Monday, 26 June 2017

Day 26: Overall reflections on NLS8.

It's been a day since NLS8 ended, and my head is still spinning with the ideas that we've been exploring over the weekend. That probably means it's been a good event. :)

Whilst there was a broad range of topics explored, some recurring messages stood out, and whilst some of them are hardly new ideas, they still act as an important reminder to me as I go back to work tomorrow...

Do something - Don't wait for somebody else to do it. Take the plunge and say Yes. You are your own best champion. You are the CEO of your own career. Don't worry about being perfect - you're fine the way you are. Be curious, and try new things.

Create - Whether it's playing with new technology, tapping into your own passion to find new approaches to delivering training / services, or allowing collections to captivate and inspire your imagination, and the imagination of those who come to the library, to create new things and tell new stories.

Collaborate - Don't do it alone, do it together. Colleagues will sanity-check your "brain farts" and help you through lonely times. As a librarian, don't ask "How can I help you?" but instead ask, "What are you doing, and can I be a part of it?" Become community activists - your job is not to inform communities, but to improve communities. Be seen in the workplace, and share your knowledge and successes with them. Have coffee dates - exchange knowledge, skills, experiences - and be open to saying yes to new projects.

Listen - To your clients and communities. Again,  be curious. Ask them what they need. Ask them to tell you their stories. Pay attention to who your clients are, even if it means changing the way you dress to make them more comfortable and open up to you. Remember that they are human - pay attention to what they are doing, and what their goals are, so that your service is more than just a transaction, but a collaboration - you becomes weavers of community understanding by connecting communities with conversations.

Be Global - The world doesn't stop at the doors of your library, or your sector, or your country's borders. We are a world-wide professional community, and the more we connect, the greater our understanding and awareness of the diversity in our society, the challenges that are faced by our peers around the world, and the ways in which the global socio-political climate can affect us in the services and products we deliver.

Reflect - Whether it's recording PD, or developing training, it's important to take the time to reflect on what you're learning and how these lessons learnt can be applied in your work.

In terms of my own work, I'm still relatively new in my current role, and so most of my time has been preoccupied in understanding and staying on top of workflows. As such, my experience of the role has been predominantly focused on providing access and delivery in terms of technical procedures and transactions. Attending NLS8 has reminded me that I need to allow myself the time to step back from the task from time to time, and look past the procedures and instructions - to see the people who are at the receiving end of our service, and connect with them and whatever creative ventures they are undergoing. To appreciate how our collections not only inform them, but captivates their imagination, transports them to another time, brings deeper understanding to human relationships, and connects them with their communities of the past, present and future. These are what it means to be preserving our nation's collective memory - not just merely collecting materials and providing access to them - but facilitating the development of knowledge, understanding and meaning, sharing our stories, and creating new stories - with the ultimate purpose of improving our communities.

That's what being a librarian means to me, and it's what motivates me in this industry.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Day 25: Day 2 of NLS8

So, more brief thoughts before I go to sleep...

Keynote: R. David Lankes

Words are important. We use words like information services, customer service, library users. But as professionals, do we really want to be "used" or "consumed"? Furthermore, the problem with seeing our product as information or data, means that people then become processors of that info / data to facilitate an action.

Library materials themselves do not equate to knowledge. It is not our job to inform - but to improve.

Information literacy itself is not enough - because it makes people feel better about having lousy skills. In order to improve, people must first acknowledge their ignorance.

Rather than merely provide access, new librarians need to keep a critical eye, listen to people, and connect conversations and communities. Stop asking "how can we help" and instead ask, "what care you doing and can we be a part of it?" We need to listen.

Librarianship is political, because it deals with empowerment. We need to get rid of the idea of neutrality. We're no longer gatekeepers, but rather weavers of community meaning and understanding.

