Sunday, 23 July 2017

On finding Asian-Australian voices in our nation's memory...

Over at the #GLAMBlogClub, this month's theme is identity. Being a person of colour, specifically an Asian-Australian, racial identity is a topic that I tend to shy away. I was brought up in a multicultural community, singing "We are one, but we are many, and from all the lands on Earth we come... we share a dream, and sing with one voice... I am, you are, we are Australian." I also grew up, quite conscious of racism, and even to this day I am super-conscious when I overhear casual racism, and feel personally hurt when I become the target of racial slurs by unknown passers-by - which happens more often than I'd like to admit.

Besides, as far as I was concerned, I was Australian, and anybody who suggested otherwise because of my racial background, wasn't worth engaging in a pointless argument with.

But recently, there's been a growing amount of literature in the field of critical librarianship which analyses and addresses whiteness in the industry. It's something that I've become super-conscious of, and I feel that it's a topic that I should engage with more. The problem is that when I've occasionally brought it up in conversation with colleagues, at best it's acknowledged politely, at worst, I'm accused of invoking identity politics, and playing the race card. I haven't done it in a while, purely because I care about my career and don't want to make any of my colleagues feel offended / upset / guilty / awkward.

I have a lot of admiration for my peers and friends who are actively feminist, especially in addressing the ways that patriarchy is still are present in our society and workplaces. Yes, even the library industry, where over 85% of librarians are women, and yet male librarians still earn $6.9k more on average every year. And yet, I still feel strangely reluctant to speak out when there's a noticeable lack of representation, perhaps not always in our workplace, but certainly in our collections. I don't even sense any kind of solidarity amongst Australian librarians of colour, where I can comfortably discuss these issues to any depth.

I recently attended a talk at the National Library of Australia, outlining two of the exhibitions currently on display. One is an impressive collection of Japanese "kuchi-e" woodblock prints from the Meiji period, and the other is a collection of Chinese propaganda posters from 1949-1976. These, like most collections from the NLA's Asian Collections, are managed by language, focusing on the countries that collections are derived. It also includes Australian works which are published in foreign languages in these countries. And this is all good and important - as a collecting agency, we need to engage and collaborate with our regional neighbours.

However, there's a part of me that's deeply uncomfortable with the "otherness" that is associated with Asian culture in this context. We are looking outward at Asian cultures external to this nation, where there have been plenty of Asian communities and influencers in Australian society since the mid-19th Century. I'm conscious of this in state collections, particularly from my time working in the Northern Territory, and some of the Victorian collecting agencies, such as the State Library of Victoria and the Melbourne Museum. And, of course, the Immigration Museum has done important work in acknowledging the changing face of Australian society over the last two centuries.

And yet, when it comes to our national collections, I am conscious of the absence of these representations, when I browse these organisations that are charged with preserving Australia's national memory. One of my colleagues occasionally teases me about the fact that much of my work involves moving boxes full of papers of dead white people. It's become a reminder to me to keep an eye out for boxes full of papers that may be from people of colour. Their voices may tell a different story of what it means to be Australian. These are important voices, but so far they are literally buried in the stacks - waiting to be heard.

So, what else can I do?

As a Reference Librarian, there are opportunities to shine a light on parts of the collection that might otherwise go unnoticed. Some colleagues in recent years have identified indigenous content that we weren't even aware of, and made important and meaningful connections between them and the communities that they came from. I personally feel like I need to do more delving into the collections, and develop my own familiarity with the voices and stories that lie therein, so that I can then increase the wider awareness of diverse representations in these collections.

But most importantly, I would encourage Asian Australians who have played a part in this nation's history and culture - whether they are writers, artists, politicians, community leaders, etc. - to consider donating their papers, whether they be sketches, diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks, computers, hard drives, and so on, to the National Library. It might currently be a place that's full of boxes of papers by dead white dudes, but it doesn't always have to be that way. This way, we can preserve a national memory that's representative of the diversity of Australian culture.

It's a start, anyway.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Day 30 : Farewell to another Blogjune!

I made it! Blogjune is done for another year!

I also made it through my first month in a new role. Today was a good day. It turned out that all the frustration from yesterday paid off, and all the difficulties I addressed yesterday paved the way to get a heap of things progressed forward today. So, it's a timely reminder to myself to be more patient - both with myself, and with the process - and to keep on keeping on, and these things will sort themselves out.

And looking back at the month, it's been a big one. Possibly the biggest this year so far. The new role, obviously, played a major part in it, and whilst I haven't blogged overtly about it, there are aspects of it that have prompted a few of my posts, and, if nothing else, affected my mood and the corresponding tone. It's brought career development into the fore of my thoughts, as I learn new processes and develop new skills, and wonder which direction this big change will take me.

Speaking of professional development, I mused about the mentor programme - which I did decide to sign up for! I attended the ALIA New Librarians' Symposium, and found a renewed sense of professional exuberance. Perhaps they should rename it the Renewed Librarian's Symposium...? Actually, I was always a fan of the Emerging Leading Library & Information Professional Symposium Experience - or ELLIPSE... I do love a good acronym! But I digress...

Looking back at the past month, and comparing it to Blogjune 2017, I feel like I'm in a much better place now. I'm definitely starting to settle back into my life in Australia, and I currently have a stable basis for continuing my career, and a solid plan for the immediate future, with a few exciting adventures on the way. I look forward to looking back onto these posts in future years, as I have recently on past years, and appreciate how much my life has changed, and continues to change who I am, and where I'm going.

