Why I work at Book Discussion Scheme

Renee Blackburn

Tēnā koutou,

My name is Renee and my role is Promotions at BDS.

Today marks one month since I joined the team at BDS and now that I'm a little more settled, I thought it was time for a proper introduction: Who am I, why am I here, and what purpose do I serve? (Bascially, what is the point of me?)

Who am I?

I'm a native to Christchurch and the middle child of three girls. I believe there's a saying about middle-children (something about how they are superior to their siblings?) Anyway, I thought that was worth a mention.

I'm married to an American, who fled to New Zealand nine years ago and arrived in Christchurch just in time to experience the 6.8 magnitude February earthquake. I remember we were out for a late lunch at the time. I knew he was a keeper when he instinctively threw his body over mine during the shaking. He later told me he regretted not seizing his unfinished bagel before evacuating — apparently being a hero is hungry work.

Obligatory "where-were-you-during-the-quakes?" story now taken care of (fellow Cantabs will understand) I also enjoy hiking around our beautiful country, snowboarding, playing the odd game of netball, and have hopes of becoming more than an absolute novice when it comes to playing the guitar. Reading is something I've always enjoyed, but often struggled to find time and headspace for. When I heard my sister was part of a BDS book club, I was intrigued and a little envious — what a perfect way to constitute "me" time for reading every month.

Which brings me to my next point...

Why am I here?

I mean in the employment sense, not the existential sense (though I'll happily deliberate on this too, usually somewhere during glass of wine number two, or while lying in bed at night, just as my husband is about to fall asleep).

I wanted to work for Book Discussion Scheme because I fell in love with their mission to promote reading and literacy. Open Books Open Minds: They are gateways to compassion, hope, love, understanding, epiphany and empowerment. They let us live a thousand lives not our own, walk in the shoes of strangers, and allow us as individuals to tap into the vastness of human experience and discovery.

I can't think of anything humanity needs more.

What purpose do I serve? What is the point of me?

Now that we've established our mission of trying to save humanity, what kinds of activities do I undertake in order to achieve this?

Basically, I'll be working across all the ways we connect with and talk to you, our members, as well as prospective book group members and lovers of books around New Zealand. I'll be paying particular attention to groups BDS has identified as under-represented in book groups including Māori, young people, migrants and men, while simultaneously enhancing the experience of our existing members base. For me, this means ensuring our communications are inclusive and demonstrate a willingness to listen — some people seem to enjoy shouting into voids, but I quite like it when someone talks back.

What, specifically do I do?

Those of you who follow us on Facebook or Instagram may have noticed some activity on those platforms — that's me!
There's also an updated look and feel to the quarterly newsletter — that's also me!

I'll also be working across events, advertising, updating and populating the BDS website, and making the most of every opportunity to tell people about BDS and the joys and benefits of book groups.

How can you contact me?

I work part-time, but social media never sleeps, so please feel free to contact me anytime through the Facebook page, Instagram, or via email if you have feedback, ideas, stories and pictures from your book group, or general questions — if I don't have the answer I can put you in touch with someone who does. There's also The Book Group Group on Facebook for members to chat directly with other members and discuss all things book club, so you can bypass me altogether if you prefer, and I'm totally cool with that too.

I look forward to connecting/sharing/learning/laughing/working with you all.

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The Book Discussion 
Scheme is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations in Aotearoa New Zealand
BDS is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations