Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Once were New Grads: Part III - Trevor and Gemma

So, here with are with Part III, featuring Trevor Mackay and Gemma Siemensma, who I first met at NLS2006, and then had the pleasure of working with on the organising committee of NLS4 in 2008.

Back then, in 2006:

This was Trevor and Gemma's second NLS, having both first attended the event in 2004 in Adelaide. They both graduated in 2005, but were certainly no strangers to the library world - before landing their first librarian jobs, Gemma had been working in libraries for seven years, and Trevor for eight years. In 2006, Trevor was one year into his librarian job, and the convenor of the relatively-newly formed New Graduates Group. Gemma was a base-level librarian in a health service.

...and now:

Ten years later, they have both worked their way up their respective sectors to a management level. Trevor is now the Branch Manager for Sandringham and Hampton libraries and Community Support Library. Gemma is still in a hospital library but as the Library Manager.

On how NLS 2006 influenced their expectations of their future career path...
Trevor remembers the impact of networking with other new graduates and industry leaders. "NLS was such a wonderful opportunity to be introduced to larger conferences in a non-intimidating environment. It certainly introduced me to the wide world of libraries and showed me what was going on, giving me the confidence to successful apply for the Aurora Leadership program."

Gemma, on the other hand, already had a plan long before NLS, which was quite simple: "to have my manager's job when she retired."

On the recurring issues for NewGrads, and how NLS has addressed these and continues to do so...

Trevor observes that expectations from library clients have certainly changed over the years - particularly from digitally-literate millennials, and that this poses as a challenge when many colleagues have trained as librarians in the pre-digital age.

From Gemma's perspective, the workforce is even harder to get into now than it was ten years ago. There is much more contract work and less stability, and so many people are competing for the same jobs. "I also think there is less opportunity at the basic level of Librarianship, although there are certainly opportunities at the higher end if people are willing to move for jobs, which isn't always possible." She also thinks that NLS is much more about networking, being visible and being in spaces to get one's name out there. "I get the feeling you have to be very career minded to get a job at the lowest level, to get you into librarianship as a career.

On their own career's pathways and possibilities...

Gemma attributes much of her career success to her involvement with committees and advisory groups. "Basically, ALIA involvement opened up so many networking opportunities, and a chance to learn new skills, such as organising events, charing sessions, and approaching vendors for funding." From here, the opportunities grew, and now, Gemma sits on two advisory committees and one group committee with ALIA, as well as another Health Library Consortia Management Group. "I feel like I am learning all the time and I get back just as much as I put in. From this, my passion grew and I have continued wanting to be involved in the profession at a higher level rather than as a bystander." She also recognises that such involvement also opens doors at work. "Much of what we do is outside the traditional health library role. Our jobs have evolved, and are now more concerned with making inroads into departments and having a direct impact. Some of these things have taken years to implement, but they are now coming to fruition and the library is looking amazing!"

Trevor also mentions the opportunities that professional involvement created. "My involvement with ALIA and as part of the NLS 8 organising team provided some fantastic opportunities to develop skills that I probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to in the position I was working in." It has also provided him with the opportunity to present at different events and a build a wider network of colleagues.

Finally, some advice to new graduates in the library and information industry...

Trevor: Take every opportunity - as much as possible - to say "yes" to projects at work, to develop skills so you can discover areas that you would like to work in.

Gemma: Network and get involved - it really opens so many doors, which you may not see for years, but they will be there. Basically, put up your hand and say that you'll give it a go. Volunteer. And write to get your thoughts out there, even if it's just a small thing in Incite (the ALIA magazine). It's amazing where these things can lead...

Stay tuned for the fourth, and possibly final, instalment of this series... and to find out about how to get involved with ALIA, have a chat with your local friendly State / Territory Manager...