Graeme’s La Trobe manifesto 2009-2021. 

In 2008/2009 things at Victoria University were not great.  I had been there 17 years.  I’d had amazing opportunities and experiences.  I was the campus librarian of Sunbury which had been earmarked to close in the following year.  I had been reassured that there would still be a position for me somewhere in the organization post this but was actively seeking employment elsewhere.  La Trobe had been through a restructure and because of the resignation of a Science Subject Librarian they had the paperwork already to go and with the window open were able to advertise it. 

When I applied the actual subject area of responsibility was not clear in the PD.  As I arrived on level two and tried to navigate the unclear directions of where to register at the University Librarian’s office and was ushered to the waiting area, just next to the office which was later converted into a toilet block, I asked the librarian, Kerry Sullivan, what subject area the position supported.  She said that she thought it was Health Science. 

During the interview I waxed lyrically focusing examples about the vast amount of Health Science stuff I knew, even though I primarily had been a science librarian for 15 years.  At the end in question time, I asked what area it supported and I was told Science.  In my last 5 minutes I spieled about my vast Science experience including being library representative on faculty board.    On my tour through the bowels of the drab staff area I bumped into numerous librarians I knew through CRIG and CAVAL circles.  After the event I was told by a fellow librarian who was going for the job that they had seen me being toured around and their heart sank as they thought they had no hope for the job as I had been interviewed. 

It was with much joy that I was successful.  I fronted up at the David Myers building with all my paperwork and evidence of degrees etc.  This was back in the day when you actually saw an HR person.  Over the years HR has retreated behind closed doors and further away from campus up to the terrace buildings and now you only deal with HR via tickets and email. 

In my first day/s I met with my supervisor Kris Valenta and we got on like a house on fire.  There was much discussion and jokes.  Within the first month during my induction, we were told off for being too noisy within the open plan workplace.  This transferred to going for walking meeting particularly when there was gossip to be shared without listening ears to tap into. 

Library Link February 20 2009

Hello to Graeme, the singing Librarian

Welcome to Graeme Oke, the new Reference Librarian replacing Sue Grandfield. Graeme will look after the subject areas of Agriculture, Chemistry, Computer Science and Engineering, Earth Sciences, Electronic Engineering, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology and Statistical Science.

He comes to us from Victoria University (VU) where he was the Sunbury campus Librarian and has also held the roles of Health Engineering Science Faculty Librarian and Science Subject Liaison Librarian. He was based at VU’s Werribee campus for 14 years. 

“I have been involved in many and varied committees over the years and before coming to LaTrobe had interacted with some of the other La Trobe Reference Librarians through CRIG (CAVAL Reference Interest Group) committees, seminars and activities. 

“On the personal front I am married with two high school-aged kids.  I live in Keilor and am involved in leadership in a Church of Christ. I am also into bike riding and I’m a member of Brimbank Bicycle Users Group (BrimBUG).  I also sing with the Sons of Sunbury choir.    

“I look forward to a long and happy employment at La Trobe.”    Graeme Oke

As the University had been undertaking a restructure my appointment seemed to come in under the radar.  I learnt that the person I replaced Sue Grandfield had taken a lot of time off.  To get out and introduce myself to faculty was easy as they had not heard from their subject librarian for some time.  And as the University and library was in a coming out of restructure mode I attended a number of farewells of people most of who had been around for a LONG time. 

As time went by the library underwent a restructure and instead of 16 librarians all reporting to the head of the research area there was a redevelopment into faculty teams.  I forced the issue to compete for the team leader role having had experience in leading a team at VU for the last 3 years.  I was not successful.  Post the appointment the feedback about the interview was something along the lines of “you are new to La Trobe, you do not know all the La Trobe ways”.  A year or so later Kris went on maternity leave and thus my acting team leader role started and persisted for the next three or so years fuelled along as Kris relocated to Bendigo and as we approached 2013/14 a library and University restructure was brewing. 