These ideas echo much of what I've learned in the past, particularly in relation to librarianship and reader development, and my work in international development. We should stop seeing ourselves as simply provider of a transaction of resources, but see each interaction as an opportunity to build, collaborate, create, learn, etc.

eResources, licensing and copyright

My main takeaway from this was mostly to do with the tensions between licensing contracts and copyrights - especially when they come at odds with one another. Fair use doesn't solve this, as it's still an exception. Do we serve our clients and be bold in observing copyright legislation, or do we honour our contracts and maintain vendor / donor relationships?

Guerrilla research

This was more of a refresher than anything else, but was still handy to remind myself of the steps to go through when undergoing informal DIY research, and helped prompt me to reflect more on the kinds of research I'd like to pursue in the future.

Librarians and Dragons

I thoroughly enjoyed this as a creative and engaging way to teach people about applying transferable skills. I'm kinda tempted to re-write my resume as a DnD Character Sheet, as a way of looking at my skills and experience from a different perspective.

Keynote: Jane Caro

Jane is such an engaging speaker, telling it how it is. She reminds me of why feminism is still important today, and how we should all be mindful of the impossible standards that a patriarchal society places on us all.

Final words: Vicki McDonald

I'm keen to see how ALIA is planning to focus more on the wider Asia Pacific region in the coming year, and again, I'm further reminded on the importance of becoming a global librarian.

Okay, sleep time. I'll write up further overall thoughts and reflections tomorrow.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Day 24: Day 1 of NLS8

So, today was Day One of NLS8. I am so happy to be back at this event - it's so inspiring and invigorating to be attending these presentations and hearing frank and open stories and discussions from my peers. Here are some very brief highlights and my reflections...

Welcome to Country
I feel very privileged to currently be residing in Ngunnawal Country.

Welcome from Marie-Louise Ayres, D-G of the National Library
She never had a career plan. She didn't start her library career until her 30s.

I feel like there's hope for me yet.

Keynote One: The International Library Network
- If something isn't happening, don't wait for somebody else to make it happen.
- BUT don't do it yourself. Do it together.
- Also, be mindful of workplace politics and find ways around it rather than in the face of it.
- Know when it's time to move on.
- But do something.
- And let others know when you admire / appreciate the things that they do.

I'm so happy to see Alyson, Kate and Clare deliver this keynote - it feels like I've come full circle and connecting with the people and ideas from my earlier librarian days.

ALIA PD Scheme
All ALIA members will need to participate in the PD scheme soon. I may as well get used to it, and seeing as I'm already pretty active, I can already claim enough points from the past 11 months to get my CP post-nominals.

Torres Strait Islander collections at the NLA
We have pretty amazing collections at the NLA. I must make sure that I give myself those moments during my hectic work life to pause and appreciate them, and reflect on the meaning that they can evoke in our readers.

Visibility for Library Professionals
Be heard and be seen. whether it's providing services to clients, sharing knowledge with colleagues, or interacting with others on social media. Be knowledgeable, be confident, be well.

Have coffee dates with colleagues / peers, and exchange ideas and skills.

Digital Preservation
I discovered that this is in fact Preservation of Digital Objects, and not Digital Preservation of non-digital collections. Still, fascinating stuff. It seems very easy to alter the integrity of digital collections. Also appreciated the "Eureka!" moment with the Acorn Archimedes story.

Styled for success... Fashion, individuality and dressing professionally for librarians.
This was kinda awesome - the overall message being that ultimately, you should wear what makes you most comfortable and confident, and otherwise be awesome at your job, and if anybody has a problem with that, then it's their problem.

At the same time, I felt that there was an elephant in the room, where everybody knew that it *shouldn't* matter what we wear, but unfortunately, our choices in will ultimately affect our relationships and interactions with colleagues in clients. My personal feeling is that we should wear what works for us *but* be mindful of the demographic of our clients, and perhaps tailor our fashion choices to mutual advantage.

