SPEECH MADE AT RETIREMENT PARTY 1st AUGUST 2003
(This is the prepared text – I ad-libbed around it slightly but I think it’s a pretty good match to what I said!)
Pam Davies, 2nd August 2003
Thanks, Tracey. I’ll open this [parcel] later though I think I know what it is … and if this [envelope] is what I think it is then it’s going to go up in a load of hot air: I plan to take a balloon flight over the Yorkshire Dales. Madly extravagant, a complete luxury and a treat, and a sort of getting away from it all – thank you all very much.
Thank you all for coming, and I hope you’re enjoying the party.
We could only invite 6 guests each from outside the Library, and to simplify the decision I decided to go for the Golden Oldies. I’m delighted to welcome 6 retired library staff: to many of you they’ll be names you’ve heard mentioned but unfamiliar faces, so let me point out Dennis Cox (University Librarian for 20 years to 1986, before Reg Carr), Malcolm Stevenson who was Deputy here until he became University Librarian at Bradford from where he’s now early-retired, Hugh Wellesley-Smith and Roger Davis, two more former Deputy Librarians; also Anne Read and Andrew Cooper. They’re all good adverts for retirement!
Well, it’s been quite an experience. The University celebrates its centenary next year, and I’ve worked here for a quarter of that century. It’s been pretty eventful for libraries and users.
Tracey’s taken you through some of the history – from punched paper tape to the web and e-journals. The EBL was still called the South Library when I came here, and Edward Boyle was the Vice Chancellor.
Things have moved on, and it’s been exciting to see all the developments over the years and to be involved in some of them.
I haven’t, myself, enjoyed the changes brought about in the last few years very much: it’s been a lonely life as a isolated blip on the organisation chart, missing out on all the team meetings and team-based developments, and without much chance to contribute to discussion on anything except in the Documentation Group (thanks, Frances, for inviting me to join that).
But I’ve enjoyed developing this weird specialisation as a copyright and IPR guru, and getting invited to take part in the occasional external event. One of the strangest was a talk to an East Midlands library group who were holding their meeting at RAF College Cranwell – beautifully-preserved palatial 1920s buildings in the middle of nowhere, and we were in a room lined with oil paintings of spitfire planes and with rows of chintz armchairs for the audience! That place also had a library which had ashtrays on the tables! The officer cadets are there for such intensive courses that they can only use the library in their limited “free time”, and out of compassion to the smokers they’re allowed to smoke. Bit rough on the others.
Getting back to this non-smoking Library… (though of course we used to allow smoking on the EBL stairs – at first I think it was on levels 11 to 13 only, and then on one staircase but not the other. Times change)
Despite the Investors In People’s glowing, perhaps Pollyanna-ish, report, I’m not sure that everyone is happy as things are. The Staff Perception Survey showed that there are some worries, and that’s among those who replied. I’m in full agreement with the Management here in being very sorry that 40% of staff, for one reason or another, didn’t reply. It’s a real pity: when you’re asked for your views, and given a chance to express them anonymously, you really ought to take it. I don’t know how often I’ve been told that “no-one else has said anything”, “no-one else complains”, “it just isn’t the case”. Do try express your views, upwards through your line managers or through other channels. If you have comments or concerns and positive suggestions for change – use staff suggestions boxes, or write a message collectively, if it feels easier. And of course share positive information too, and feed back appreciation and praise when things get better.
In the course of emptying most of 25-years-worth of files into green binbags I’ve found a few treasures: a scrappy note from Roger congratulating me on a Friday morning staff training session I’d done (introducing Brotherton staff to this scary new thing, the OPAC!), and a card which came with a bouquet from Lynne after the success of the EBL learning centre opening. Little things like that do make a difference, and I’m not sure there’s enough of it around. We probably all need to be more ready to pass on good news and thanks as well as making constructive complaints.
Thinking what’s good or has changed for the better: here are a few examples
… and loads of other things make the Library better for readers, library staff or (ideally) all of us!
But because life isn’t always a bed of roses, One piece of advice: join your union. AUT and Unison both need to have loads of members, both financially and to give them plenty of clout both here in Leeds and nationally. And you never know when you, personally, will need your union. It can be a great help to have a union officer taking up issues on your behalf or sitting beside you in difficult meetings: I’m grateful to the previous and current AUT Presidents, David Parker and Carolyn Baylies, for some brilliant support, and one of our colleagues found AUT really useful in helping him to extract compensation from the University when a vicious speed bump wrecked his car. So join your union, just in case!
There have been good times, and lots of good people, both in and beyond the Library. My EBL colleagues were wonderfully supportive in the years when I was forever disappearing off to Clarendon Wing or London or Nottingham for various tests and ultimately unsuccessful infertility treatments, and there are a few shoulders I’ve cried on over the years (latterly sometimes virtually by email). Most of the Library staff are a lovely bunch of people – make sure that you find time to talk to each other, and to get to know people beyond your working teams. Perhaps take care to include people who’re not in the main team structures so they don’t get left out of things.
If you’d asked me 10 years ago whether I planned to retire at 50 I’d have thought it a daft idea, but now it seems a great opportunity. I’m very lucky that circumstances allow me to accept the University’s generous Premature Retirement Terms offer and to follow in the footsteps of so many of our former colleagues, this year when for the first time I’m old enough to be eligible.
The future looks exciting: I’ve got no definite plans, beyond recovering and relaxing in the short term, and then getting fit, probably some voluntary work, all sorts of learning opportunities (Open University, or maybe crafts down at Swarthmore); I might go into politics – you could have a chance to vote me onto Leeds City Council; there’s travelling and reading and all the other things to do with my liberated time and energy; I might even, some time, go for another job if the right thing crops up.
So to all of you I’d like to say GOODBYE, GOOD LUCK and THANKS,
with special good wishes to Louise Cole and Andrew Stokell who’re taking over areas of my work, along with Janet Jurica in the Central Administration who’s getting the CLA licence and suchlike fun. I know Andrew’s not here today because it’s his last day at Bretton after 12 years and he’s saying his farewells down there.
and I’ll end with two quotes – they’ve been on my notice-board so they’re familiar to those of you who’ve visited me and my lovely supportive office-mates Mina and Liz in our character location down between the staff gents and the cleaners’ cupboard:
Something I found on the web:
Change is inevitable – except from vending machines
and something much more important, from Albert Einstein, to bear in mind when drawing up plans and policies:
Remember that not everything that counts can be counted
and that not everything that can be counted counts.