Until next June!

(Or whenever I decide to blog again in the meantime...)

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Day 29: Post-conference comedown... and making a plan.

So, it finally hit me today. The post-conference comedown.

I'm not talking about physically crashing - that happened on Monday! No, I'm talking about the crash to reality after a weekend at NLS8 - feeling inspired and motivated about being in a socially and technologically progressive professional community, and like we were ready to take on the whole world and change it.

I mean, really, today was just one of those days - everything that I tried to do got hit with frustrating setback after another, and by the end of the day I felt like I'd gotten nothing done, compounded by the fact that I had my rostered evening shift, which turned it into a ten-and-a-half hour day. We have those days, sometimes, and my brain should know this.

But no, suddenly it felt like the world was crumbling around me, and all my professional dreams that I'd been striving for for the past twelve years were turning to utter crap, and I may as well just give up rather than keep deluding myself that this is a profession worth being a part of. Admittedly, I do sometimes have those days, but not so often.

So, what did I do?

I sat down and worked on the ALIA Career Development Kit. Strange choice, I know, but (a) I needed to do an activity to get my PD points up a bit further this month, and (b) what better time to be brutally honest with yourself about your career path than when you're feeling negative and disillusioned about it?

And you know what? It kinda made me feel better. I identified nine professional development priorities, identifying people in my professional network who could support me in developing certain skills and knowledge, and other external courses / activities to pursue over the next twelve months. Which is good timing, since it's almost performance review time anyway, where I get to propose PD activities for the next year.

I mean, sure, it's not a perfect plan, and most of it may go out of the window, but there's something comforting about at least having a plan.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Day 28: Time-travel Challenge!

So, in the continued spirit of going with other people's blog themes, I'm playing along with Kathryn's Time Travel Challenge - which involves answering these questions three two:

If you could go back and tell your 20 year old self one thing that was going to happen to you between then and today, what would that be?

Well, thinking back to 20 year-old me... let's say, for argument's sake, it's June 1998. I've already decided that I know longer want to be an engineer, and drop out of a course that I'm probably about to fail, to focus on my Arts degree. I'm still with my first girlfriend, and have no idea what the future will hold.

I could tell myself that life won't go according to plan, but that's okay, because that's when all the awesome adventures and unexpected twists occur. But then again, that's something that I need to figure out for myself. After all, spoilers.

I could tell myself that I'd eventually end up working as a librarian at the National Library of Australia, but I'm not entirely sure if 20 year-old me would be impressed by that. That's more like something I'd tell 30 year-old me.

I could tell myself that I'd have adventures working in weird places around the world but, again, I never really learned to appreciate them until I actually got there.

Honestly, I'd probably just tell myself something lame, like I would finally get to see Morrissey perform in concert, and hearing How Soon Is Now live up the front of the crowd of Macedonian fans would be one of the single most self-affirming moments of my life. I think 20 year-old me would be impressed by that.

In 20 years time (presuming the world gets better, not worse) what do you think will be the biggest technological difference between your life now and your life then?

I think the ways that we can access, experience, copy and manipulate digital information will become instantaneous and seamless. Which means that the scope of creativity will increase exponentially. However, it means that issues of authority and authenticity in works will become more problematic. You think fake news is an issue now? Wait 20 years...

At the same time, I'd like to think that it will mean that we can continue to build a greater appreciation of artistic work in all its forms. And as a librarian, I hope the technology for accessing and copying collections reaches that point where we don't have to pour our energies into the transaction, and instead focus on cultivating creative collaborations and partnerships.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Day 27: My first library job

So, following on from flexnib and Jane's post about their first library job, here's mine (since I'm running short on original ideas today!).

My first library job was not a library job.

It was in the Percy Baxter Collaborative Learning Centre, which was a state-of-the-art learning facility located on the first floor of the University of Melbourne's Baillieu Library. It was equipped with new PCs and Macs, complete with scanners, and the centre was one of the very few places on campus that had wireless internet access. There were two large separate training rooms for group learning, but the main centre had, iirc, about 60 or so computers. But this was more than just a student computer lab - the unique setup was designed so that computers were grouped into carrels for small-group collaboration. It opened in June 2000, and I was one of the original staff, working there until I moved to Darwin in September 2006.

I worked as an ongoing casual on the front desk, working regular shifts, primarily helping people with printing and loaning our wireless cards (remember them?). I would also assist students and academics in accessing journal databases, and showing them how to identify and download full-text articles. I also received training in using Endnote and supported students and academics in using it. In the later years, we offered technical support to teaching staff using the Learning Management System (LMS), uploading and organising course material for online delivery.

What interests me in highsight was how "not part of the library" this centre was. We would often have people referred to us from the information desk downstairs - particularly those wanting to access online resources. There was quite a bit of referencing and citation training too - academics would often bring groups of postgrad students up for their research methods training using the training rooms.

For me and my colleagues, this facility seemed to be the exception to what a library was at the time - where it really should have been quite integral! And there's no doubt that my experience working in this centre over those six years equipped me with many of my primary skills for becoming a librarian - customer service, supervising a space, troubleshooting equipment, one-on-one information literacy training, referencing and citation knowledge, and so on...

A year or so ago, I revisited the Baillieu Library after hearing that they'd completed a major renovation. The Percy Baxter Centre now seems to have been superseded by the modernisation of the rest of the library, and just feels like a run-down computer lab. The service desk and offices are now vacant, as there doesn't seem to be a need for in-person support.