From selling insurance to buying rare books at SLNSW.
Yay! Congrats to Amy on delivering her first conference paper. The most interesting part of this was less about her actual duties, and more about the wider context of a staffing restructure, and how this change was managed by her team and colleagues in the way they had to change their approach to their work and communicate with one another.

Keynote 2: Mylee Joseph - Adding a growth mindset to your library career.
Key to a growth mindset: curiosity, listening skills, creativity, collaboration and creation.

And cups of coffee.

Be a global librarian - this is something I'm trying more and more to work on, especially with my next trip to Poland in August. Think outside the library to the wider GLAM industry, and create partnerships.

Overall thoughts from Day One.
- Be reflective on what we do and learn
- Partnerships are key to success
- Be confident in yourself
- Embrace creativity in yourself, in your clients, and in the collaborations that ensue.
- Say yes to yourself and to others, and accept opportunities.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Day 23: Learning to reach back...

On Wednesday night, I went to an event at the National Portrait Gallery for Returned Australian Volunteers, with a keynote presentation from Dr David Chong, which was in itself quite inspiring.

However, one thing that struck me was a point made by a staffer at AVI in her introduction to Dr Chong. In reference to the time and energy that volunteers spending taking their skills and experience to other places, she acknowledge the work in reaching out to those communities that we are working to develop, but at the same time what is arguably just as important is taking those experiences and lessons learnt in the field, and reaching back into the professional industries that we come from, which seemed like an odd turn of phrase.

A similar message came through in Dr Chong's presentation - that "We need each other to change." Not only are we trying to effect change in the individuals and communities we reach out to, but it is only through these interactions, and coming to understand the experiences of others, that we can change ourselves and the places that we work in.

In terms of working in libraries, we focus a great deal of energy outwardly to provide services that support others. It's moments like these that remind me that I also need to take away lessons from these interactions, in order to apply them inwardly - to reach back into the organisations that I work in. Tapping into these experiences, we can best develop and innovate our services to make us more empathetic and relevant to the communities that we serve.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Day 22 : Karaoke.

I kinda love karaoke. I encouraged a bunch of librarians who were visiting Canberra for NLS 8 to come out this evening for karaoke in town. It was fun.
The beauty of karaoke is that it can be good, or it can be awful, but it doesn't matter - as long as you get up there and give it a shot, the audience will love you for it.

And if you can get up in front of a bunch of strangers and belt out a Beatles, Bon Jovi, or Backstreet Boys ballad, then delivering a conference paper or presentation to peers doesn't seem as scary...

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Day 21: Apologies... and my work setup!

So, first an apology of sorts. I neglected to blog yesterday, and I'm self-conscious of this. In my defence, yesterday consisted of:

7:00am - Alarm goes off.
7:15am - Second alarm goes off.
7:30am - I wake up in a panicked state as I realise I've slept through both alarms. I have a quick shower and get dressed.
7:50am - Leave the house and head to work.
8:30am - Arrive at work.
8:30am to 4pm - Work
4:30pm - Catch bus to Sydney Airport
8:00pm'ish - Arrive at Sydney Airport. Get some kind of dinner. Socialise. Sleep.

And then today:
4:30am - Wake up. Shower.
5:15am - Catch bus back to Sydney.

A post shared by Andrew F (@lib_idol) on

9:00am - Start work all over again...

Today I've committed my blog to Paul's modest #blogjune proposal - that we all describe our "set up" with the following four questions:

  1. Who are you, and what do you do?
  2. What hardware do you use?
  3. And what software?
  4. What would be your dream setup?
So, here's my extended answers, followed by some further thoughts:

1. Who am I and what do I do? I'm Andrew. I'm a librarian who provides reference services, responding to enquiries and requests related to the picture and manuscript collections at a major collecting cultural agency based in Canberra, Australia.

2. Hardware: Computer-wise, I use a PC. I honestly don't know any more about it, other than that it's a PC that uses Windows, and has a monitor, a mouse, a keyboard and a barcode scanner. 

