So life has changed a bit in the last month or so.
There was a devastating earthquake on 22nd February that hit our city, Christchurch, like a bomb. All it took was 24 seconds.
I work for Boffa Miskell, our building is Brannigans on the corner of Oxford Terrace and Gloucester Sts. I wasn’t at work on the day of the quake, but my colleagues assure me that being on the 7th floor was akin to being in a giant tumble drier. Thankfully all of my workmates escaped unharmed. My husband’s work, Synapsys, once situated in a Victorian brick building, England Brothers House, on High St has since been red stickered, and we expect it will be demolished. They were luck to get out.
Both our businesses remain within the cordon, and there’s as yet no word on when, if, we may get access to our work places.
Brannigans also has a red sticker and both Boffa Miskell and Synapsys are currently in alternative, temporary accommodation. Bidding wars between prospective tenants have meant finding any new office space has been a difficult, prolonged, expensive process for CHCH businesses.
In CHCH our work places and homes are broken, our communities, scattered. Energy is low, concentration is compromised, stress and anxiety are high. Infrastructure is shattered. Roads in the east, where we live, look like they’ve been straffed. Many 50km zones are down to 30km. Power outages are occurring, and we’re all conscious that winter is approaching. Many people have homes that are neither weather tight, nor have essential services like sewer. Some have left. Many more have stayed and are working so hard to resuscitate Christchurch and keep our businesses going. And still there are the aftershocks.
Our work places are now on the otherside of town and as yet under resourced in terms of basic things like IT infrastructure, seating and desks. This is no fault of our companies, it’s just that the volume of businesses in CHCH that have had to walk out the door and start again from scratch is nearly beyond comprehension and the resulting time it takes to get hooked up with everything just takes time. We are all having to exercise an inordinate amount of patience. And everyone is doing the very best they can.
Which is the main reason why I’m remoting it. At home, once I could face tidying it up, we converted our studio [The Crib] into an office space, and when I’m remoting from home, the work day fits around our daughter (who’s kindergarten has been red stickered), clients / colleagues. So for me, rather than doing two 5 hours sessions in the office per week, I’m working 2 hrs a day, 5 days per week. I’m heading into the office on Monday mornings now for the weekly meeting, and am spending the rest of the week doing a couple of hours work each day (I work part time).
My husband Steve started working in The Crib last week (it had taken a while to bring myself to straighten it up), while I minded a friend’s child and my own, while working from the kitchen table.
So what’s a day like when you’re a librarian without a building or a library, or IRL colleagues anymore?
Well. It’s a bit lonely.
In terms of my collection we may have lost our hard copy library of books, reports, journals and company materials. But I remain hopeful that we may be able to get in and retrieve some things …
But here’s what I am grateful for, with respect to my little library:
an online catalogue
a decent electronic collection
our other offices in Auckland, Wellington and Tauranga who have collections, and duplicates!
I’m going to continue blogging about this experience, how I’m working, and what sort of work I’m doing. I’m trying to make contact with other special librarians, in particular, as we are often sole charge - it’s good to be able to offer support, and be supported. We all have a lot to work through.
Each Monday we have a meeting in the morning. Friday’s there are drinks. We’re all to aim to at least make the Monday meeting.
I’m feeling that it’s really important to be there, to connect with my colleagues, remind them I’m working, that there is work I can do without a physical collection. As a sole charge librarian in a professional services company, the culture can be quite different to that of an academic, or I presume, a public library, where your colleagues share your profession.
A couple of special librarians responded to my email to the NZLIBs list. One is a law librarian who has also been displaced, and has potentially lost her collection too. We’ve had email contact and are setting up coffee meetings on Mondays, post my work meetings. It’s really good to have some contact. We all have similar questions and are grappling with similar situations.
I had some mail to check at work. A few issues of Your Environment, and an update for Brookers Resource Management. What do you do with looseleaf updates when there’s no longer a binder …
My new library is now in a draw of the kitchen.
I did contact Brookers and they are providing us with free online access until the end of the month. The situation will be reviewed after that.
My week remoting so far (2 hrs a day) has comprised a bit of cataloguing of electronic domuents, arranging travel to visit the Tauranga office and work in their library for a week, send instructions on how to access NZS4404 from our online library, finding all the Orders in Council related to recently inforced Canterbury Earthquake legislation, finding a copy of the Ngai Tahu Freshwater Policy, 1999 … and there are still loads of other jobs on my list.
