, this is definitely the exchange for me, and I'm looking forward to taking part!

A few links to things I found interesting )

What I've been up to this weekend )

You might have noticed that after my flurry of posting about books read in January, my reading has slowed to a crawl. I can't say I've read anything that's blown my mind: I read a theological history of Judaism in the centuries on either side of the BCE/CE dividing line, as well as early Christianity. While many of its specifics were new to me, its overall argument was not (to sum up: Judaism was in a great deal of flux during this time, and Christianity, when it emerged, was in no means contrary to Judaism at that point because at that time there were several competing understandings of what Judaism was, and basically religions are fluid, evolving things that change to address the concerns of the times), so it didn't exactly blow my mind. I guess it would do if you had a much more rigid understanding of religion, maybe? The other book I've read so far this month, The Pale Queen's Courtyard by Marcin Wrona, is historical-ish fantasy set in an alternative version of ancient Babylon, with fake fantasy Babylonians, Persians and I guess Egyptians. Matthias and I have been on the lookout for books set in this region (not so much Egypt, as it's fairly well served), but there seems to be a real dearth. I found this novel frustrating: flimsy characterisation, cartoonish female characters, and an anachronistic understanding of religion which the author admits in his afterword he added for a sense of conflict. Basically his 'Persian' characters try to impose their religion on others and stamp out the worship of a particular goddess, but in pre-monotheistic times (and even afterwards), peoples might decide to worship a single god, or that other nations' gods were weak or evil, but they generally accepted that other pantheons existed. As I say, the book was frustrating.

I'll wrap this post up here, as it's a bit of a mishmash, but as always, I'm keen to hear what you're reading, watching, cooking and so on. How have your weekends been? And, new people adding me from the friending meme, feel free to ask me anything about stuff raised in my intro post.
dolorosa_12: (dolorosa)
Welcome, new people who have subscribed as a result of the friending meme. It's great to see so much activity here on Dreamwidth, and I'm really looking forward to getting to know you all.

Due to this flurry of activity, I thought it best to do an updated intro post. People who've had me in their circles for a while, please feel free to read or skip as you please. And both new and old people, please feel free to ask me any questions!

Those things they see in me I cannot see myself )
dolorosa_12: (Default)
There was a great surprise waiting for me this morning when I opened my work email: confirmation that my application to become a Chartered member of CILIP (the professional body for library and information professionals in the UK) had been successful. The chartership process involves documenting evidence of professional development (this can be formal training, conference or workshop attendance, or self-directed learning, and it needs to include work that demonstrates your knowledge of your own institution, as well as other libraries in different sectors), and writing a reflective statement evaluating your transformation over the course of the chartership process.

Chartership is not compulsory, and indeed opinion in my field is mixed as to its benefit, but it was something I wanted to do for myself. I don't have a library/information science degree, and have progressed as far as I have through the Cambridge library system through a combination of being known to the powers-that-be (simply because I worked in low-grade jobs in a large number of libraries), and having had teaching and research experience within the university due to having done two postgrad degrees at Cambridge. I've never been keen to get a librarianship MA, but instead have been taking various other steps to gain professional recognition and qualifications, of which CILIP Chartership is one.

In any case, it was nice to have some good news for a change!

[This post gets a very appropriate Noviana Una icon, because she spent part of her time running a resistance movement out of a never-burned-down Library of Alexandria in an alternate version of our own world, and while I'll never be that cool, we do have being library assistants in common!]
dolorosa_12: (Default)
On this day, ten years ago, I migrated to the UK. Because I have never been capable of making any change in my life without surrounding myself in a sea of quotes from literature, at the time I quoted one of my favourite works of literature: far from my home/ is the country I have reached, and that quote has proved itself true in many senses over the past ten years.

Although when I made that initial choice to migrate, I had been terrified, in actual fact all I was committing to was nine months spent in Cambridge working on an MPhil. There was no guarantee that anything longer-term would eventuate. But I was twenty-three years old — and a very young twenty-three at that, having only lived away from the family home for a total of six months of my entire life up to that point — and the distance, and the drastic change terrified me. And I have described my decision to migrate in the past as a desperate last throw of the dice — because I had been having a terrible time of it in Australia in the five years since I turned eighteen, moving through a fog of situational depression that I couldn't see a way out of. I had spent those first five years of adulthood completely overwhelmed by the weight of this depression, which manifested in a kind of dull fear, and a fear above all that I was incapable of being happy as an adult. (As an aside, I'm always astonished that anyone who knew or met me during those years has stuck around, because I was a nightmare.) And so the decision to migrate was a kind of test for myself: if I couldn't be happy and make this work, it would never happen. You can see why I was terrified.