I suppose, these days, they'd just go and ask a librarian.

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.

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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.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Day 16: Seeing the forest from the trees...

This evening, I've been putting together a presentation that I will deliver tomorrow to a group of Australian Volunteers for International Development who are heading to Vietnam. It's been an interesting exercise in recalling my memories of that year of my life - many of them good, but not without its fair share of challenges and frustration. I also have plenty of awesome photos to show off.

When I left Vietnam, a little over two years ago now, I felt like a failure. After nine months of frustrating challenges, and only a handful of victories that felt barely worth mentioning, I cut my assignment short, and moved on to a new role in Kosovo. I wanted to move on, and write the whole experience off as a waste of time.



But now that I look back on it, I realise that I couldn't have done any of the things that ensued afterwards, if it weren't for that experience of failed expectations. I went on to make achievements in other roles, having learned from those previous setbacks. I developed resilience and determination, and with it, the knowledge that with each stumbling block, I can pick myself up and take on new challenges from a different approach.

Which never would have happened if I hadn't tried in the first place. That's kind of a win, right?

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Day 15: Social Club Trivia Night

This evening, we had our work Trivia Night. Our team was pipped at the post, and came in second place. However, one of the team challenges was to use our creative skills to craft a scene from a book or film. This was our effort...

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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Day 14: On this day...

One thing I love about BlogJune is that I can always look back at previous years and see where I was - geographically, professionally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and so on, for the past three years since I first participated back in 2014. For everything else before that, there's Facebook's On This Day function, which currently takes me back eight years. So, this seems as good a time as any to reminisce on Junes past...

June 2016
I spent the first two weeks travelling around the UK, from London - Cardiff - Hay-on-Wye - Birmingham - Stratford-upon-Avon - Oxford and back to London! The following two weeks involved finishing up my work with the UN, and starting to plan for the future...

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June 2015
I was starting to settle into life in Kosovo, and taking every opportunity to travel around. I fell in love with beautiful cities like Prague, ugly cities like Skopje, and indescribable something-in-between cities like Sofia. Almost exactly two years ago, I travelled to Gevgelija, a town on the border of Greece and Macedonia, and met up with another lindy hopping friend who was in the US Peace Corps, and we taught swing dancing to local Macedonian youth.

June 2014
I was four months into a new job managing a school library in Melbourne, and after spending most of the previous year not working as a librarian, I was struggling to settle back into this role. Much of this month's posts were looking at whether it was more important to be a librarian, or to do the kind of work that I found fulfilling - much of which I found in librarian roles. On the last day of that June, I resigned from my job, and committed to going overseas to work in another development role with an NGO in Vietnam.

June 2013
I wouldn't have been able to participate in Blogjune if I'd wanted to, as I spent most of this month working in Alotau, PNG developing a health library at St Barnabas School of Nursing.

Me and my counterparts at St Barnabas School of Nursing
It was my first foray into international development work, whilst still being strongly aligned to my skills and experience as a librarian. Whilst I was initially apprehensive about going to Papua New Guinea, I embraced the challenge headlong with the knowledge that I could always leave if it turned out to be way too hard. It wasn't - I would have been happy to stay longer! Fortunately, the opportunity came the following month to go to Rabaul on another assignment, and I was hooked...

June 2012
I had just returned from living in Japan for most of a year... to Melbourne winter. Started a new temporary job in a library, and enjoying the challenges of returning to full-time work, predominantly focusing on community and cultural development programming in a public library - back in the same public library where I'd gotten my first library job over seven years earlier!

June 2011
I was gearing up for the move to Japan (which didn't happen until the beginning of September!). On the 14th of June, I also got my confirmation of a Commonwealth Supported place in the Masters of Information Studies - this less than five years after swearing I wouldn't go back to uni ever again. At least I didn't have to pay full fees.

June 2010
It was a very different and fun time. I was Convenor of the ALIA New Graduates Group, and had a side-project co-organising a group called The Desk Set Downunder, which mostly involved making zines and badges and going on bookstore crawls in Melbourne and this one time in Newtown. I was also involved with the Emerging Writers Festival, and was involved with the Zine Bus - which was filled with Zine Makers and we toured around Melbourne for a morning, culminating in a pop-up zine fair in Fed Square.

Our zine from a Literary Crawl in Newtown, and a random selection at Gould's.
I really should do more cool stuff like this again, and I'm not sure why I ever stopped.

June 2009
I was working temporarily part-time at the Centre for Youth Literature, and the month started with my first Reading Matters conference. John Green came to Melbourne, and so did all the Nerdfighters. Then I travelled to Vanuatu for a week and a half and hung out with Romany, a librarian who I'd met the previous year at NLS, and was spending most of the year overseas as an Australian Volunteer for International Development. When she suggested that I come over to visit her, I decided to take her up on the offer, and pretty soon we were having all kinds of weird adventures.

Cousins at a wedding in Vanuatu...
June 2008
I was living in Darwin, working as a Reference Librarian at the Northern Territory Library. The previous month I'd performed a solo cabaret show Librarian Idol at the Butterfly Club in Melbourne. I also took a trip to Canberra, but I wasn't sure if I could give up the tropical weather for such a cold climate.......

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Day 13: Defining a work-life balance...