During these hazy days I continued to be heavily involved with CAVAL being the chair of the Seminar Committee for Information Literacy (SCIL).  I had been part of the committee when I transferred from VU and Lisa Donnelly stepped down from the committee.  I transferred from being the VU to the La Trobe representative on the committee.  In VU days I had spent years being chair for two terms of the CRIG committee.  My association with CAVAL lasted a good ten years or so as representative of the two committees via the two institutions.  This gave me a high profile within the University Library sector over those years being on a cross University librarian committee, being an event manager, chair, and MC for many staff development events, seminars, and twisting many arms to be guest speakers, present papers and talk and run workshops. 

I applied some of these skills and connections by having guest speaks at some La Trobe library staff seminars.  I organized a road trip with Kendra Watson and Rickie Morey to travel as Science Technology and Engineering Librarians to meet up at Albury Wodonga with Donna Outtrim and Kathy Robison.  Clayton Bolitho travelled  over from Bendigo.  We had a day on campus staying overnight in a hotel.  We also visited Shepperton Campus on the way home and had lunch with Iris Ambrose & Donna Wileman. 

When I arrived at La Trobe Kris Valenta had already been part of a community of practice with the Department of Biology the First Year Biology Teaching and Learning Group.   This led to the development of the First Year Biology Survival guide which was given an ALTC Citation Award in 2010.  

Great News.  La Trobe’s First Year Biology Learning and Teaching Group has been awarded an ALTC (Australian Learning & Teaching Council) citation.  Kris Valenta was a member of this group.  The group were recognised by ALTC for  a ‘community of practice’ leadership approach to curriculum redesign, leading to an enhanced first year learning experience in biology’. 

Congratulations to Kris and the Science, Technology and Engineering Faculty team who supported Kris in this endeavour.  This is a great achievement for Kris, La Trobe and the Library.

The citation was one of three awarded to La Trobe.  Thirty nine citations were awarded across the Australian University community. 

 This work and liaising led to a seat at the table with the Firm Foundations of Science project to bring first year coordinators, an educational designer, and Language and Academic Skills staff together to develop common modules.  As part of the VC award and money grant I went away with the Biology Group on a retreat to the Beechworth campus of La Trobe for a few days.  My time as an acting team leader of Science Technology and Engineering also allowed  me to be on the Faculty Advisory Committee as library representative to give a library report and be present to consider new courses and subjects being proposed.  This was a great asset to the library to foreshadow what library resources might be needed to be acquired to support the subject and courses.  It also allowed for a close scrutiny of handbook entries for up-to-date publication listing. 

 During these years I developed a good collegial friendship with Dennis Warren the law librarian and Ross Schnioffsky a Humanities and Social Sciences librarian with a passion for John Wayne memorabilia and Western movies.  We had regular mid-morning coffee breaks frequenting the Caffeine coffee shop sitting in the Agora and solving the world’s problems.  For some we were known as the 3 Amigos.  To others we were known as the old farts club.  Dennis was made redundant in the 2014 restructure.  Ross made it to the other side, but the dynamic changed as I became his supervisor in the new Research Partnerships team, and he retired in 2016. 

In 2013 the library undertook a review of its learning and research services.  During this time, I was asked to write and run a blog called Future Library  to help stimulate thought and conversation.  Combined with this I organized brown bag lunch conversation opportunities to expand on topics raised via the blog.  There was also ability during this time for library faculty teams to do library visits to contribute to the review.  I organized for a road trip with my completely different Science Technology and Engineering team of Caroline Ondracek and Mina Nichols-Boyd to travel to Deakin Geelong visiting Waterfront and Waurn Ponds campuses and speaking to various staff on their services and ways of doing things.   I organized for Caroline and Mina to meet on campus to pick up the University car and to pick me up on their way through.  I recall the letters of the numberplate of the car was ZAP which became a running joke with Caroline’s driving and our trip.  My blog writing continues aligned with the ALIA #blogjune via my blog 