How do you value a library collection? I’m probably going to have to do this soon. I’d really like some advice about this if anyone has been through a disaster recently and can shed some light for me.
While there has been no official word on our building, there is a possibility at sometime soon, at short notice, four of my colleagues may get a limited amount of access to our building. By limited access, I mean they get to make one trip in and one out, climbing a cracked stairwell to the 6th and 7th floors. They’ll be in the dark, with torches, wearing hard-hats and high-vis vests. Only two people will be permitted on each floor. They won’t have a wheelie bin to fill. They might be allowed to take a back pack (I don’t know, I hope so). They’ll hold lists in their hands of important priority items to find. My priority list includes Brookers Resource Management Looseleaf Service, and our new collection of NZ topo maps for the South Island.
However, I’m realistic about the situation. It is unlikely that there will time or space in my colleagues’ arms or back packs to carry library items. Or that they will be able to safely access the library. Here’s my bog post, and a photo, of the library after the September 4 quake. Apparently this area was completely blocked after the February quake hit, no one could get passed the shelves or my desk (I write this feeling extremely grateful not to have been sitting in there).
So, while I remain hopeful we may be able to get back in and retrieve the library I feel I need to be prepared for the worst. I feel I need to at least have a plan in the event that I receive an email from our GM or CFO asking for a current valuation of our collection.
So, where do I start …
talk to our CFO about our insurance policy and what the library has been insured for
run a report on all our company reports and estimate the cost of re-printing each one
pull my acquisitions records from the period of time I’ve been working (I’ve details of all purchases)
add a ‘value’ field into the online catalogue in preparation for inputting replacement values
So now the one tool I rely on to do my job, DB Textworks, has packed up and I’m at home. Today sucks. I’m sad about losing my library. It’s cold and wet. My house stinks of silt and I want to cry when I look out the window at my lawn. And the little black stray cat I’m trying to make friends with keeps running away from me. Enough moaning.
So I’ve been updating the Intranet about CERA and new filing protocols. And I’ve working on a valuation of one of my colleague’s private collections of books that had been catalogued and were in the office.
OK, that was my post from a couple of days ago.
I’m trying to remain positive but it’s not always possible, and I do think it’s important that I’m honest about how I’m living with this monumental upheaval. To pretend it’s all ok is a disservice to everyone who is working so hard to try and get our lives back on track. I can only speak about my experience. Living in the present is manageable but it doesn’t feel sustainable, I can do this in survival mode, but it’s no way to live. I guess I’m just going to have to adapt the way I think about things.
Good news - today was much better.
DB Textwork is working after some maintenance from the IT Department. I discovered that my colleagues who went on a reconnaissance to our building retrieved Brookers Resource Management, so I filed two sets of updates; ordered some new soil maps from Manaaki Whenua and had a coffee meeting with a group of law librarians. It was terrific to hang out with a group of librarians
And maybe it’s time to tell my story, which I’ve found hard to write down until now. In those immediate days after the quake my brain was physically unable to comprehend anything further ahead than ‘tomorrow’. My perception distilled to a cluster of synapses firing in my reptilian brain. Once we were in Dunedin, that capability stretched out to a couple of days. Each day I’d write a list of things to do. I’d carry that note book with me, to write ideas down as they occurred to me, because my head could hold nothing, nothing more than a few thoughts. At times I couldn’t breath, I felt as though there was a huge metal flask stuck embedded my chest. I’d cry randomly. One afternoon I just went to bed and slept for 3 hours. I went to the Dr on the Sunday night after the quake, just to check I was ok because I felt so bad. I’ve never been under such extraordinary stress. For it to manifest so physically was literally breathtaking, for me.
The 22nd February was my husband’s birthday. Our 4 year old daughter and I were supposed to meet him on High Street for lunch that day, but we cancelled at breakfast time as he realised a phone conference he had scheduled would run overtime. So I was home in North Beach with our girl when the quake struck. I was in the kitchen, I’d just made a cup of coffee, Iris was on her way to the bathroom.