I don't know what sort of magic there is in the disgusting, calcified Cambridge water, but nine months and an MPhil turned into five years and a PhD, and eight years and citizenship, and suddenly here I am, and a decade has passed. During that time I gave up on two career paths, and found my calling, acquired two degrees (and, like a glutton for punishment, am literally starting the first classes for yet another degree this very day), fell in love, and out of love, and in love again, got married, found a home, and lost that home in a wave of grief in June 2016 on the very same morning that the British passport that would make my permanent home in this country possible (the document that would, quite literally, make it possible for me to remain) was delivered. Yes, the referendum destroyed my sense of home as being a physical place, a country, and I won't make that mistake again. But above all things, what I learnt in these past ten years (good years, bad years, growing years) is that home is not and cannot be a country (those let you down), but rather it is other people. It is thanks to those other people — the generous, kind and supportive friends I made almost immediately in Cambridge, the open-hearted friends and family members I'd left behind in Australia, and the vast, international community of internet people I've met along the way, whose compassion and patience is boundless — that I feel what I was not able to feel when I left Australia in 2008: safe, happy, and comfortable in my own skin as an adult human being. You are home. You brought me home.
dolorosa_12: (una)
Content note: mention of victim blaming and abuse denial.

I, like many Tumblr users, received an email notifying me that I had unknowingly interacted with Russian propaganda accounts. I was pretty horrified by this, and did a search by username to determine the nature of these interactions. (If you wish to do the same thing, type the url YOURUSERNAME.tumblr.com/search/PROPAGANDAACCOUNTUSERNAME, replacing YOURUSERNAME with your Tumblr username and PROPAGANDAAACOUNTUSERNAME with the name of the Russian account(s) in question.)

I determined from this search that my interactions mainly consisted of reblogs from my own friends' accounts of fairly innocuous political/social justice-related content, which had originated with the propaganda accounts. For example:

  • A post about elections being compulsory and on weekends, which I reblogged from [tumblr.com profile] jimtheviking and added some comments about how this is already the case in Australia, my country of origin.

  • A post with a series of beautiful fanart of US black women athletes (Simone Biles, Serena Williams and so on) drawn as superheroes, which I had reblogged from [tumblr.com profile] thelxiepia.

  • A video interweaving Disney princesses and little girls being awesome, which I had reblogged from [tumblr.com profile] thelxiepia.


  • In other words, this was fairly bog standard content, which I would quite happily have shared had I found it myself, or if someone I know had linked to it themselves. However, when I consider the source, it takes on a much more sinister note - presumably these accounts were set up to target left-leaning USians, particularly those of marginalised identities, with the ultimate aim of discouraging them from voting. The revelation of the identity of the original posters has forced me to rethink my online presence and content, particularly on sites such as Tumblr and Twitter, which allow users to reblog/retweet other users' content, including content which originates with users who they are not following. This aspect of such sites had made me uneasy for a while, particularly as I had observed users sharing blatant misinformation (including, say, advice that would have had adverse effects in medical emergencies or other life-threatening situations), with any challenges going unnoticed.

    Several years ago, I quietly made a decision not to share, link to, retweet/reblog or in any way amplify the words and work of people of any person I was aware of who had defended the actions of Benjanun Sriduangkaew/Requires Hate/Winterfox, enabled her behaviour, or minimised the effects her abuse had had on her targets. Even if these individuals said things with which I agreed, or shared information which I considered important, I would not amplify their words. Instead, I either found someone else sharing the same information, or I refrained from sharing it at all. I don't want to spend much more time on this tangent, as it's really not the subject of the post, except insofar as I'm planning to apply this principle much more broadly.

    In other words, I've made the decision not to share posts, information or content unless it originates with people I know personally (family, offline friends, online friends with whom I've interacted significantly) or an identifiable public figure (note that I consider pseudonymous people to be 'public figures' if they have demonstrable interests, work, lives and connections with other people, so I'm not taking 'uses their own name' as synonymous with being a public figure). The only exceptions will be feeds dedicated to a specific kind of content (e.g. a feed I follow on Tumblr devoted solely to the art of Alphonse Mucha, a Twitter account that shares women's art), and I'll monitor these closely - if they suddenly start talking a lot about politics and stop posting artwork, for example, that would be a red flag.

    Basically, what I'm not going to do is retweet or reblog content that I like, find amusing, agree with politically, or think provides important information unless I know the source, or investigate the source and find them to be credible. I know this goes against some of the major selling points of platforms like Tumblr and Twitter - the easy way to share other people's content without the pressure to add any of your own - but I would strongly encourage others to do the same, or at the very least subject your own online interactions to a level of scrutiny to which you did not previously subject them. It's very easy to see some content you like or agree with, and blindly click the reblog/retweet button. Resist the urge, stop and think, and do a little bit of investigating if you don't know or recognise the source, or if Twitter or Tumblr is the only place in which you've seen a particular piece of information being shared. Our platforms are only as strong as the people using them. For the most part, the sad truth is that the owners of social media platforms are not going to take responsibility for the content being shared on said platforms. That means we have to do so ourselves. We can't control what other people post, but we can control how widely it gets spread.
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    I went straight back to work on Tuesday, and was thrown straight into it: a lot of teaching, a lot of students back and studying, and a period of downtime as we switch from one library management system to another. This latter meant that we had access to neither the old system nor the new, but were still expected to issue, return and renew books, and register new users -- quite hard to do when you can't access the required program, but we found workarounds.