Lately, I've been spending the majority of my waking hours with my headspace in library land. Yes, forty-something hours a week of that time is spent at work. I could easily spend more time at work too - especially as it's still all new, and I want to immerse myself in the work so that I can better familiarise myself with its various tasks, processes, workflows, variables and all the cool stuff in-between. I rarely take lunch breaks that are longer than half an hour, and often skip at least one of my tea-breaks.

When I'm not at work, I've been thinking and writing for blogjune for at least an hour a day. I engage with other librarians via email and social media, often on library-related topics. I work hard on networking where I can, I develop my LinkedIn profile and update my resume from time to time - so many hours of tweaking! I do a bit of professional reading here and there, and in the past, I've dedicated many many hours volunteering on various committees within ALIA.

It's not that I'm a work-a-holic - it's more that I'm just really focused on the library industry, figuring out where I fit in it and which directions I can move within it.

But I've also been thinking of how to develop more of a work / life balance. Honestly, I don't know how to establish that kind of balance. People who have families, for example, don't have as much of a choice. And working in the library industry, the phrase "work / life balance" often implies that they have flexible working arrangements so that those with children can manage their family commitments better. Which is great.

At the same time, there are often days when I could easily work a ten-hour day in the office. I love the feeling of being productive and getting things finished. And with the Canberra winter setting in, I'd much rather stay in an extra hour or two and put off the inevitable exit into the cold night. And Canberra in the winter isn't exactly a buzzing hive of evening activity. Most people seem content to be at home snuggled up and watching the latest season of American Gods or Orange is the New Black. Or arguing with people on the Internet.

The more I think of it, the more I've realised that it's often been my work that's dictated my life decisions. It's been responsible for many of the interesting places that I've lived. It's contributed to the break-up of relationships, but also opened me up to opportunities to start new ones. A good income has enabled more enriching life experiences that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to afford, whereas a lesser wage has left me feeling like I need to make sacrifices. And, of course, there's the feeling of personal fulfilment or the existential angst that comes and goes depending on where I am in my career path.

So, for me, work and life aren't two opposing forces that need balancing. It's more like a causal loop that directly feeds into one another, often overlapping - and both need nurturing. I need to look after my professional life and keep it in good condition in order to then be happy in my personal life. Being in the library industry, I feel incredibly privileged that I can follow a professional career that also aligns with my personal interests and, for me, it's never just a job. And if I didn't have that work, then my life just wouldn't be the same.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Day 12: When is a mentor not a mentor?

On Saturday's post, I mentioned mentors as a possible means to managing ones career path. It's no coincidence that this subject has come up around the time that ALIA has announced its Mentoring Scheme - it's something that I've been pondering for a couple of weeks now.

There are many approaches to mentorship - how does one find a mentor and approach them, and how does one manage their own relationship as a protege? (Note: I refuse to use the word "mentee". It's not a real word - even my spellchecker won't accept it - and protege sounds like you're taking the relationship far more seriously.)

I've often felt that finding a mentor is often the responsibility the responsibility of the person who wants to be mentored - much like finding an apprenticeship. You seek out those in the industry who inspire you, or who have paved a career much like the one you'd like to have yourself. You strike up a conversation with them - it might be at an ALIA event - exchange business cards, see if they're on Twitter, and then take opportunities to continue the relationship. Sometimes you'll hit it off, sometimes you won't. If you do, send them an email, let them know that you're interested in progressing into their sector / area of specialty, and you'd love the opportunity to chat more about it over coffee some time.

When you do meet up, have some interesting questions, and be prepared to listen and learn. Again, gauge how the relationship is going, and whether you're on the same wavelength, and the more confident you feel, take opportunities to open up a bit about your own challenges in your work (without sounding like a whinger!) and see how they respond. Stay in touch - meet up for regular catch-ups - again, coffee is generally a good option, and keeps things casual and friendly. A good mentorship is one that doesn't feel forced or bound by obligations. But, of course, you don't want to be wasting their time either. If you're not prepared to work to progress your own career, then a mentor might initially offer you advice, but as time passes, they'll lose interest in supporting you.

Also, I've formed a number of supportive professional relationships over the years - but I would never refer to any particular one as a mentorship - especially not to their face! That's not to say that I haven't appreciated the support I've received from time to time through my career - I have and I do! And similarly, in my role as the New Grads Convenor, I've often started ongoing relationships providing support and advice to new graduates starting out. But I've mostly felt that these connections have been more through a mutual commitment to the industry and overcoming common professional challenges, rather than necessarily just finding help to get a better job. I think it totally counts, but is a mentor a mentor if it's not formalised? It can be a fine line sometimes between having a supportive more-experienced peer / supervisor, and a mentor that provides advice and possibly even grooms you for promotion / poaching into another team (if they work in the same organisation as you).

That said, an organised mentoring scheme is something else completely. It's like a matchmaking service for people who can't find the right mentor for them - and really, it's such a changing industry that what worked for one person five years ago might not work for somebody else starting out right now. And, of course, those in isolated roles/locations or highly-specialised field can find it hard enough to find peers let alone mentors.

(On a side-note, running with my online dating comparison, wouldn't it be cool if there were a Tinder-like app for finding mentors / proteges? i.e. swipe right if you'd be prepared to mentor or be mentored by the person on the screen. If they match - instant mentorship!!)

