Sunday, 19 March 2017

Pathways and Possibilities - Ten years later!

I went to my first ALIA New Librarians Symposium (NLS) in December 2006. I'd just graduated from my librarianship qualification, moved to Darwin for my first Librarian job, and was keen to be properly indoctrinated into the industry.

The event was held at UNSW, Sydney, and the theme was "Pathways and Possibilities. Being the keen fresh-off-the-boat new grad, I put my hand up when they put a call out for speakers in the debate for the event's opening session - the topic: "That librarians should be politically active." I was on the negative team alongside Kay Harris and Roxanne Missingham - two leaders in the library industry. It was a pretty good start to my ongoing relationship with ALIA, NLS and the New Graduates Group.

The ten years that ensued have provided the opportunity to follow a varied range of Pathways and Possibilities in my career, and a major influence in this has come from the many different people that I've encountered through NLS, either through their presentations or through forming social connections, that opened my eyes to the scope of work that my qualification and skills could take me to.

Anyway, in my most recent move to Canberra, I was unpacking some boxes, and out of one box fell the program from NLS 2006 - along with a list of delegates, complete with their place of work at the time! And this prompted the question: Where are they now?

So, I decided to do some social media sleuthing! For some of these people, I'd remained in touch over the past ten years, keenly watching their careers progress. Others, I lost contact with. And then there were those who I've been colleagues with in recent years, and never even realised that they were there.

But trawling through LinkedIn, I was able to locate 101 delegates from NLS 2006 - along with the details of their career paths. And each account told its own story. Some stayed with the same organisation, moving up through its various eschalons. Some moved about from place to place, either to other library roles, or outside the industry. Some stayed comfortably in the same role for the whole time. Others graduated from their degree, but never entered the industry.

So, I decided to crunch some numbers. I realise that this isn't an exact science - especially where people may have neglected to update their LinkedIn account, and I did cross-check against any other online information where there was doubt. I was definitely curious to see if there were any overwhelming trends.

And here's what I found:

Of the 101 NLS 2006 delegates that I was able to track down, 87 were still working in the library industry. Of these, 33 had shifted library sectors, whilst 54 stayed in the same sector. 36 had remained with the same organisation, moving through a range of roles, and 11 were still in the same role.

Then there were the other 14 delegates - 12 of these have since moved away from the library and information industry. 2 graduated with their qualification, but never entered the industry.

For those of you who'd like some basic infographics, here are some pie-charts:


So, what does it all mean?

The fact that a bit over 50% are still in the same library sector that they were in ten years ago could either be quite comforting, in terms of long-term stability, or disconcerting, in terms of versatility. Furthermore, that just over 10% are still in the same role that they were in ten years ago could mean that (a) they're in their dream job and are quite comfortable thank you very much, or (b) they've hit the extent of their career path, and are possibly trapped at a dead-end.

On the other hand, one third of these delegates have moved around the industry, beyond the sector that they were in ten years ago. This has to be encouraging, that there is sufficient opportunity within the industry to try different things. Or, maybe they got frustrated with the sector that they started with, and moved to a different one for different opportunities.

Finally, there are those who no longer, or never did, work in the LIS industry. Is it a testament to their skills and experience that they are able to take it to bigger and better things? Or did the LIS industry just not work out for them, and they're working on their Plan B? (Or was the LIS industry their plan B all along?)

So, make of this (very limited range of) data what you will. However, I think it would be an interesting exercise to track down some of these delegates from 2006, and interview them about the Pathways and Possibilities that the past ten years have provided to them...