The power of doing something

It’s the last day of #blogjune and I’m sad to see it end. The month started with a determined flurry of posts, I really created some momentum that was always going to disappear once I left for Canberra and NLS8. However, the response to some of my posts has been fantastic and really made me feel like my words are worth reading. So that’s a win for me! Thanks #blogjune, you rock.

NLS8 is over *insert sad and happy faces*

I always knew that there wouldn’t be much for sitting in on sessions and keynotes and yes, that’s totally correct. Instead I relied on Twitter (mostly after the weekend) to see what people were talking about and which sessions really struck a chord. It has also been really quite wonderful to scroll through #nls8 and read blog posts on experiences, revelations people had during and after the symposium and laugh at all the great memories that are (still) being shared. Conferences and symposiums are really where Twitter shows its value – sharing, connecting, consolidating things we’ve learnt, sharing images, it is so good.

So my reflections? Well, the committee did something really big and important for the LIS community in Australia and beyond. It keeps hitting me in little jolts that we created exactly what we set out to and that people (other than us) loved it. It feels . . . incredible.

Personally, I’m still trying to gather my thoughts and make sense of the last two years. It’s a cliche but I’ve learnt so much about myself and right now, know that I can accomplish a lot. Even the big secret dreams that are in my head. I’ve felt the power of #dosomething and Clare, Alyson and Kate are right, you can make things happen.

Find a friend, a colleague, someone who gets the same glint in their eye that you do when talking about *insert your favourite subject here*. That sounds a little too simple, but actually it is. Talk to that person on Twitter who shares the articles you love. Reach out. If they say no or don’t reply, no-one gets hurt (maybe your ego just a little but you’ll survive).

And if they say yes, let’s try this thing, take the next step and begin. Or go it alone, that’s doable too. I can’t tell you how many attempts I’ve had making a blog/website/book/thing/activity/workshop/experience/thing. So many. And for each flop, I’ve learnt something. It’s like sorting through all the fluff to find the shiny gem.

NLS8 was one of my shiny gems. And now I’m going to start polishing a new gem and see where that takes me.

I’ll finish with this post with a challenge and a tweet. Reach out to someone you met at NLS8 and say hello. If you loved a session, find that speaker and tell them just that. See what happens next. (Remember, action then inspiration then motivation).

And check out this great tweet from Clare Wix. It sums up the spirit of NLS8 for me.

Time travel

I’m still decompressing from NLS8 and trying to gather my reflections into something more coherent than a long rambling sentence without any punctuation, so Kathryn’s writing prompt is just what I needed to do a spot of writing. The questions are:

  • 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?
  • 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 ?

Well my 20 year old self was a red hot sweaty mess. So I would tell them that life will change, it won’t be easy, and it will also be spectacular. As a 20 year old I was so unprepared and unable to cope with the demands of life. I was working, renting, in a relationship, but my mental health wasn’t great and I didn’t know. I just thought life was really really really hard all the time. It would be tempting to give myself a heads up on what lies ahead, but you know, I wouldn’t. Because life has been all those things I just wrote, but they got me to here. All the twists and turns and unexpected friendships, moves, jobs, sadness, joys, frustrations… I love the person my life experiences have created.

Technology in 20 years time? I don’t think technology is going to change that much in the next 20 or so years. Maybe driverless cars? This isn’t something I think about much as it’s easier to marvel at where we have come from, rather than what is ahead, for me anyway. Wish I had a longer answer for this, maybe I should ask my children!

At the pointy end

So NLS8 starts tomorrow and I can’t quite believe it, although I’m sure I will when people start arriving for workshops in the morning.

Bags have been stuffed, scarves are ready, programs folded, signs printed, post-it notes packed. Our committee has been arriving all week, and Amy and I have tried to balance our days with quiet nights, movies in our rooms and the discovery of a great pho restaurant last night.

Today we all move into our committee accommodation and we have a final team meeting tonight.

Having just typed these sentences, it’s hit me, the hair is standing up on the back of my neck.

NLS8 is happening. Nearly two years of hard work, ideas, collaboration and a big dose of frustration and angst is about to start and the end.

But first we need to begin, and we are doing that in style with a photo recreation at the Albert Hall. If you’re in Canberra, come join us before we hit the NLA with 200 students, new grads, GLAMR, LIS, information professionals, library lovers to Battle for Library Island, go on a data mystery adventure, learn library carpentry, tour ACT libraries, find digital skills in a post-truth world and learn how to tell everyone that libraries are awesome – that’s just Friday!

See you on the flip side.



Five tips for the New Librarians’ Symposium first-timer

If the New Librarians’ Symposium 8 (NLS8) is the first symposium you’ve ever attended, this post is for you.

This is my third NLS. Way back in 2013, I attended NLS6 in Brisbane. Still a student at Charles Sturt, my decision to attend  was mainly due to my enthusiasm for my studies being at an all time low and NLS6 seemed like the perfect chance to learn more about the industry and see if I was on the right track. Because I self-funded my trip there was a steely determination to enjoy myself, meet people and essentially make the most of the experience.

Make a deal with yourself

At NLS6, I didn’t want to travel to Brisbane, spend my hard earned dollars, attend an exciting event and not meet anyone new. So I promised myself that I’d introduce myself to people and generally push myself to network.

My first “hello” was awkward (from my perspective), I introduced myself to someone I follow on Twitter but it was worth it. Then I thanked a speaker for an amazing keynote, literally jumping out in front of her and saying “thanks you were amazing!”.