My blog writing and social media presence particularly on twitter started via the 23 Things.  I undertook this first at Victoria University around 2008.  I recall this year significantly as I also suffered a serious bike accident which took some time to recover from.  At the time the emphasis was to disguise your social media handle so as not to draw so easy direct connection with your true self.  I coined the twitter handle GraemeO28.  I think at the time GraemeO was taken and 28 was my home street address.  I used for many years and it is still active.  However a couple of years ago something happened and I was locked out of that account.  So I redeveloped the handle which is my more current active handle.  When I started at La Trobe it was the then on library staff Clare Brooks who encouraged my twitter presence and to use it for staff development and to build a personal learning network.  Over the years I have developed some friendships and connections via social media connecting via twitter and then having meet ups in person and/or at tweet meets at conferences.  I have presented at a couple of conferences with colleagues about this.  One of my most significant connections was linking with Andy Priestner , visiting him in person at Cambridge where he was still working at the time when travelling in the UK, and continuing to have a friendship connection. 

As an active bike rider and proactive in my local Brimbank Bike User Group  I welcomed the bike culture at La Trobe and regularly participated in the Biker Breakfast get togethers run on a monthly basis and yearly ride to work days.  One year I rode to work with Fiona Salisbury meeting her in Brunswick to traverse a route to get to La Trobe.   Through my association and friendships formed via the breakfasts I participated in a La Trobe Team in an MS Summer Cycle and in 2011 a Team La Trobe was developed to ride as part of the Bicycle Network Around the Bay. 

There were a number of bike riders in the library and no bike storage facility.  The habit of leaving bikes under the stairwells was deemed to be an OHS issue.  I proactively worked with the I & O section to develop the bike cage that is in the library garage.  This was achieved at low cost as the bike rake was repurposed from elsewhere on campus and the space was repurposed as it had formally been an area where a library car had been housed before the days of a centralized carpool. 

The turbulent year of the 2014 University restructure Future Ready was a time when the academic status of the librarians was transformed to professional staff.  At this time I dodged a bullet of having to undergo a spill and fill application process for the HEO8 positions as I had been acting for three/four  years as a team leader so was therefore to apply only for my substantive HEO7 role position of which there were a number to chose from.  My first choice which I got was to go into the Research Team as a Coordinator. 

End of LARS 2014

Because of the other successful candidates, it was put to me to be the Coordinator the ASSC rather than the SHE college.  As I had been a science librarian for around 20 years this was quite a challenge.  It reflected the substantial shift of Future Ready where a number of staff were changed into quite different and challenging roles over the whole of the University.  With a leaner staff it was also challenging to develop cross campus team and reporting lines.  My supervisor was at Bendigo campus and initially I had a staff member reporting to me from Albury/Wodonga as well as Bundoora.  This helped us to develop a good online culture utilizing video conference, WebEx, and later zoom and MS Team technologies to run meetings, undertake graduate education training  and doing online consults with staff and graduate researchers.  In later years with COVID and lockdown this existing online culture of operation helped us to transfer seamlessly to continue our work remotely. 

As the combined Research Team with Research Publications and ERA in 2016 there was a significant shift for all hands on deck to come to grips with the new process, use the new Sympletic Elements interface, and work with academics to get things in and assessed by the deadlines placed on us.  I gained a far greater understanding of non traditional research objects and giving advice to academics about how to input research outputs into the system.  In recognition of the hard labour our combined teams in liaison with the research office performance management section we were successful at the end of year to be given a combined Vice Chancellor award for what we had achieved.  In comparison to previous years there was a far great research output record and this influenced the overall University rankings for research output. 

As part of our award, we decided to utilize the money from the award to organize a team meeting at our Bendigo campus.  It was thought that we could hire a bus and go up together. 