    This weekend has been slightly busier than I would have liked, given the work week I had (and given how busy January is shaping up to be), but I still found time to snatch a bit of reading. I'm just over one hundred pages into The Will to Battle, the third in Ada Palmer's extraordinary Terra Ignota series, and I'm as awed by this third book as I was by the first and second. My husband sent me a link to great article by Palmer about her use of social science (as opposed to 'hard' sciences) in her science fiction, and it's reminded me all over again how intricate and clever her books are. [personal profile] naye, you might be interested in reading the article; it's here if anyone wants to read it.

    Two of my four sisters (Kitty and Nell, sisters #2 and #3) are about midway through a trip around Europe with their grandparents (for new readers of my Dreamwidth, the reason I say their and not our grandparents is that my three youngest sisters only share a father, not a mother, with me and my other younger sister -- and thus only one set of grandparents; these are their maternal grandparents). This past week they were in London, and I organised for the four of them to take the train up to Cambridge and visit me and Matthias. I hadn't seen these sisters since 2015, and although we stay vaguely in touch via social media, they are quite young (Kitty is fifteen, and Nell ten), and it's been harder to stay a part of their lives than it has been with relatives and friends who are adults. In any case, I showed them and their grandparents around Cambridge, and we all had lunch together, and it was easy to pick up where I left off. I was struck once again by what wonderful people the two girls are: so thoughtful and clever and kind. Obviously I'm a bit biased -- I think all my sisters are amazing -- but my heart sang to see what good people they were.

    Other than reading and hanging out with my family, it's mostly been a weekend of cooking and chores. I've got this slow-cooked pork recipe roasting away in the oven, and it's filling the whole house with the smell of apple, redcurrant and rosemary.

    How have everyone else's first weekends of 2018 been?
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    I've added a bunch of new people as a result of [personal profile] st_aurafina's recent friending meme, so I thought it was high time to introduce myself.

    Feel free to skip if you've had me in your circle/flist for a while )

    I'm really looking forward to getting to know you! Please feel free to ask whatever questions you like.
    dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
    I'm a cautious person, so I like to wait for contracts to be signed and things to be in writing before telling the world, but now that that's all happened, I can talk about two pieces of very good news. Both are employment-related.

    Firstly, Matthias recently applied and was successful in applying for a new job. His old job was an entry level library assistant job in one of Cambridge's departmental libraries, and although he liked it and got on well with his coworkers, it was more junior than he really wanted, and it was also only full-time on a temporary basis: he'd originally been hired to work two days a week, and three extra days had been added on to do a specific project, which was due to end in October. We had been quite anxious about what would happen then, and he had been applying for new jobs since January this year, and had been shortlisted and interviewed for several, but not made it past the interview stage. So it was a great relief when he was successful in this particular job - a more senior role in a different branch of the university's network of libraries, doing varied work in a field in which he has a great interest. Most importantly, the new job is three grades higher than his old one, and the resulting pay increase has come at a very good time, given that we're trying to save for a wedding. He's just started this week, and has found things to be good so far.

    Secondly, my job, which was originally a two-year fixed-term contract (due to finish in December, 2016) has been made permanent, which was a great relief. I really enjoy it, like my colleagues, and appreciate how supportive my boss is in terms of letting me do lots of training, attend workshops and conferences, and generally develop my skills for career-related reasons. I was not relishing the prospect of jumping back on the job applications merry-go-round, so I'm thrilled to be able to stay on as long as I want in my current role.

    As you can imagine, we are both over the moon, and realise how fortunate we've been. I hope those of you going through stressful job hunts have similar luck.
    dolorosa_12: (sokka)
    Today I spent the morning teaching a bunch of bioinformatics PIs (who had come from institutions all over the world) how to create data management plans. It was different from my normal teaching sessions for two reasons: firstly, it was a broader audience (I normally only teach Cambridge staff and students), and secondly, it was senior academics (I normally teach undergrads, postgrads or postdocs). Even though I've taught variations on this content multiple times, I was a little bit nervous, and my anxiety was not helped by the fact that the teaching took place in a giant, shiny glass and steel conference centre, like some kind of futuristic space station planted way out in the fens, rather than in more familiar IT suites or seminar rooms within the university.

    The session, however, went swimmingly. The researchers were engaged, interested, and curious, and asked perceptive and practical questions which we (I was delivering the training with two colleagues) were, for the most part, able to answer. Although we have not yet received feedback, it felt to me like one of my best training sessions ever.

