NGAC is delighted to have been able to ask questions of the candidates for this year’s ALIA board elections. Our questions were focused on issues specifically related to students and new graduates. Each candidate’s responses will be posted separately. There are a number of candidates this year and we’ve received a fabulous response so far.  

Many thanks to all candidates for taking the time to answer our questions. 

Today’s responses come from Kym Andrews.

1. What do you think of the state of the profession for new graduates? If they are finding it difficult to find their first job what advice would you give them?

For new graduates, I believe it is very difficult and with the current economic restraints it has only become harder in the last few years.  There are more people competing for fewer positions, with librarians staying in positions for longer time frames.  

The state of the profession in general; I think it is an exciting time to be a librarian.  While change is sometimes frightening, the potential for the future of libraries and the opportunities of what we can achieve is limited only by our imagination and our drive. It’s not all bells and whistles and happy times.  It would be naïve to ignore those issues, but they are not what should dominate our discussions.

Advice for finding your first job… I read an article today which had a great statement as the headline.  “Sometimes talent is not enough”.  I thought that was a perfect statement.  My advice would be to get industry experience wherever you can.

Advice for Students & Graduates

  1. Participate in ALIA networking and training events.  
  2. Introduce yourself to librarians already in the industry and ask questions.  
  3. Take further courses and learn how to sell yourself and become confident in work situations.
  4. Use your friends and colleagues to review your CV.
  5. Take advantage of the mentoring programs available.
  6. Research the organisation, know what is expected of you in that position and sell yourself, and research and use appropriate key words in your interview.   It’s not easy (I still hate interviews) but the effort is worth it in the end.

2. How can ALIA help students and new graduates? For those in hiring positions what are the benefits of hiring new graduate LIS professionals?

When I think of ALIA I think it encompasses of all of us who are members of ALIA.  We all have a responsibility to students and new graduates.  The NGAC do a great job and I wish that the New Graduates symposium existed when I first started.  The ALIA mentoring program with the International Librarian Network is a great opportunity for students.  The CV review program that was offered by the New Grads group in WA was a fantastic option as sometime friends are not objective enough.  Offering ALIA events conducted by the numerous groups at a discounted price for students is also fantastic when finances are tight.  ALIA need to ensure that these opportunities are widely promoted to students. However, students need to be proactive in staying in touch and to take advantage of these opportunities.

The benefits of hiring a new graduate are many.  I was a new graduate once and extremely lucky that someone took a chance on me less than a month after I graduated.  I believe that the potential excellent benefits for hiring a new graduate include the following:

  • The overwhelming enthusiasm of a new graduate.  
  • The desire to learn everything and to do it right.  
  • The innovation and new ideas, and a belief in all opportunities.  
  • They are generally not jaded.  
  • Prepared to experiment with new technologies, to look at process/procedures with new ideas and ask ‘but why do it that way’ and not accept ‘because we’ve always done it that way’.  (To my first boss ‘B’.  I’m sorry, how exhausting I must have been for you!)

3. What are the essential skills librarians and information professionals need in order to be relevant both today and going into the future? What could ALIA do to promote librarians as information professionals and service providers with skills relevant to a wider range of industries?

The world we live in is changing at a fast past and it is imperative that Librarians stay abreast of what is happening in our industry and profession and to be prepared to learn new skills and pass them on in our workplace.

An essential skill I feel is lacking in our professional development is the ability to ‘sell’ our libraries.  I work in a special library and while I have clients who seek out the services of the library, others do not.  It is a simplistic version of what I do, but cold calling is a required skill.  In a wider aspect, there is an increased need for advocacy in our libraries and librarians need the ability to be that loud advocate our libraries require. FAIR do a fantastic job in the wider community, but individual librarians must be that advocate within their own organisation.

Technology is an ever changing beast. Librarians are good at staying abreast of these changes and we will continue the need to keep ahead of or at least level with the curve.  For example; writing code, I’m not saying I understand this or know how to do it, but the literature coming out is discussing  the need to introduce this into primary schools, libraries in the USA are offering these sessions. Librarians have to be prepared to say “I don’t know about this technology or app but I am prepared to find out “.

The term ‘librarian’ no longer means what it did 20 years ago.  People are working in libraries with drastically different roles and responsibility than the traditional concept of librarian. These skills reflect the diversity of our sector and could be easily transferable to other industries. A librarian qualification provides the basics for information inquiry, acquisition and organization. These skills are pivotal to so many areas.  How can we promote this to other industries?  ALIA could attend other industry conferences to promote library and information professionals and how we could be of great value to those industries. Utilise other professional associations and ensure they are aware of the skills and expertise our industry can offer theirs. It is also our own responsibility.  The paper presented by Kim Sherwin at ALIA Info Online 2015 showed a great example of getting industry to look at the library differently.

4. What have been the benefits of undertaking professional development in your career? Why should the Professional Development program be compulsory for all ALIA members?

The benefits for me have been many.  Networking is a large benefit.  While some who may know me may not believe this, socialising is occasionally difficult.  Going to professional development events allowed me to meet people in an environment where I was safe in my knowledge of what to talk about. Now it’s easier to attend social functions of any kind.  Don’t underestimate that skill.  PD events have also helped me to understand all those little things about librarianship that I didn’t learn at university.  My lack of understanding in the nitty gritty of council finances, wanting to do better for the staff members I was responsible for, led me to do a Grad Dip in Business Administration.  The best thing I could have done for my own growth.  

Should the Professional Development program be compulsory?  My personal view as it stands is yes.  It seems to be in our nature as librarians to stay in a position for long periods of time.  This isn’t a bad thing, but in a time of constant flux as our profession is at the moment, ensuring we are all aware of current issues, progress, innovation, is important and it perhaps avoids the potential of a stagnant workforce.  If we want librarians to be viewed as professionals by the wider community then having a PD program is a positive step.  However, I can see why we shouldn’t make it compulsory. Just because people are filling in required hours, doesn’t mean they are taking that information in and it could breed discontent.  Sometimes we have very busy lives, where we can’t complete our PD requirements.  In an industry where we are constantly being told our jobs are on the careers death list, fighting to stay relevant, PD events are one more stress we shouldn’t be adding to librarians.  I would like to know more before I make a definitive “yes” or “no”.

5. What would you like to see the ALIA board achieve?

I want ALIA to get a librarian nominated as Prime Minister, or someone who commits to $5 billion dollars over 5 years to libraries.  I want a national advertising campaign to rival the likes of Coca Cola on libraries!  Now back to reality.

I definitely would like to see the board continue its advocacy of libraries through FAIR.  I want the work on copyright changes to continue, to make it a fairer and a little easier to understand system within Australia.  I would like the board to become a little more inclusive.  For all librarians to feel some sort of connectivity to the organisation and that they feel there is a benefit to joining.  I think that ALIA needs to find a way to encourage more librarians to join ALIA, so that it can become a dynamic force and achieve whatever it sets out to achieve.

We encourage all eligible members to consider these responses as they make their decisions to vote in the election. Voting is underway in the 2016 ALIA Board of Directors election and will close on Friday 8 April 2016.

More information about the process and this year’s candidates can be found at the ALIA website.

Alisa Howlett, Chair ALIA New Generation Advisory Committee


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