When the bus arrived late one staff member took one look at it and decided NOT to get on the bus but to drive up.  We got on and the smell and some broken seat belts should have been fair warning.  As we set off the bus driver seemed to have nits as he seemed to continually scratch his head and use tissues to sneeze with.  As we got underway the bus driver seemed to have no idea where we were going either so one of our staff members had direct him using google maps on her phone.  We got to Bendigo later than expected had a good day but then it was the return trip.  Using google maps we were directed to go via a scenic country route that saw the driver occasionally veering off to the sides of the road into the dirt whilst still scratching his head and using tissues.  When we were nearly back to campus the driver also used his phone not hands free.  The bus trip to and from Bendigo has become legendary.  Some still have post traumatic stress from the day. 

A significant amount of funding was achieved by the library to develop a Visualization Laboratory (Viz Lab), a Creative Studio and a Research Commons.  The concept was based on the existing Visualization Laboratories already around the University but to have it in a more open and public venue so that the possible data visualizations might be seen by the students and aspire more research.  The Research Commons concept was to make it a space for graduate research students and research staff to meet, plan research, and potentially have seminars, workshops, or guest speakers.  Also to potentially meet and mix with other research areas around the University to address needs such as training, grants, researcher education.  It was finished in 2016 and it was handed over to me, more or less, to become the Viz Lab guru.  A huge amount of time, energy, and effort went into creating a step by step guide on how to use the technology in the labs, the booking process, the induction process to allow people to become familiar to realize the power and technology in the rooms.  Over time it reverted to mostly be used as an amazing meeting room however the technology and the troubleshooting required to make it all work smoothly was challenging.  Over three years some processes were simplified but the technology remains to be challenging.  The day to day troubleshooting and use was handed over to business services in 2019.  A comprehensive report was undertaken to get perspectives from users of the space.  The decision was made to revert the space into a learning hub and currently the former Viz Lab has become used in part for using 3D glasses for virtual anatomy.  Such a waste of a resource.

2019 was a horrible year in many ways.  I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and undertook a robotic prostatectomy in February.  I had around ten weeks off work in recovery. I recovered well and through testing continue to be well.  I joined up and continue to be part of a local prostate cancer support group.   During this time the first tabling of the restructured library came out and I was redundant.  Through constructive feedback of a number of library staff and the union the decision was made in the second version of the restructured library to reverse that initial decision and make myself and my colleague Beth un redundant and transfer into the new structure.  Other changes were made which made some who had been transferred in the first version having to apply or be made redundant in the second version.  A number of good people left the library over this time some by voluntary redundancy some not so. Some took up roles in other libraries.  As well as this my father-in-law who had been in a nursing home for two and a half years died.  It was also the year of Barb the Saab who started out well but over the year had many mechanical faults and in December, I got rid of her to a wrecker.  It was also the passing of one my cats Jerry.  At the end of 2019 we thought 2020 could only be better. 

With a new library structure, new managers, new people, and new processes to come familiar with 2020 started with a certain amount of optimism but also some grieving with the departure from last year of a number of staff.  And then COVID struck and we went into lockdown.  As mentioned above our team already had a good culture and work practice to use zoom for meetings with library staff and clients, and to run graduate education training and classes online so working from home and undertaking these processes online worked okay.  Over the year with the lack of international students and lack of government funding or support for the University sector the University had to undertake some drastic measures to keep operating.  A University framework was signed up to which meant we took a 10% pay cut for a year.   As an all of University transformation was being formulated two rounds of voluntary redundancies were undertaken which saw a number of staff leave.  Over this period a certain amount of fun and collegiality weas maintained within our team by having regular fun dress up Fridays covering a wide range of themes. 

As we entered 2021 there were a number of vacant positions within the library due to staff moving on and taking redundancy packages.  All of University transformation documentation was tabled in July.  My position was redundant and there seemed to be less scope for applying for jobs in the new structure.  Constructive and thoughtful feedback was given about the proposed library structure but in the second version of the structure there seemed little changes.  The process to apply for positions involved having to apply, get questions for an interview, and then to address these questions in a time limited online video response which being in front of an interview panel.  I undertook this gruelling process applying for three positions within the library but even so was not successful.  The timing of this news aligned with a week of annual leave going to Bright and being with some good friends for rest, relaxation, bike riding, good food and conversation and reflection.  After all this and with some more time and discussion I have come more to terms with my situation.