    It's funny how these things work out. I embarked on a career in librarianship feeling emotionally battered by six years in academia,* including a solid final year being rejected for close to one hundred academic jobs. It had made me doubt my own abilities and intelligence, and feel a little lost. I held onto my little foothold in academic librarianship for dear life. And yet two years on, after a year and a half in my current, teaching-focused role, I feel comfortable, confident, and challenged, with a clear professional path ahead of me, support for professional development, and a deep intellectual interest in my field. If you'd told me, ten, five, or even two years ago that I would become the kind of person who relished the prospect of standing up in the middle of a room of bioinformatics PIs and teaching them about data management, I would have been astonished.

    ___________________________
    *Technically, only the last three years were hard. The MPhil, and the first two years of the PhD were wonderful. The year intermitting as a visiting scholar in Heidelberg, and the final year-and-a-half's slog were draining, in every sense of the word.
    dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
    The big news this week is that my application for British citizenship was approved. This has been a long time coming, and the application itself was very stressful, so it is, as you can imagine, a great relief to me to finally be free of the endless cycle of expensive, complicated visa applications. I still have to go to a ceremony before I'm actually a proper citizen, so right now I'm in a strange halfway position of knowing I've been approved, but not actually having the document in my hand to prove it. The next step will be applying for a British passport, but I'm hoping that will be a bit more straightforward.

    I've had a rather full on weekend, in which I socialised a lot, but failed to make any headway in writing my assignments for the two fic exchanges in which I'm participating. Oh well, I suppose there's still time for both.

    On Saturday I went down to London for a library workshop. Unlike most library events I attend (which always end up being very Cambridge librarian-heavy affairs), I didn't know a single person there, which was a little bit stressful, but everyone was really kind, and the panels were interesting, giving me lots of ideas for stuff I might be able to implement in my own library. It was really great to see that so many intelligent, empathetic and forward-thinking people were working in so many different libraries, and gave me a lot of hope for the future.

    I followed this up with dinner with [livejournal.com profile] catpuccino, who's currently based in London, and it was great to catch up with her. We've known each other since we were twelve, and there really is nothing like friends who knew you in that time of your life, and continued in that friendship through adolescence, undergrad, and the rocky years of your early twenties, into the older and comparatively wiser, calmer years of your thirties. It's a more comfortable kind of friendship, because they know your context, if that makes sense.

    Today I've been rushing all over Cambridge — I've just got back from my second trip out of the house, and will be going out a third time this evening for drinks with old college* friends of Matthias'. This afternoon I met up with [personal profile] naye and [personal profile] doctorskuld for coffee, which was lovely. I was fortunate enough to also be able to meet their cats!

    Right now I'm trying to catch a breath before I'm launched into yet another busy week. Last week was really teaching-heavy (on Tuesday I ended up with six hours of teaching out of an eight-and-a-half-hour day), but I'm hoping things will be slightly calmer next week.

    How were your Sundays?

    _________
    *'College' in Cambridge (and Oxford, and Durham, and possibly several other old UK universities), refers to the places within the university in which students and academics live, eat (if they so choose), and through which most undergrads receive their teaching. Rather than applying to study at the university, you apply to a particular college to study a particular subject, and the college itself, as well as the university as a whole, accepts or rejects your application. I hope that makes sense.
    dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
    This weekend was the alumni festival at Cambridge, and my former department hosted a drinks reception on Saturday evening. Matthias and I went along, although we spent more time speaking with current PhD student and postdoc friends who are still based in Cambridge, rather than people who have moved on. It was great to just hang out with so many medievalists again, though. I say I want nothing to do with academia any more, but it really is wonderful to be able to talk to people about medieval Irish literature or Welsh manuscripts or Anglo-Saxon legal history and not have to justify why you might be interested in stuff like this. It reminded me how much I really did love my PhD subject and do enjoy talking about it from time to time, in contexts where the pressure to perform isn't there.

    The reception also included a presentation by my friend Myriah, who is in the final stages of a PhD on the Black Book of Carmarthen, and whose research gained a lot of attention from the mainstream media earlier this year (to the extent that she was fielding questions from the BBC and the Washington Post on the one hand, and having her work misinterpreted by alien conspiracy theorists on the other). Her talk was essentially an expanded version of her earlier post on the departmental blog, with PowerPoint slides, and it sounds as if the experience was both surreal and rewarding.

    After the reception, several people came back to our place to watch the rugby. I'm not a huge fan, but Matthias and many of our friends are, and I'm always happy to hang out with people at home and drink wine, so that was lots of fun.

    Today my boss at Newest Library Job had invited all of us over for lunch at her place, along with partners and families. She and her partner live in Shelford, a small village five minutes away from Cambridge by train. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we sat out in the garden in the autumn sun, watching chickens wandering in and out of the bushes and two colleagues' children throw balls for the dog. Everyone brought a plate of food, and it was massively overcatered, so I suspect a lot of leftovers will show up at work tomorrow. It was great to meet the families of my colleagues, and to introduce them to Matthias (although several people already knew him, given that he also works in the Cambridge library system).