I don't mind paying for an organisation like ALIA to set up a mentor-protege pairing. After all, there's substantial labour involved in setting it all up, and ensuring that people are paired off appropriately. The idea of quality control is one that I'm still curious about, though. On one hand, it's great that a program like this provides access to a wider pool of mentors, who are prepared to set up a formal mentor / protege relationship, and sign agreements that they will commit to forming a productive relationship. On the other hand, I also feel like you only get out of these things what you put in, and so the onus is ultimately on the individuals to maintain their commitment, rather than on ALIA to exercise quality control for a paid service.

Obviously, there are pros and cons to either approach. Personally, I have a good idea of which direction I need to take in my career, and where the challenges and pitfalls lie, so I'm already building the kinds of relationships I need to be able to address them. However, I'd also be curious to sign up for the mentoring scheme purely to see who I get paired up with, and what interesting conversations might ensure from there...

For those who are interested, the ALIA Mentoring Scheme is open to ALIA members, and applications close on 23 June 2017.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Day 11: Things to be grateful for.

It's a "long weekend".

I worked yesterday and today.

When I woke up yesterday, I went to ride my bike to work and the back tyre was flat.

I support I should be grumpy about these things.

But Canberra is an excellent city for walking - something I do a lot of when I have things on my mind.

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And with views like this, it's hard to stay grumpy.

(Just make sure you have warm clothes.)

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Day 10: The subtle art of career progression planning for librarians.

So, in my earlier blog about reasons to join ALIA (or not), I mentioned the advantages when it comes to developing one's career path. This is especially the case for students and new graduates who are seeking that elusive First Library Job. When I was convenor of the ALIA New Graduate's Group, the most popular sessions by far were presentations on how to address key selection criteria, prepare a resume, and perform at a job interview in the library and information industry.

But I'm sorry to say that, as tricky as it is to get a First Library Job, it's far from smooth sailing once you've got your foot in the door. The idea of career progression for librarians is an interesting one - unfortunately, we're not exactly an industry full of ladder-climbing overachievers! Many librarians I know would be quite happy to be doing the job they're in for the foreseeable future, and have little interest in applying for another job. Many others either get stuck where they are, or leave the industry altogether, with only the most ambitious moving their way up through the ranks. I say ambitious only because it takes resilience and real strategic thinking (and / or a lot of luck) to achieve what I personally think should be a normal career path for a professional.

And I am the first to admit that I am the worst at career progression planning. I'm good at getting interesting and challenging jobs - my pitfall comes when I ask the question, "What will this job lead to, and is that the right direction for me?" The other vital question is, "How long will I be happy to do this job for?" The eventual result of this questioning is that I take off and do something completely different, which has led to a wide range of experience and skills, but lacking the professional context of having worked for one organisation continuously for ten years. Which means that, starting a new job, I have to take all those skills and knowledge, and put them in my back pocket for a while, whilst I learn the ins-and-outs of a new role, new team, new systems, and new backstory of why everything is the way it is.

So, what might librarians need to do in order to perhaps plan their career path a little better than I might have?

1. Know where you want to be in 20 years, and plan your career path accordingly. Okay, so this one is completely unrealistic, because rarely does anybody know where they want to be in 20 years, nor do the opportunities arise to perhaps follow that path.

2. Be aware of the culture in the industry. There's a hierarchy in the library world. No matter how awesome you are, it'll be easier to move from a legal library job to a TAFE library job than the other way. Aim high in the hierarchy - it'll be easier to move down if you don't enjoy it, than try to climb up.

3. Take on mentors and champions. It could be as a formal mentor, such as the one currently offered by the ALIA Mentoring Scheme, or just finding your own champions in the industry who can keep you motivated. Make connections, build networks, share ideas, show initiative, and get help from your mentors and champions to succeed.

4. Figure out what you don't want to be doing, and then stop doing it. Some librarians love to whinge about how unsatisfied they are with their job - or maybe it's not the job itself, but the organisation, or sector, or the people they work with. Identify these elements that create barriers or frustration, and minimise them from your professional life. Also if you don't know what you want from your career, then through the process of deduction, this is one way of figuring it out.

5. But seriously, figure out exactly what you want to get out of your career. I really struggle with this one sometimes, but I think I'm getting closer. When you're a new graduate, you can be forgiven for not knowing exactly what direction you want to go in, and I wholly encourage new grads to explore the field and experience the range of work out there. But sooner or later, you're going to have to make a choice. The sooner you do it, the sooner you can get your career on track, and then you can keep your eyes on the prize. (It really is going to take 20 years in some cases.)

A lot of this is so much more easily said than done - especially in a tough and uncertain industry. But you chose to be a librarian for a reason, and chances are that it wasn't your only option. Make it count!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Day 9: Top Five recent musicals that you possibly weren't aware of yet...

So, unless you've been living under a rock for the last two years, you've no doubt been caught up in the fandom of Hamilton: An American Musical. A diversely-cast, pop and rap-infused retelling of the story of one of American's lesser-known founding fathers, this brilliant work cleaned up the Tony Awards last year.

And whilst creator Lin-Manuel Miranda has moved on from the title role on Broadway (and several off-Broadway productions), and working on Disney's Mary Poppins Returns, I've recently found myself wondering - where do we go from here?

Well, fear not - for I am here to help you move forward and discover new shows - especially since this Sunday night (or Monday morning in Australia) the 2017 Tony Award winners will be announced. Here's my top five recent discoveries...