I am in a fortunate position to have worked full time in permanent academic librarian roles for nearly 30 years.  I am fortunate to be in a good financial position, so I do not have to rush into a new job.  If this is the start of an early retirement that is possible.  If new positions become available to apply for at other Universities or in other areas so, be it.  I have a range of additional outside of work activities and organizations that I am involved with so my post work time will be occupied. 

As part of my farewelling from work I opened the conversation with library staff to consider what “Graemisms” grammatical errors, or memorable things they could recalled.   There was mention about my CAVAL days, my mentoring support and experiences, encouragement, humour and making light of the situation. 


Chicken and Egg
Pow wow
The magic form
Line up the ducks
Bigger than Ben Hurr
The Vislab is broken again
Having “conversations”
Great and wonderful
Fun and games
In a nutshell
Let’s gather around the campfire for a story from Uncle/Auntie….
Grammatical errors
Asking for direction – no we are not in an army ask for suggestions or advice. 
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End of blogjune

The end of blogjune and happily watching The Tour de France and the #couchpeloton of those watching #sbstdf and Tweeting Also having a couple of days off work and going away for a short break. As opposed to much of Australia who are in lockdown but not Melbourne for once! At my place of work we await the reveal of the transformation in mid-July (read restructure) to lose another 300 jobs. Having already gone through two rounds of voluntary redundancies it will be tough times. So stay tuned for blogjune 2022 for the next update I guess.

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Working at work not from home

First time back at my physical workplace rather than working from home today. The campus seems quiet. More shops than I recall closed in the AGORA (the centre of the campus) than when last on campus in March before our last lockdown. It is also intra semester break so that contributes to there being a lack of student life on campus. And having been a COVID hotspot the staffing in the library seems to be small. I blogged about this earlier this month We are also conservatively transitioning back to allowing a higher number of staff back to the workplace as the rules have only recently changed from 25% to 75% of staff in a workplace and the change of directive to work from home if you can to be more relaxed and open in that regard.

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Afternoon ride

A late afternoon ride. Here it is on STRAVA Not as dedicated to the early morning ride these days. Appreciate having a quieter and slower Saturday morning these days with the possibility of a sleep in. Particularly at the moment with chilly Winter mornings there is less momentum to get out and ride. This is one of my regular short rides that I developed during lockdown as it stays within a 5 km radius of my home and takes in views of Green Gully which my house backs onto and takes in some views of Brimbank Park. There is also the bonus of an outdoor gym at one of the parks along the way to do some minor weight training.

E.J. Whitten Bridge
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Roof renovation

In addition to the interior home renovations was some significant roof work. When the handy man who did my interior first came for an inspection and quote he started by looking at my roof. Initially he thought he could do it but he deferred to a roof specialist as he saw it as a big job. The chap that did the inspection then sub contracted and came back with a couple of quotes. The ones that took on the job were interesting.

They seemed to be okay at first but during the time that they were undertaking the work there seemed to be a lot of excuses. Too hot. Too windy. Too wet. Sorry boys at another job. Traffic. Another job that I had to finish off. The first day of cleaning the roof left an awful barrage of broken bits of tile, mortar and dirt all around the surrounds of the house and garden. At the end of the job, just the day before another lockdown, it was all done. In addition the chap who had done the original inspection came back a few times and patched up the spouting that had some rust holes. All in all a good job and good to know that it is all in place after 30 years of neglect for the 50 year old house.

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House renovations

After the Bright holiday in late January we had arranged for a handy man to prepare and paint our kitchen/living room, lounge room and hallway. After twenty years of neglect and a number of cracks with house movement post the drought there was much to do. To clear out the rooms was quite an undertaking. We have an enclosed decking so much of the furniture was stored there. Without the kitchen being accessible we moved the fridge to the lounge as we could place some furniture in the middle of the rooms to be covered up.