    All in all it's been a really relaxing weekend.
    dolorosa_12: (what's left? me)
    I'm taking my turn at that meme that's been doing the rounds, the one where you're assigned an age and answer a few questions which contrast your life then with your life now. [personal profile] naye gave me 18.

    Answers behind the cut )

    It was really great to do that meme. A lot of the things that caused me great distress at 18 had obvious fixes in retrospect, but I wouldn't have lived any other way. It makes me happy to see how far — literally and metaphorically — I have come.
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    Hello to all the new people now following me as a result of the friending meme (and for those of you who haven't seen the meme yet, it's here).

    I thought I'd introduce myself to all of you. Feel free to ask me questions about anything.

    Feel free to skip if you've had me in your circle/flist for a while )
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    Slightly flippant title, wildly inaccurate characterisation of my reasons for doing these linkposts. Over here I am gearing up for a much needed long weekend, after one of those weeks that just seem to go on and on and on.

    Kate Elliott wrote a great post on 'Diversity Panels: Where Next'. I would encourage you to read (most of) the links that follow, particularly the panel discussion at The Book Smugglers, which I included in a previous linkpost.

    Some (unintentionally Australian-centric) Hugos follow-up posts:

    Liz Barr of No Award livetweeted the Hugos.

    Galactic Suburbia did a podcast discussing the results.

    On a less awesome note (in the sense of this needing to be said at all), Sumana Harihareswara responded to the use of the Hare Krishna chant in the Hugos ceremony in an extraordinarily open-hearted and giving way.

    A lot of people were sharing this (old) 'How to (Effectively) Show Support' by Dahlia Adler. This part particularly resonated with me:

    There is a really big difference between being a person who only rages and a person who both rages and makes a real move for change. And maybe people don’t realize that. Maybe they don’t get how. But I’m tired of seeing raging with no support counterbalance, and I’m tired of people thinking raging is enough without backing it up in a meaningful way. I’m tired of people not realizing how limiting the effects are when all you do is talk about who and what is doing things wrong and not who and what is doing things right.

    (Incidentally, I think the first person I saw sharing the post was Bogi Takács, who very effectively shows support with regular roundups of #diversepoems and #diversestories recommendations.)

    Aliette de Bodard has set up a review website, designed to host reviews of 'books we love, with a focus on things by women, people of colour, and other marginalised people'.

    Here's Sophia McDougall doing a podcast with Emma Newman. My poor, Romanitas-loving heart hurt when Sophia talked about one particular scene in Savage City involving the Pantheon. (I know at least one friend is currently reading the series for the first time, so it might be wise to avoid this podcast until you've finished - it's mildly spoilery.)

    More on the invisibility of older women authors, this time from Tricia Sullivan.

    Ana has gathered some great, library-related links at Things Mean A Lot.

    'Breakthrough in the world's oldest undeciphered writing'.

    Via [personal profile] umadoshi, these photos of the world's oldest trees are really amazing.

    I hope you all have wonderful weekends.
    dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
    Those of you who are friends with me on other social media will know this already, but I wanted to let the LJ/Dreamwidth crowd know my good news as well.

    Just over two weeks ago, I interviewed for pretty much my dream job: a full-time senior library assistant post with responsibility for the library's teaching and training programme. You may recall that my work situation was rather complicated: I had three part-time jobs in three different libraries, and, while I didn't talk about it much, the main job of those three was extremely unsatisfying. It was chronicly short-staffed, chaotically managed (as a result of the understaffing), and I was paid two grades lower than my responsibilities would have suggested. I appreciated it as it came along just as my PhD funding stopped, and my coworkers were well-meaning people, but I had been looking for a way out for some time.

    In any case, to cut a long story short, I was short-listed for this new job, gave what I thought was a very good interview (and, more than that was just really impressed by the people running this new library, who seemed extremely energetic and competent, which is what I want from colleagues) and then spent a fretful twenty-four hours waiting to hear back.

    In case it isn't fairly obvious by now, I got the job!

    I'm utterly over the moon about this. I feel rejuvenated and re-inspired about library work (which had been wearing me down and making me feel like I was gradually becoming a very angry person whose empathy was being eroded), I feel enthusiastic about the thought of going to work, and I just feel as if I'm finally going to be able to use my academic teaching experience in a productive way. I got into library work to help people learn, and I care a lot about information literacy, so this job is going to be perfect. I'm thrilled, as you can imagine.

    Due to a series of administrative screw ups, I ended up being owed a huge amount of time in lieu, as well as holidays left over from the last academic year, and as a result I'm not going to have to work in my current Main Library Job again. My other two jobs are term-time only, and so from 6pm today onwards, I'm on holiday. It's quite nice to have essentially an entire month off.