The following is a transcription of what I frantically scrawled a couple of hours later while sheltering under a table with Iris, and at least one distressed teenager, at my friend Vic’s friends house while we waited for Steve to come home from the CBD. It’s a bit jumbled and panic’d; totally stream of consciousness:
“Terrible earthquake in CHCH. Iris was in the hall, I was in the kitchen, cupboards flew open. Within 10 mins water was up our drive, through the back garden. Sand volcanoes up the driveway. Water was up to the doorsill on the sleep out when we left.
It was so violent - everything flew off the shelves and out of the cupboards. Definitely a west-east movement. Our walnut cabinet fell over, my laptop [MacBook], an inverted V, held it up. TV still on the wall, but only just. Grabbed Iris and got her out to the street to be with out neighbour [N]. Vic turned up like some kind of angel in bike gear. I grabbed our emergency stuff, got it in the car and got the car out over all the sand and water. Moved the guinea pigs to high ground. they were swimming in their cage. Iris saw Dan [the cat] when earthquake happened. She got thrown around and banged her head. The water was so frightening. I didn’t know if it was sea water. I tasted it. Thank god it wasn’t. With Vic holding Iris I ran around getting stuff out of the garage - the food bag, bedding, emergency box - and also a clean pair of jeans from the laundry as mine were soaked. Water was bubbling up through the ground on the drive and in the back garden. Water through the garage. I took photos and a bit of video. Am worried it’ll get into the house. If it can stay out of the house we’ll be alright. We’ll be alright anyway but I just want to get back there and see - to grab some clothes, the cat … Steve finally made it to Fisherman’s Rest about 3.40pm. Back wall fell off his building. Dad walked and ran home - building next to his collapsed [Caledonian Hall]. All so frightened.”
My memory of the event is in stop motion.
I kept my feet but couldn’t move. As the roaring and ground velocity increased, as everything lept and crashed, I watched the cupboards open, as if there were a poltergiest, and the contents shake itself out, like leemings pouring over a cliff. I remember looking at the table and contemplating it as the fridge started lurching towards me. But I had to get to Iris. I did as soon as I could, grabbed her, held her, told her we’d be ok, and got her into the kitchen by the door and under the table. I had to brush some debris away so she wouldn’t get hurt. ”It’s ok, it’s ok. We’re going to be ok, we’re going to be ok.” I sent a couple of texts, to Steve, Mum, Dad, my Sister … I tried Mum on the spare analogue phone; nothing. I was very frightened but was trying not to scare Iris. “Ok, I need to think, I need to think, what am I going to do?”. I saw my lap top, inverted and holding up the heavy cabinet that had fallen on it, and grabbed it. Tried to connect, forgetting the power was out. I had to know where the quake was centered incase there was a tsunami. It felt so big i thought it could have triggered one if it had been offshore. Then I heard the water, and I looked outside. It was terrifying.
I said to Iris, “Honey, we have to get out of here,” She was so scared, “Why Mummy, WHY!”. I tasted the water to see if it was salty. If it was I knew I had to get the ladder from the garage and get on the roof with Iris. When I realised it wasn’t the sea (the relief!) I grabbed her, got boots on our feet and carried her out, fairy dress and gumboots, into the flooded drive. It was then I saw our neighbours and knew we weren’t dealing with a tsunami. I ran to them, handed over Iris and went back for some gear. I started heaving our emergency bags into the car. Potted plants and railway sleepers were floating around the driveway. I knew the chooks would be fine but raced to check the guinea pigs. They were swimming in their cage, I grabbed one, and yelled at the other as it swam away from me, realised I had nothing to put them in, and then decided to drag the cage to as high a point in the garden as I could. My girl was being cuddled while I collected these essentials together. I didn’t want her in the car until I knew I could get it out of the drive, incase the ground opened up under it. Water and liquification were more than halfway up the wheels and I had to try to get it out or risk it getting stuck. Iris cheered, “Go Mummy!” as I revved the engine and sprayed liquifaction 2m up the garage door. The car roared down the drive in reverse through the muck, hillocks and hollows of asphalt and lifted slabs of concrete. The roads were devastated. Cars were everywhere. Mums trying to get to their kids at kindy and school. We tried to get to Vic’s sister in Parklands and only made it a block. cars were stuck in potholes. The roads jammed with cars. We went instead to her place in Waimairi Beach via Marine Parade which was safe, and found an untouched haven. A bunker. We made a decision. We’d stick together, we’d stay put until Steve and Jase made it back. We’d look after Iris. Then we’d decide what to do next. So we waited.