5. The Hunchback of Notre Dame 

So, the Disney animated movie musical about racial discrimination, sexual repression / liberation and the corruption inherent in the Catholic church, set in medieval Paris, completely slipped under my radar when it was released in 1996. I only recently got around to watching the film recently when I discovered that it had been developed into a fully-staged off-Broadway musical, and yes, some of the darker elements of the storyline had been sugar-coated, but I loved the music - especially when I realised that they'd been written by musical theatre legends Alan Mencken (music) and Stephen Schwartz (lyrics). Last year, the Studio Cast Recording was released, and it blew me away. Such a shame that this show never made it to Broadway - it would definitely have been a contender at the Tony's...


4. Waitress

I only first heard of this musical last year when one of its beltiest ballads "She used to be mine" was performed at the Tony Awards.


Yet another musical theatre adaptation of a film - this time, a bittersweet indie romantic drama about a waitress with a passion for making pies who dreams of escaping her unhappy relationship and the small town that she lives in. These dreams shatter when she discovers that she's pregnant, and whimsical drama ensues when she starts having an affair with her doctor. Music by largely-underrated pop singer-songwriter, Sara Bareilles, who made her Broadway debut earlier this year when she took over the title role. This show is pretty much all about the songs, and they are very good.

3. Come From Away

I recently discovered this little gem a few months ago on NPR's "First Listen". This musical recalls the events surrounding a small town in Newfoundland immediately following the New York City bombings of September 11, 2001. 38 planes with almost 7000 passengers were grounded in this tiny community when US airspace was shut down, and the residents mobilise to try to accommodate this sudden influx in visitors. I was a little skeptical at first, to be honest, but this musical grew on me very quickly. It's very much an ensemble piece, about community and supporting one another in difficult times. It follows a diverse cast of characters, exploring a whole range of attitudes and perspectives, and the reality of how an event like this can change the way that people see and relate to one another.

2. Dear Evan Hansen

A month ago, this was my latest obsession.


A modern musical about awkward teenagers dealing with social anxieties, and the peer pressures involved in just surviving high school. The music, written by young songwriter and composer duo Benj Hasek and Justin Paul is pop-infused and infectious, and this is very much a musical for the YouTube and social media generation. It hits all the sweet spots and will make you laugh and bawl and want more.

1. Groundhog Day

Yes, another musical based on a movie... but this one has been penned by Tim Minchin. The Broadway cast recording was released last month, and it is musical and lyrical genius. Where the film was a quirky parable about a mean weatherman who is doomed to live the same day again in the small town of Punxatawny, the musical draws much more strongly on the themes of how we waste our lives getting stuck in our own loops and meaningless habits. And the question is posed - if we could have our time again, would be do things differently or exactly the same?


It feels like Tim Minchin has poured so much of what I've loved about his work in the past into this magnificent mid-life-crisis masterpiece. There's a lot of his trademark misanthropy - so much commentary on how people waste their lives, whether it be in natural remedies, religions, or just general shallow-ness. His lyrics are sometimes profound, sometimes crass, but always impeccably placed. I listen to this musical and get lost in a combination of existential angst and inspired motivation to do more with my life. It also makes me want to go and watch the original Bill Murray film again.

So, that's my Top Five for today. Sorry to all the Great Comet fans... I know that this musical will probably clean up the Tony's but I just can't seem to get into it at the moment.

And if you want to listen to any of these, here's a handy Spotify Playlist I made... enjoy!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Day 8: Libraries aren't for everyone...

This post has been prompted by Kathryn's excellent post, "Are you THEIR librarian? G is for goat!" where she recounts a situation at a literary festival where nobody suggested "a librarian" when posed with the question of who they could go to for a book recommendation.

Obviously, it didn't occur to these people - perhaps they weren't library users, or they just didn't utilise the librarian at their local library. Maybe their experience of using the library was that the librarian was too busy doing librarian-y things to be burdened with their possibly-trivial question. Maybe there wasn't even a librarian around, as far as they could see, or didn't feel comfortable approaching the librarian at the desk.

The thing is, libraries aren't for everybody.

They may want to be, or try to be, but it's simply not possible. Imagine if every person in the community suddenly woke up tomorrow and decided to join their library, ask the librarian a question and / or borrow a book. Okay, that's an extreme example.

But even when I'm not being facetious, there are many people who don't use libraries.

People who don't think they need libraries.

People who aren't literate in the local language. (Even if the library holds collections in their language, they might not know they are there, or find the library, or ask for help, or know how to read the website - there's a limit to what Google Translate can achieve!)

People who don't feel welcome at the library because of their cultural background or level of education.

People who don't think the library would hold any books that are relevant to their interests.

People who can't afford to travel to the library, or have a disability that prevents them from being able to visit.

People who don't have a local residence or don't have sufficient identification to prove their local residence.

People who have a library fine from that one time that they borrowed a book and returned it late, and now can never borrow again because they can't afford to pay the fine.

People who would like to use the library, but it's never open at a time that's convenient for them.

The list goes on...

I posed the question - should libraries be focusing on serving the demands of their community, or the needs? Because there's a difference.

The unfortunate reality is that, as much as libraries would like to be for everybody, they generally only have the resources to meet demand - if that! And why would they risk losing the clients who are actually using the library by using resources in outreaching to those who need it more, but may or may not actually use it. Resources are often stretched tight enough already, and libraries need to be responsible in using their funds to develop collections that will be best used by their community.

I'm not sure where I'm going to go with this train of thought... I thought I could put a positive spin on it! Well, obviously the solution is, "Well, why can't libraries meet demand *and* reach out effectively to everybody else in the community who needs them?"

But, until that happens, libraries really aren't for everybody.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Day Seven : Five perfectly good reasons to join ALIA... and not to join.