    2014 has (mostly) been a very kind year to me.
    dolorosa_12: (matilda)
    I made a whirlwind trip to London on Friday, as I was attending a course on book conservation at this library. I really enjoyed it as it was hands-on, practical training. The organisers had damaged some books beforehand (all the librarians attending winced at this) and then taught us how to repair the various torn pages, broken spines and peeling covers. My favourite aspect of library work is the sense of making order out of chaos, of tidying things up into organised categories, so I think that book repair is going to suit me very well.

    It was an interesting bunch of people attending - I'm used to courses at Cambridge, where everyone works in academic libraries, but everyone on this course worked at museums, cathedral libraries, stately homes and so on. I was the only one who didn't manage a special collection in some way, although one of the three libraries in which I work does have a large number of rare books.

    I'd never been to Middle Temple before, but it's a pretty cool part of London, filled with odd little winding passageways and hidden old buildings. The library itself was very interesting, although there wasn't much time to explore it.

    On Saturday morning I actually managed to have a Skype session with all of my four sisters. Mim, the oldest, was visiting our father, stepmother and other three sisters, and we had set up the session so that I could see Maud, the newest sister, in person. As it turned out, our other two sisters, Kitty and Nell, popped in and out of the conversation as well. Maud herself is super cute (although she looks disturbingly like a shrunken version of my dad), and it's a real shame that I'm not going to be able to see her in person until at least September next year. That Skype conversation was the first time all of my sisters and I have been 'in the same place' since Nell's baptism in 2008. This is, I suppose, one of the unavoidable side effects of being an immigrant.

    There are a few fanworks and other pieces of writing making me very happy at the moment.

    This short story by Rachel Swirsky retells the early parts of the Iliad from Iphigenia's point of view. This is exactly the kind of Iliad I like - one that's all about the women and their relationships, is filled with anger at what the men around them do to them, and doesn't paint Achilles in a good light. You should definitely read it, although be aware that it includes depictions of violence, murder and an extremely misogynistic society.

    This story by [tumblr.com profile] notbecauseofvictories is basically the story I'm searching for every time I read: the interaction between human and non-human characters, in which each is overwhelmed and slightly unable to comprehend the other's nature. It's called 'Ten Things Gabriel Finds Fascinating About Humanity' and I highly recommend it.

    There are some great Vividcon vids starting to emerge. My favourites so far are 'Bones' (Luther) by [personal profile] gwyn and 'Fembots' (multifandom) by [archiveofourown.org profile] Grammarwoman.

    Also, I just noticed that someone finally wrote Romanitas fanfic, which makes me so unbelievably happy. It's by [archiveofourown.org profile] a_la_greque, and is Marcus-centric.

    I hope you are all having marvellous weekends.
    dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
    So things have been pretty full-on since I graduated. I had two jobs while I was doing my PhD - one was working as a library invigilator in my own faculty library (which I'd been doing since 2010), and the other was working as a library assistant in another faculty library (which I'd been doing since January, 2014). However, in the past two weeks, I've picked up another two jobs. One is an invigilator job in yet another faculty library. The hours are a bit erratic - I'm currently doing a project for them which involves sorting through old volumes of the Cambridge University Calendar (a sort of diary of events for each academic year) and noting down any damage or interesting annotations before the library gets rid of them. After that's done, I'll be doing normal invigilation work for them, with more regular hours.

    My fourth job is a temporary thing, and involves helping an academic sort and catalogue his book collection and then clear out his office. He owns over 1500 books (I counted), as well as numerous bound and loose journals and periodicals, which makes this a fairly full on task. However, I quite like sorting things out, making order out of chaos and putting things into categories, so I'm finding the whole thing quite enjoyable.

    These latter two jobs I got through my bosses at my faculty library, and the library assistant job I got initially through my former boss. I say this because I've been thinking about mentors and the importance of making professional connections. I've been lucky in that a lot of people have acted as informal mentors to me over the years. They've all tended to be, if not well-connected, at least very knowledgeable about the workings of the various Cambridge libraries - who's about to leave their post, who might need some temp work, which job is about to be advertised. My experience of this kind of system has not been limited to libraries - my work in journalism, childcare and retail was all, for the most part, enabled by similar environments. I've been really lucky and privileged to have these kinds of mentor relationships throughout my working life, to be honest. I might write some more about that in a later post.

    But for now, suffice it to say that I'm swamped with work, and it came along at exactly the right time. I'm going to have to start looking for something with more regular hours after the work clearing the academic's office out has finished, but at the moment, things are good.
    dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
    Kingston (later Griffith) Public Library, Canberra
    This was my local public library when I was a child, and it was like a treasure box to me. It was in Kingston until about 1993, when it moved to a bigger and better location at the former Griffith Primary School. It had the most amazing children's and YA collection, and I discovered many of the most meaningful books of my life there (The Girls in the Velvet Frame! Of Nightingales That Weep! Shadowdancers!). As a teenager, I began every school assignment there, reading the relevant entries in encyclopedias in order to find reference books (my cohort was on the cusp - the internet existed, but it was all but useless as a reference tool). But the truly amazing thing about this library was its librarians, and how dedicated and passionate they were. Every weekend, two of them hosted a reading group for children, where they would read stories aloud and run activities. They were really knowledgeable about children's books and genuinely loved children and encouraged them to read. I wish I'd been able to go back as an adult before they retired and told them how much they meant to me.