Yes, some people at NLS8 know each other already

That’s the nature of the beast. At NLS6 it felt like everyone knew each other. Not true. A lot of people at the symposium may know each other online and are meeting for the first time IRL. Some people are there on their own and don’t know anyone at all. Some people are there with colleagues. It’s a mix.

Everyone is probably feeling a little bit anxious or nervous

Yes they are. Yes they are. Even the keynotes, committee, speakers and volunteers. Harness your nerves into energy and enthusiasm to make the most of your time in Canberra. If it helps, spend the first break observing and familiarising yourself with the NLA and then in the next session, say hello to the person sitting next to you. Just a hi and smile, nothing more (unless you strike up a conversation which is highly likely!)


Be early

This is my own way of feeling a little calmer when doing something new. I like to be early. Sometimes a little bit too early but that’s ok with me. I can sit in my car or in a quiet spot and watch people arrive and think “Oh, you go to the registration desk first and then to the XYZ”. Helps me feel a little more confident when I’m stepping into that unknown space for the first time.

Seize the day

You’ve spent the money, travelled, slept in a different bed, thought about what to wear (or not), selected comfortable shoes (wear them please! your feet will thank you), charged your device, packed your charger and your business cards.

This is your two days to meet people, learn, connect with your industry. Do as many things as you can, make a deal with yourself to meet 5 people a day, smile at the person standing next to you in line for lunch. Thank a speaker after their session and tell them what you enjoyed about it. High five a volunteer or committee member. Spend some time in the break out space and make sure you leave time to explore the NLA. You’re at the National Library of Australia!

Make the most of the symposium. Don’t go home with “I wish I…” regrets. And most importantly, enjoy yourself in whatever shape that takes.

Find me and say hello at NLS8, I’ll be wearing a white t-shirt and meeting as many people as I can!

Choose Your Own Information Adventure Part 2

Part 1 is here.

Bumps in the road

Whilst studying the Bachelor of Information Studies at CSU I experienced some interesting and challenging obstacles which shaped my experience of the degree and also my expectations of the library and information profession.

Having zero experience of working in a library was the biggest challenge. Most of the subjects assumed knowledge of library management systems, jargon (argh the acronyms) and library processes. In the first couple of years the degree was solely focused on “library”, any discussion of information professional roles (aka not working in a library roles) didn’t occur until much later on.

Luckily I’m fairly handy at research and had also made uni friends who did work in libraries so many emails were sent asking “what’s this thing?” and “can you tell me how a library does XYZ?”.

Seriously, if you’re studying online, take a chance and strike up a friendship, it is worth it.

About halfway through the degree I’d run out of steam. The more time I spent online talking to library folk, the more despondent I became. I applied for library assistant roles with no success. The more I studied, the less I could see where I would fit. There were a few times when the words “why the fuck did I do this degree?” were thrown around at home and in my head. It really made me look at myself properly and figure out what makes me tick, what I really wanted for this new career and how to find the right fit for me. Not going to lie, some of this was painful and towards the end of four years of study, I had decided to not even attempt to apply for library roles. My direction seemed clear, I would stay in community services. The skills and knowledge gathered during my time at uni were transferable, and useful in lots of situations. Libraries were not for me.

At last!

One of my last subjects was Value-Added Information Services. I loved this subject. Finally, a non-traditional information professional subject!

In a nutshell, I spent a semester writing a report on the development of a website and online community for a continence advisory group working with Prostate Cancer patients (unusual topic, however a good friend works in this area and I enjoyed having someone to interview face to face for the purpose of the report). I loved the research, the report writing, developing an idea into something tangible, conveying it in a way that was meaningful to the client. It was great.

Suddenly, my enthusiasm was back and a path began to clear in my mind. If I really felt that I wasn’t the right fit for libraries, then information consultancy or working as an information professional in a non-traditional role was the direction for me to head in.

And then I got a library job

Yes. My university placement was at my local hospital’s library and whilst there, someone resigned. I accepted a short contract and then applied for a library technicians role and was suddenly employed in a library.

What followed was a very steep learning curve. The technician role was so different from what I had studied for and so precise. There were just so many new things to learn and bloody hell did I learn them, from patient colleagues who were generous with their knowledge and time.

During the (almost) two years I spent in the library technician role I learnt everything I could, thought and researched potential ‘next moves’ and really pushed myself to network and make more connections (mostly online). I presented at NLS7 with a university friend, formed the NLS8 committee and became co-convenor and took on a project role with the hospital’s research office organising their inaugural research symposium.

Working with the research office really helped me explore the non-traditional information professional world that I’d encountered in that one subject at uni. There are many people in these sort of roles and I’d love to hear more about them. Actually I would have loved to know about themLet’s be honest, many of us have very broad skillsets which have come from varied roles, multiple degrees and careers, so why not take all those skills and try them somewhere else. Plus you get the added bonus of telling people you’re a librarian and seeing them trying to figure out what the hell you are doing in *insert any non-library job*. I kinda like that.

(I really enjoyed Sally Cumming’s post about trying a different path, take a look).

Definitely not the end of the story

Late last year I made the move from library to medical research to develop an information management and communication role in a rapidly growing research governance department. The role lets me stay connected with the library, develop more networks with other parts of the district and universities and stretch myself a lot more than I could in the library technician role.

I have embraced being a library and information advocate outside of the world of GLAMR. Our profession needs people like me as much as it needs people on the inside. Sometimes I wish there was an I in GLAMR and I’d want more discussion and engagement with outsiders. (We probably need a better name than outsider or non-traditional – any suggestions?).

I’m still on my library adventure, and don’t know if a return to libraries is in future chapters. What I do know is that staying open to working outside has meant opportunities to grow, advocate, disrupt and be challenged. Maybe that’s what my true adventure is.