The handy man was amazing. He turned up early each day. Was up for a chat when required but just diligently worked away getting the complete job done in eight days.

We took the advantage of having the lounge room cleared to also get new carpet laid. With a lockdown and a delay of supply that happened about a month later.

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Working from home

I read this article about office culture and practice having worked from home for more than a year I concur that instead of having to justify to work from home the mind set is more so justifying the need to come back to the office. The question now of how to work and the nonlinear office hours mentality of working 9 to 5. From March I had started to go back to the physical workplace two days a week. However in the last week of March our library was a COVID exposure site and a number of library staff had to isolate for 14 days. I was in the fortunate position in being alerted by colleagues, getting tested, getting a negative result, talking to the COVID hotline and then getting a call back from the Department of Health to not have to undergo the full 14 day isolation. Where as 22 of the other 25 library staff who were present on the day had to. Which included being called upon during the week by Department of Health staff and an army office to check in on them but also to check that they were isolating. During this week there was a significant outreach within the library to assist those who were isolating. Being an eye and ear for them. Assisting where possible with getting food to them. Offering to take pets out for walks. In some ways the experience brought the library together to support one another. Having just started the process again to come out of a lockdown situation the return to the physical work place will no doubt be a lot more cautious, less enthusiast and slower I imagine. As we tick off our yearly (and delayed due to COVID) staff appraisals (Career Success) and look towards the daunting University “transformation” read restructure to be revealed in mid-July it will be a rocky road ahead.

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Afternoon Swim

After a strict lockdown and an increase in being to travel from home 5 km, 25 km zone, to no zone, for the last few weeks the next progression is that we have been allowed to go outdoor swimming again. Last blogjune I wrote about swimming after a much longer restriction. The outdoor pool was at 27 degrees. The air temperature was around 15 degrees. The bonus of this week as opposed to last week was that you could use the change room, but no showering. Changing at the side of a cold outdoor pool was not so fun. I was plugging away with my laps feeling fairly mundane thinking I might give up. However a younger faster swimming joined in the lane next to me. That sparred me on to extend the distance I had originally intended to go for. Results are recorded here on STRAVA

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An outing into the city of Melbourne at night.

I went into the city for Men’s Table tonight. An exciting night as two new men joined our table for the first time so an anticipation to get to know them, see how they’d fit in, and an unknown of what personality types they had. Also the change of dynamic for our existing group to grow with two new members. They were great and fitted in very well and were open to share of themselves. A testament to the existing group that they felt comfortable to share from their first night. There was also an exciting but anxious reality of lockdown rules and being allowed out within the 25 km zone and having a facemask when outdoors. We had to have table service by rules not the usual go up to the bar to order drinks and our meals. When I left the car there was still some time before the zone became unrestricted so I paid a parking fee. However when walking further away I had the doubt of whether I had locked the car and whether the car locks itself after a period. All fine when I returned to the car after a great night. Locked.

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Dinner Plain

Dinner Plain is beyond Mount Hotham. Primarily it is a snow resort. However in Summer there are still a raft of activities that can be done there. On the last day it was suggested that as a group we go up there for a walk and go out to dinner. It was suggested that the parmas at one of the restaurants there was one of the best they’d had. Being Summer and just past lockdown one of the group who suggested the parma checked the availability and booked us in for dinner on Dinner Plain.

Most of the group went up in the afternoon and did the Dead Timber Hill Walk The place we went to for dinner was unfortunately understaffed and were trying to work with an app to individually checkin and order your meal. However it was not working well for a large group. The Parma was okay but maybe not as good as it had been hyped up to be. We left early enough to come down the mountain still in day light and rested up in anticipation of packing up and heading home the next day having said our farewells to the group.

View towards Razerback walk which some of the group did earlier in week. A few even stayed overnight in their tents.
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