    The truly sad thing is that in 2007, the ACT government shut down Griffith Library due to a perceived lack of use, leaving the entire inner south of Canberra without a public library. The real reason was that the rest of the old Griffith Primary School site was being used as lucrative conference spaces, and the government wanted to cash in and use the space occupied by the library in order to make more money.

    Narrabundah College Library
    This was my school library during the last two years of secondary school, which in the Canberra public school system takes place in separate schools to the four earlier years of high school. There was nothing particularly revolutionary about it - it was a fairly average public school library, with an okay range of books, dial-up internet that crawled slowly, and a couple of librarians who seemed to know the name of every student.

    What was special was the library as a space. College was the first time that we, as students, were given free periods (the timetable functioned in such a way that if you took the recommended six subjects per trimester, you ended up with one free period on four out of the five school days). We were allowed to do whatever we wanted during the frees, and I often wound up in the library with a bunch of friends, ostensibly 'studying', but in actual fact playing cards, drawing in our exercise books, reading novels or gossiping. One of my friends once wrote a poem based on snippets of every conversation she'd heard in the library during her free period.

    In other words, the library was our space. The social life there moved at a slower and less urgent pace than on the oval, in the quad or cafeteria, where the push and pull of high school politics and diplomacy exerted more force. The library was a space where we could take a break from worrying about the overwhelming drama of our social lives.

    Fisher Library, University of Sydney
    The first thing I did in the orientation week at uni was take a tour of the library, as I was anxious to know how to use it. I remember walking in and feeling as if I'd died and gone to heaven. I'd never seen so many books in one place.

    Back in the dim dark days of 2003, the library had an eight-floor research library (where books could be borrowed for two weeks by undergrads) and a four-floor undergrad library (where loans were only for a week), a bunch of computers (which always had a huge queue - this was in the days before laptops were common on Australian university campuses, and those that were were extremely heavy). There was also a special reserve area, where course coordinators would move set texts for their courses. Books in special reserve could only be used in the library, and only borrowed for a two-hour period, which did a huge amount to ensure equal access. That said, some of my fondest memories of undergrad were engaging in vicious recall wars with fellow students, as we fought to borrow a limited number of set texts. I used to be particularly ruthless about going in at the start of term and borrowing whatever Shakespeare text we would be studying in the various English classes I was taking.

    I got to know the contours of Fisher particularly well. I haunted the two or three cases covering medieval Celtic literature, and knew exactly where to find the history books that were relevant to my Jewish Studies course. Whenever I had to do translation for my Medieval Irish class, I'd take the huge Dictionary of the Irish Language down from the shelf and sit near a ground-floor window, furiously trying to figure out how the spelling of Old Irish words might have changed in Middle Irish texts. In other words, Fisher was the library that taught me how to be a student.

    In the years since I graduated, Fisher has got rid of most of its books, to the extent that it's impossible to do any form of postgraduate research in the humanities there. This breaks my heart.

    Goyder St Community Library
    When Griffith Library got closed down, the people of the inner south of Canberra were so incensed that they decided to do something about it. The result was a community library, run by volunteers out of a demountable building on Boomanulla Oval in Narrabundah. I lived in Canberra during the early stages of Goyder St's existence, and through a series of coincidences, got involved.

    In 2007, I had moved back to Canberra basically because of a quarter-life crisis panic. In retrospect, it was a terrible decision, causing the depression I'd had on and off since the beginning of my adult life to reach almost intolerable levels. Cut for a little discussion of the effects of depression ) Anyway, somehow, I remembered through the desperate fog of my mind that I had joined a Philip Pullman fansite several years earlier, and logged back on. I was extremely fortunate that the denizens of that site were truly amazing people who gave me the sole reason to get out of bed that year. Every evening I was in chat with the few European night owls, and [livejournal.com profile] lucubratae, who was the only other Australian on the site, and who, serendipitously, lived a short walk away from me in Canberra. Pretty soon, I'd met up with him in person - the first internet friend I'd ever met 'in real life'. And he volunteered at Goyder St. Pretty soon, I'd been roped in.

    In those early days, it was chaos. The volunteers had more enthusiasm than technical library know-how. No one knew how to catalogue, internet was erratic, and there were tensions among the different volunteers. Many residents were outraged at the closure of Griffith Library, wanted to do something to help, but had no time to volunteer. Instead, they donated vast numbers of books, often of poor quality, creating a huge backlog of cataloguing work for the volunteers and contributing to the cluttered, claustrophobic atmosphere of the building.

    The point is, for one shining moment, enough people were angry enough to come together and do something to make their corner of the world a little bit better. And I was carried along with them. The community library got me out of the house for something other than a job that made me anxious and miserable, and for that I will always be grateful.

