Sunday, 26 March 2017

Once were New Grads - Part I: Me

Since my last post looking back at the New Librarian's Symposium in 2006, I've managed to get in touch with a number of delegates, and ask them a few questions about their experiences as a New Grad back then, and how it's perhaps influenced their career that has ensued over the past ten years.

So, while I wait for their responses *subtle hint!* I thought I'd interview myself for starters...

What were you up to when you attended NLS in 2006?

I was less than three months into my first professional role, as a "Liaison Support Librarian" at Charles Darwin University. I was about to graduate from my librarianship qualification, and took the leap, moving from Melbourne, where I'd lived all my life at that stage, to Darwin. So, it was a steep learning curve on both a professional and personal level. It was my first NLS, and I'd known that I'd wanted to go for a while, through being active on the New Grads Group listserv, which was quite busy back when Facebook was still a new thing and Twitter was yet to take off.

What are you up to now, ten years later?

Now, I work as a Reference Librarian at the National Library of Australia - a place that's been on my radar as a place that I've wanted to work at for at least eight years. It's taken that long to get my foot in the door in an entry-level professional role, and in the meantime I've had a varied career working across most sectors within the library industry, and related roles in the international government and non-profit sector. After NLS 2006, I was asked to join the team for NLS4 as their Marketing Coordinator, which was a lot of fun, though it also had its stressful moments.

How did your experience of NLS 2006 influence your expectations of your future career?

As a fresh graduate academic librarian, I honestly didn't have a lot of clues about what I was meant to be doing. Some of the papers held provide a bit of a wider context for the work that I should be doing, and best practices that I should be aiming for in my services as a librarian. I was also pretty optimistic about my career path, and networking with new graduates and industry leaders certainly emboldened my optimism for the future.

How have New Grad issues, and the nature of an event such as NLS, changed in the past ten years?

I say I was optimistic - that, unfortunately, wasn't always the case. It was a tough industry to succeed in back then, and it still is now. Back then, the focus seemed to be much more on more traditional delivery of library services and career progression, whereas nowadays, there is a much wider focus on the GLAM industry, which I think has made the scope of the program - and the target audience - much wider. Back then, we'd have two concurrent streams. This year, there are five, which I think is awesome. Especially considering that, in early 2008, we didn't even know if the event would continue beyond that year!

How would you describe your own professional Pathways and Possibilities over the past ten years?

It's been a long and winding journey. I've done a lot of diverse and interesting work, which has made me come to realise the wide scope of possibilities that the Information Industry has to offer. My NLS experience - which led to a lot of ALIA volunteer - played a big part of that, especially in all the connections that I made along the way. If I hadn't met Kate Davis, she wouldn't have encouraged me to pursue a career with the National Library all those years ago, and I probably wouldn't be where I am now. Similarly, if I hadn't met Romany, Kate and Susanne who have all worked in International Development, then I wouldn't have had my own overseas adventures in that field.

That said, in some ways, I still feel like a New Graduate, because every new job that I've done has been vastly different from the previous one, and therefore its own learning curve. And whilst I've accumulated a vast range of skills and perspectives, I'm not entirely sure if I've really "made it" as an information professional yet. (Financial security and job satisfaction plays into that in a big way - and rarely go hand in hand.) But I feel I'm on the right path, so that's something.

Having transcended the New Grad status, what words of wisdom would you pass on to the next generation of New Grads?

Never forget your initial reasons for pursuing a career in this industry - whether it's sharing a love of reading, helping people with technology, wrangling data sets, researching history, handling heritage artefacts, or just quietly sitting in front of a computer and classifying books all day. Figure out exactly how you want to be spending your time, and do what it takes to get that job. It may be competitive and tough to get there, but don't settle for a job in another sector that doesn't interest you as much - it'll just make you bitter and miserable, and that doesn't help anybody. Also, be patient. You won't figure it all out straight away, but you can have some interesting adventures on the way.