Now, I can think ahead, I can plan little, just a little, not too far ahead because nothing is certain. Our land is messed up, we’re waiting with the rest of our city to find out where we stand, on our land, in our house - to find out what is our future here. We, like many others, are camping at home (fortunate and grateful to be in our home). Wearing gumboots outside because it’s still so messy. Being careful with water usage, careful with what goes down the drain. Avoiding using the oven. Using a chemical loo in the house. Bags always packed, ready to go. The car sits on the drive with a decent amount of petrol in the tank. Emergency gear in the boot. Bottled water, and a full gas bottle at the ready. Each night, making sure the jug is full of water, keys are in the door, torch and charged phones are by the bed. These are habits that may stay with me for a long time, some were carry-overs from September. It’s how I cope with this. It’s my way of having some control; to feel I am protecting my family. To be as ready as I can be, just in case.
And many nights as I get into bed, in the dark after I’ve turned off the light, as I lay my head on my pillow and close my eyes, I flash back to being wrenched from sleep, in that same bed, on the morning of September 4th 2010. And I hear the sea, and I think of Japan, and remember a reoccurring nightmare I used to have about a big wave.
I started the week in CHCH at Boffa Miskell’s office in Sir Gil Simmons, and am now working at The Distiller, an awesome space at the Centre for Innovation in Dunedin, on the University of Otago campus.
This morning involved a bit of book buying and Intranet updating.
I’m now going to crank through some work in preparation for a week sorting the library in our Tauranga office; the librarian without a library meets the library without a librarian!
I had a really busy few days last week. A flurry of activity and discussion is leading me to investiate a subscription to Elsevier’s Landscape and Urban Planning. There have been a couple of books to order, namely AUPs Wild Plants in Auckland and Botany of the Waikato.
An EXCITING development today. My library expanded by about 1000% - 4 of my colleagues went back into the breach that is Brannigans, and retrieved most of the staff’s personal items. Including their books. Now, my colleagues being the squirrels that they are, had library books included in the piles (that had been) on their desks. I’m glad that I didn’t do that desk audit I had been considering …
I’ve also started reordering a few items that we’ve lost:
I arrived in Tauranga on Sunday night (1/5) to drizzle, over the next 24 hours it escalated to lashing rain and gusts of wind which destroyed my brolly. Note to self. Add a raincoat to travelling librarian kit.
I’m here at the Tauranga office of Boffa Miskell until Friday lunchtime - here’s what I’ve been up to so far …
Day one: Reassessing what needs to be done:
finish cataloguing the collection of guidelines
weeding and arranging the hard landscaping resources (paving stones, tactile pavers, weed mat etc!!!)
assigning jobs to P and L - district plans and landscape resources collections, and of course, more labeling!
weeded landscape resources shelves (product information) - half is in the recycling
moving landscape resources to sit with the hard resources
weeding the district plans
more cataloguing, think my fingers are going to fall off
meeting with the ecologists to discuss their office library, made a plan together that incorporates cataloguing their own books as well
negotiating a visit to the Auckland office to do similar work for them in their library!
Boy am I one tired librarina today! I spent last week based in our Tauranga office, reorganising their library. I’d had one trip previously with my 4 year old daughter and prior to that, had done some preliminary cataloguing and labeling.
By the end of the week, I’d created over 200 new records, amended 400 other records and created nearly 1300 book labels, weeded over wheely bin of superseded / out of date items and shifted approximately 10m of material, including pieces of metal, wool and synthetic weed matting samples, as well as samples of tactile pavers.
Before I left we had a bit of staff training (with coffee and cake) which involved running some catalogue searches and showing the staff our small collection of online resources. None of them had ever used the library catalogue before and they were surprised to see the wealth of information we have - like over 270 landscape assessments. Handy to know.
And I may need to go back to finish a little more onsite cataloguing and tidying up before I go to Auckland office for a few days to weed their collection of duplicates and superseded items. I must say it’s a useful process if you are wanting to repopulate a library that has faced disaster. Our Christchurch office is certainly benefiting from the trip. I have a couple of boxes of duplicates from Tauranga to add to our library. It’s good to share.
It’s no surprise therefore that I am feeling shattered today!