    English Faculty Library, University of Cambridge
    While the main Cambridge University Library is more imposing (it's a copyright library and thus has a copy of every book ever published in the UK, as well as an impressive collection of rare books, maps and manuscripts), the English library had much more of an impact on my life. Not only have I spent the past six years researching there, using its excellent collection of books on Celtic Studies, it's also responsible for my current career as a library assistant. In the first year of my PhD, I decided to take a job at English as a weekend invigilator in order to make a bit of extra cash. I loved it so much, and the assistant librarian and librarian were were such inspirational and helpful mentors that I decided to go into library services, rather than academia, after finishing my PhD.

    The librarian in particular is just exemplary. She goes out of her way to make sure that English is exactly the library that its users want. She holds training sessions in referencing and editing software and other research skills. She holds weekly tea-and-biscuits sessions for students, a way for them to take a short break from their studies and relax over a hot drink. There are beanbags in the library for students to sleep on. There are poetry competitions, Easter eggs at Easter, sweets and chocolate during exam term and the week when dissertations are due, annual surveys whose results are collated and then responded to in comprehensive reports addressing the main points raised and explaining what, if any, changes will be made. In other words, it's exactly as an academic library should be: a community where everyone's voice is heard.

    I love libraries so much.
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    It appears that I didn't write anything on LJ/Dreamwidth for the entire month of April. I'm not sure exactly why that was, although I will say that I had Matthias' family staying for two weeks, which made it very difficult to find a spare moment. His sister and her fiancé stayed with us for one week, and his parents were here for two weeks, although they stayed in their caravan in a camping site nearby. The fiancé had never been to Cambridge before, so we did a bit of sightseeing, including going up onto the roof of my college chapel, from where you can see the whole of Cambridge. To get there you have to climb this very claustrophobic, winding spiral staircase. It's worth it when you get to the roof, though.

    Anyway, after they left, Matthias went to Aberystwyth for four days. He's just started doing an MA in library and information studies there (via distance learning), and you need to attend a week-long course there every year. The rest of the coursework is done by distance. I really, really dislike being home alone. I find it almost impossible to sleep and generally feel unsafe at night. I can cope with it when I live in an apartment building, or at least on the upper floor of a house, but our house is single-storey, which is just about the worst for me. But Matthias had a good time on his course, and met all the other people in his cohort, who all seem a very interesting bunch. They're mostly in their 20s or 30s, and tend to have done at least a BA (and in some cases an MA and PhD) in some kind of humanities field and come to librarianship indirectly, like him. I'm interested to see how he goes with the course, as I'm keen to do it myself in a few years' time (once I've recovered from the exhaustion of doing a PhD!).

    On Friday, I went to London to hear Samantha Shannon (author of The Bone Season, the first of a series of novels about a dystopian London where people have supernatural abilities) in conversation with Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish, whose film company has the rights to adapt the first book. I did a write-up on Tumblr. The event was mostly awesome, although there was one sour note. One of the main characters in The Bone Season is an otherworldly being called Warden. He's not described in much detail in the book, aside from mention of him having 'dark, honey-gold'-coloured skin. People in the audience were asked to suggest actors who fit their mental image of him. Those suggested were Tom Hiddleston and Cillian Murphy. I think you can figure out why those are appalling suggestions, but in any case, I was heartened to see that most of the fandom seems to support me in perceiving Warden as just about anyone other than a white actor. What was even more encouraging is that Samantha Shannon herself agreed with me and said she was committed to fighting against whitewashing in any adaptation of The Bone Season. I will be very disappointed if a white actor is cast as Warden, and will not see any film in which this is the case.

    Yesterday, our department hosted the annual colloquium which we share with Oxford. It's for students of Celtic Studies at both universities to present papers on aspects of their research, and alternates between Cambridge and Oxford as a location. I found it interesting to note that when we went around introducing ourselves at the beginning, all the Oxford students said their individual college affiliations, whereas the Cambridge people all said the name of our department rather than our colleges. It's a subtle indication of how we perceive ourselves, I guess.

    The conference was good fun, particularly as I didn't have to give a paper this year. I just relaxed and hung out with all my friends, most of whom I hadn't seen in over a month. My supervisor was there, and we were talking about my decision to leave academia and work in libraries. She asked me if I missed research, and I realised that I didn't miss it at all. Most people I know who work in academia have this drive, this single-minded obsession with whatever they research (in much the same way as authors have this drive to tell stories). I've never had it, and I guess that's another indication that I was never cut out to be an academic.

    I finally succumbed to the lure of 8tracks. I'm ridiculous enough about music as it is, so I guess it was only a matter of time before I joined. If you're on there, you should add me. I've already made one playlist.


    We Own the Sky from dolorosa_12 on 8tracks Radio.



    In other musical news, the new Seven Lions EP, Worlds Apart, is simply glorious.

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    dolorosa_12: (Default)
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