Since my last couple of posts, there have been a few interesting comments. I think it's interesting that people have their own reasons for joining their professional association - or not. My professional priorities have changed through the years, and sometimes they've been aligned with ALIA's activities... other times, not so much.

So, here's a listicle of five perfectly good reasons to join, and five perfectly good reasons not to.

To Join...

1. I want to be a certified professional who has a portfolio of continuing professional development that is externally assessed and accredited.

2. It's an organisation that aligns well with my personal and professional views, and I want to support it's goals.

3. I want to support a culture of ongoing discourse, academic or otherwise, in my professional practice, and ALIA provides the forums for this to take place, whether it be at a conference or in a journal.

4. I want to make professional connections that will help me learn and develop my own career path within the industry.

5. I want to support an organisation that holds our universities accountable for what they teach our future librarians, and set the standard for accrediting people with the professional qualification.


...or not to join.

1. Membership costs money. I don't need to be a member to get a job, and being a certified professional won't help me get a better job.

2. The organisation doesn't align with my personal or professional views. (i.e. it's too conservative, it focuses too much on the library industry and not enough on the information industry.

3. It's just a platform for high-achievers to boast about their achievements and discuss idealistic best practices when the reality for most of us is we just don't have the resources or the knowhow to implement them.

4. My job already provides me with all the career development opportunities that I want or need.

5. The tertiary qualification doesn't guarantee a quality industry-ready professional, and there are plenty of GLAM industry jobs that don't even need an ALIA-accredited qualification anymore.

They all make fairly compelling arguments, depending on one's experience, priorities in life, and future aspirations. I guess the final question is not whether you should or shouldn't join, but do you want to? Is this an organisation that you want to be a part of?

If so, great! If not, then that's fine too.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Day Six: ...and why I joined ALIA again.

So, within a week or so of returning to Australia last October, I found myself attending the ALIA NSW Library Unconference in Sydney. After 18 months working for the UN overseas, I thought I'd give the library industry another decent shot, and had a couple of good opportunities open up to get my foot back in the door of the library world. I figured that an ALIA event would be a good chance to get a feel for the professional community again.

There were a number of familiar faces - one of whom was a former colleague and now ALIA staffer, who encouraged me to join ALIA again. I promised that I'd join as soon as I'd landed a permanent job in the industry. I neglected to mention that it had been over eight years since I'd had a permanent job. But, on the whole, it was an interesting crowd - and I was surprised at how optimistic everybody felt about the state of the industry and the future of their careers. It was nice.

A few months later, I attended an ALIA event, where it was announced that ALIA were making some changes to their constitution - specifically "To endorse the principles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in response to the many challenges faced by the world today and into the future."

This was something new, and it certainly caught my attention - especially as somebody who had spent the previous three years immersed in work that was intrinsically tied to the SDGs. Furthermore, when I spoke at the ALIA conference in 2014, one of my main points was on the similarities between many of the core objectives of library and information work and capacity-building in the developing world.

With this inclusion in ALIA's core aims, it felt like they were making a very deliberate shift toward professional values that were already important to me.

At the same time, my career had taken a turn for the better, working in one of my top employers of choice, which I found enjoyable and stimulating and challenging in a good way - BUT - it's the kind of place where one can easily disappear into a well-insulated bubble that keeps its focus on internal operational functions.

So, for me, I now feel like ALIA involvement can provide that opportunity to make the connections between the operational work I do as a professional in the workplace and the opportunities to interact with the wider community, especially in the field of International Development.  ALIA has its Asia-Pacific Spectial Interest Group (APSIG), and I'm curious to see how an increased focus on the SDGs will prompt further opportunities to perhaps form regional partnerships. And I'm keen to use these opportunities to connect with others who have worked with others who have worked in the space where libraries and international development intersects.

Furthermore, as a new employee in a large organisation, I'm hardly going to be an agent for substantial change in that part of my professional world. But getting involved in ALIA, once again I can pursue the areas of the industry that interest me that I wouldn't necessarily have the opportunity to pursue in my work.

It's not the most common reason for joining ALIA, but it's one that works for me. It feels like an organic convergence of everything that I've done in my career so far.

When I first joined ALIA, I did so because I thought it would be good for my career, that it would help me find a job, and that by banding together with other librarians, it would make us a more "serious" profession. I believed that all librarians should contribute to their professional community, supporting each other in career development and lifelong learning and, in the process, create innovation in their work and futureproof the profession. That's what ALIA membership meant to me back then.

Honestly, I don't care about those things so much anymore. But the idea of ALIA as a development organisation - in similar ways to IFLA with last year's International Advocacy Programme - that's definitely something that I can get behind.

That said - I got that permanent job, so I pretty much had to keep my promise and join.

Also, ALIA membership is tax-deductible. Strangely enough, also a deciding factor.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Day 5: Why I cancelled my ALIA membership...

So, two and a half weeks ago, I joined the Australian Library and Information Association. It wasn't a decision that I took lightly. You see, there was a time when I was once an ALIA member, and I cancelled my membership, with no intention of ever re-joining.

But before I can explain why I left, I need to first explain why I joined ALIA in the first place.