I also have an desk with adjustable height, and adjustable swivel chair - ergonomics are important! We also have numerous kinds of trolleys for handling numerous formats of material, which are also important for protecting our collections.

3. Software: For accessing the Library's collection information, we have numerous software packages and platforms: (a) The web-based OPAC, (b) the non web-based library management system, (c) the digital collections management platform for images and electronic documents, (d) the archive management platform, (e) the rights management database which documents all access permissions for collections, and (f) the discovery service that links our collections with others around Australia.

In addition, we have one software package that manages orders, another for managing reference queries, and another for managing electronic records (i.e. TRIM).

And finally, we have the good old MS Office suite, where we rely particularly heavily on Outlook for delegating and tracking many simultaneous jobs. For everything else, there's Word and Excel.

We also have our brains, which we need to use in order to prioritise our various tasks, and facilitate workflows depending on the variables at play in each particular job. There are many variables.

I'm not sure if our brains count as hardware or software - probably both. My point is that they're a vital part of the equation. If they weren't, we'd be out of a job.

4. The dream setup? Some kind of integrated library management system that incorporated all of the above software into one system. Perhaps cloud-based, so that we could have flexibility in accessing systems and delivering services. 

Of course, such a package would have to be developed in-house in such a way that it could accommodate all the various intricacies of our job, and would be insanely expensive and take years of development, and then there's the information security issues. Given that collections - and the demands of clients - are always changing and certainly not future-proof, it perhaps makes more sense to work with various different concurrent systems, and customise our procedures and workflows accordingly.

My thoughts... I think it's definitely important to thinking about the hardware and software we use, and perhaps how changes might improve the way that we work. I'm still relatively new in my current role, and realise that there is a whole lot of history behind all the decisions that were made, technology-wise, that I'm not yet aware of. However, as somebody who works primarily in engaging with clients, I definitely feel that delivering a seamless and consistent service should be of the utmost important. When a client receives an email, it doesn't matter to them which office it came from, or which software it was created in - it's communication that came from the library. So, we need to understand were the disconnects and inconsistencies lie between our various systems, so that we can bridge those gaps and delivery a quality, reliable and timely service. The more we can minimise those gaps using the technology, the more we reduce the risk of providing less than our best service.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Day 19: When is a librarian no longer a librarian?

Firstly - I lapsed from blogging from the weekend. Oops.

So, today, a colleague mentioned to me that, based on the nature of the work she was doing, she didn't really consider herself to be a librarian anymore. This was a library professional, who is currently doing project work developing knowledge resources that focus on areas of the collection related to particular historical events and organisations.

Similarly, in the recent past, I've observed collection managers and cataloguers pointedly distinguish themselves from librarians, based on the nature of their core duties. Then there are those who select, develop and manage collections of non-bookish materials, such as pictures, manuscripts, maps, oral histories, ephemera, etc. who might once have been called librarians, but now are officially curators. The more I enquired, the more vague the distinction was - though the overall impression was that the "Librarians" were the ones who worked on the reference desks and "Ask a Librarian" service, and everybody else - the curators, cataloguers, collection managers, coordinators, directors, etc - were a distinctly different calibre of professional.

And not that long ago, I went to a GLAM industry event where one of the speakers declared quite emphatically that it was about time we did away with the "librarian" title.

Even my current role, officially, I am an "Officer" - though all our official external communications to clients refers to me as a Reference Librarian. And in the work that I do, I do often feel like a librarian.



Of course, I often proclaim that it doesn't matter what you job title is, but rather the work that you do. Still, I do get a kind of joy and pride in telling people that I'm a librarian. I perform duties that facilitate access and connect people and communities with unique collections of cultural material that preserve our national memory and tell the stories of its people, places and events. And whilst I'm doing that, especially with library collections, I don't think I would ever not consider myself to be a librarian.

And I certainly wouldn't ever consider it a title to shy away from.