It would have been about eleven years ago - back in early 2006, when I was working as a Serials Officer with a public library service, and studying to become a librarian - when one of my librarian colleagues encouraged me to join the ALIA NewGrads mailing list. It opened up a world of ongoing discussion amongst students and new graduates, and all of a sudden I was connecting with a whole bunch of my peers from around Australia in a way that my university's online subjects never seemed to manage to do, despite their best efforts. It was through the mailing list that I found out about the New Librarian's Symposium, and I was determined to go there in December, and meet a bunch of these other librarians I'd been chatting to.

In September of that year, I got my first professional librarian job - in Darwin. When I arrived, the local librarian community was welcoming, and were keen to get me involved in the ALIA Top End Group, but I would need to become an ALIA member first!

It turned out that the difference between the member and non-member registration for NLS was actually greater than the cost of ALIA new graduate membership, so I was saving money by joining - so that was that!

In the following two and a half years of living in Darwin, ALIA membership meant that I was an active part of a professional community. I was Secretary of the Top End Group, and was involved in the organising committees for the Top End Symposium in 2007 and the New Librarians Symposium in 2008. It was a big part of my life - I was particularly passionate about creating events and spaces where library professionals could come together and share ideas.

And then I moved back to Melbourne in mid 2009, and became the convenor of the New Graduates Group and took up a role on the New Generation Advisory Committee to the ALIA Board. I think it was somewhere in 2010 when I started hitting the wall. I still had a few good friends from the ALIA scene, but I also started losing that sense of community. The more I pushed, the more I started to feel like the library industry didn't care - that I was surrounded by librarians who just treated their job like a source of income, rather than a life-long calling that they should be pouring all their energy into like I felt that I had to. And I started to resent them for it.

Furthermore, as much as I hate to admit it now - I kinda started to hate libraries. I hated that we lived in a world with such scope for innovation and creativity, and yet libraries were still, on the whole, stuck in 20th century attitudes.

And here was ALIA - an organisation that I felt was responsible for inspiring and facilitating vibrant communities for professional development and knowledge-sharing... and yet, from what I could see at the time, did none of this.

Whether I was justified in feeling this way at the time is certainly questionable - looking back now, I recognise that I was often impatient with an industry of professionals who often have to juggle work with managing a family and a household, whereas here I was, a early thirty-something year old with all the time to do all of the things. And, for all its scope for innovation, it's still a relatively conservative field, all things considered.

But I figured, in spite of all my efforts, I'm not really making much of a difference in the industry, and I'm not feeling connected with my community or inspired in my work. It's time for a change.

So I left in mid-2011. Left the country and lived in the Japanese countryside for a while. Let my ALIA membership lapse after five years of membership, and told them I'd left the country and the industry. That year off did wonders for my perspective - not just on my career but my life.

A year later, I came back to a library job - tentatively - with more of a focus on community development and arts programming, which I didn't really consider "real" librarianship. I worked in fringe and literary festivals, and then spent a few years working in international development programmes. There were huge challenges and frustrations, but the achievements were extremely rewarding.

Looking back, I think ALIA membership was important to me as a new graduate in the industry, trying to find my feet and connect with the real issues in the industry - but it could only get me so far. I needed to hit that wall in order to realise the limitations of what I can expect from a professional community and industry. The industry does not owe me job satisfaction, and my peers don't have an obligation to care more about the professional community than their own non-jobby lives.

And yet, six years after cancelling my membership, I've joined up again. My reasons are different now........ (to be continued tomorrow)

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Day 4 - Most popular titles and authors in #yamatterschallenge

I know you're all wondering which book was featured most prominently in the #yamatterschallenge, so here it is...

Yes, I'm sure it's no surprise to anybody that Harry Potter made the top spot. It's never failed to be massively popular, and applies to many of the daily themes in the challenge. It was posted a total number of 27 times across the month.

As for the rest of the titles, here's the next twenty:

1stHarry Potter Series - Rowling
2ndWords in Deep Blue - Crowley
3rdLaurinda - Pung
4thIlluminae - Kaufman / Kristoff
5thThe Sidekicks - Kostakis
6th
Summer Skin - Eagar
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf - Kwaymullina
7thStarbound Trilogy - Kaufman / Spooner
8th
Begin, End, Begin. A #Love OZYA Anthology
Clancy of the Undertow - Currie
9th
Frankie - Plozza
I'll Give You the Sun - Nelson
When Michael met Mina - Abdel-Fattah
10th
Looking for Alibrandi - Marchetta
On the Jellicoe Rd - Marchetta
The Flywheel - Gough
The Hunger Games - Collins
11th
Tomorrow when the war began series - Marsden
Wildlife - Wood
Zeroes - Westerfeld, Lanagan, Biancotti

Now there's a great reading list right there! Best of all, other than Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, they're all Australian YA literature. To see the full table of raw data (and see how the other books fared) see the table here.

However, I was also curious to see which author was featured most prominently over the month. After the painstaking task of re-counting everything by author, there was one author who stood out from the rest... Melina Marchetta - whose books were featured a total of 42 times! The other top authors were:

1stMelina Marchetta
2nd
Jay Kristoff
Randa Abdel-Fattah
Jaclyn Moriarty
3rdMargo Lanagan
4thJ.K. Rowling
5th
Amie Kaufman
Ambellin Kwaymullina
6thGarth Nix
7thCath Crowley
8th
Fiona Wood
John Marsden
9thAlice Pung
10th
John Green
David Levithan
Lili Wilkinson
I've also prepared an extensive (but not comprehensive!) list of the top authors here.

So, any big surprises here? Anybody that you think was tragically missed? I'll definitely be using this list to top up my to-read list for the next time I visit the library / book store...