ALIA SNGG Academic Library QandA 2 – Lucinda Buckley

by | Oct 13, 2023 | ALIA, ALIA SNGG Committee News, ALIA Students and New Graduates News, Professional Development, Tips & resources

Welcome to the second SNGG Academic Library #QandA blog interview.

Thank you to Lucinda Buckley, AFHEA, Coordinator, Library Public Programs at Deakin University.

 

  1. What specialist skills do Subject and Reference Librarians need in Academic Libraries?

I think it is actually a bit of a myth that you need specialist skills to work in a Academic Library. If you have an LIS qualification then you have the required skills! In saying that, I do think that what a lot of new Librarians don’t always realise is that Subject, Reference and Liaison Librarians actually do a fair amount of teaching. So having some skills in delivering training materials is always a good thing and also just an awareness and willingness to take on a teaching component as part of their work. Relationship building is also a key skill for these types of roles so being able to speak to your experience building and maintaining relationships (and dealing with difficult ones!) will give you a leg-up in an interview. 

  1. What do Liaison Librarians do in an Academic Library? What skills do students and graduates need for a Liaison Library role?Liaison Librarians are usually assigned an academic faculty or department for whom they provide support. The type of work is varied but also cyclical and dependent on the university calendar. Some examples of what Liaison Librarians do include:
  • Acting as a key point of contact for their faculty/department and attending faculty/department meetings
  • Building strong working relationships with academics within their faculty/department
  • Design and delivery of digital/information literacy information sessions/lectures/seminars/workshops to undergraduate and post graduate levels (both online and in person)  
  • Course mapping to ensure that students are receiving the required digital/information literacy information throughout their course
  • Assisting academics with research and publishing enquires (which depending on the institute may or may not include providing personalised metrics reports)
  • Assisting academics with creating and maintaining unit reading lists
  • Providing personalised research support to PHD students, in particular with literature reviews and evidence synthesis (eg systematic reviews)
  • Creating and maintaining LibGuides
  • Project work, such as creating online digital/information literacy modules

In terms of skills needed, it is varied as you can see above! One thing to note is that in Australia, you don’t need specific skills in a given subject area to work within that subject area. For example, I have worked as a Liaison Librarian for faculties/departments ranging from humanities, education, design, science and fine art without having specialist qualifications in any of these areas except humanities. Keep in mind that the Liaison Librarian skills are very transferrable and you don’t need to fully understand a topic to become an expert in where and how to find information on that topic!

  1. What soft and technical skills do you use in your Public Programs Librarian role?

A lot of my Liaison Librarian skills have been easily transferred to my Public Programs role as well as some new ones Key soft skills include:

  • Project management
  • Relationship building, and community liaison 
  • Organisation and attention to detail
  • Creativity and ideas generation
  • Public Speaking 

Key technical skills:

  • Communications (eg. managing and sending EDMs, event registration software, updating websites, preparing media packs and briefs)
  • Visual Design (while we have qualified designers to support our team, it is very helpful to have basic design skills for quickly putting together signage or promotional materials)
  • Project management software (our team uses a combination or MS Planner and JIRA)
  1. Can you apply for professional placements in an Academic Library when you are not a student enroled in a LIS course?

I think this probably depends on the institute. Demand for placements is usually quite high and current students would be given priority. A good alternative for those with interest who are not studying an LIS course is to apply for causal work. Most academic libraries require casuals (especially for evenings and weekends) so that can be a great way to get practical experience. 

  1. Can students or graduates apply for Academic Library internships and work experience?

As above, internships and work experience placements are usually limited and I would assume that preference would be given to current students. Here at Deakin we do offer a number of work placements for current students. After graduating, casual work is a great way to get your foot in the door and very often leads to more. At Deakin we also have a wonderful cadetship program which is designed especially for new graduates. These are a 2 year positions where the cadet rotates among various teams to get experience working in different areas of an academic library. While these positions are very competitive, those who are lucky enough to get them gain excellent academic library experience and usually finish with a good sense of the type of work they would like to do going forward.

  1. What advice would you give students searching for a placement in an Academic Library? 

If you don’t already have a contact within the library, email the main library contact email and ask who you can email regarding a possible placement. Placements are not generally advertised so it helps to be proactive.

 

  1. What type of library and program skills should SNGG learn for Academic Libraries?

Any of the above soft or technical skills! Project management skills are becoming increasingly important in a wide variety of academic library roles. Skills in teaching, and an understanding of basic pedagogy will be useful.

  1. Do Academic Libraries provide professional development opportunities?

Yes! PD is a big focus within the academic library sector and the hard part is working out what to do as there are so many offerings available! Academic Libraries are connected to networks such as CAUL  (Council of Australian University Libraries) and CAVAL Council of , as well as ALIA, all of which offer numerous PD opportunities throughout the year. If it is relevant to your role, there is also an option to do specific PD related to an area you want to upskill in. Not only is PD strongly encouraged, in many academic libraries, PD is formalised as part of annual performance reviews/evaluations.  

  1. What does the Academic Library selection process look like?

Applicants usually apply online for a role and will be phoned (by HR or someone within the library) if shortlisted for an interview. These days, interviews may be conducted in-person or online, depending on the role and the preferences of the library. The interview panel will not necessarily include only staff who work in the area of the role – often the panel will also comprise staff from other areas of the library or even the wider university. Generally panellists will take turns asking questions and then you will be invited to ask any questions you have. Most academic libraries use a behavioural style interview which requires you to speak to your experience and give specific examples of your experience. The more detail you can give when answering the question the better – if you give a short answer, you won’t necessarily be asked to elaborate or prompted for further details so give as much detail as you can from the onset. To prepare for this, go through the position description and list out the key skills and capabilities which are required and think of specific examples that show you have done these. In most cases, interviewers don’t just want to know what you’ve done, but also how you went about doing it – what was the situation, how did you approach it, what did you learn along the way and what were the outcomes? Be sure to also come prepared with questions about the role and the work as it shows that you have done your research and given thought to undertaking the particular role.Following the interview, you will be contacted (either by HR or someone in the Library) to advise of the outcome. If you don’t get the role, always use this phone call to ask for feedback – what skills and experience did the successful candidate have that you could work on? Also use this opportunity to ask if there are any other vacant roles in the library that you might be better suited for – this could be a good way to pick up casual work or even an alternative role (this has happened to me twice!)

 

  1. What steps should I follow to format a resume/cover letter to be noticed by Academic Libraries?

There is no formula that all academic libraries request you to follow. Check the job listing to see if there are specific requirements (often there may be a page limit). Never use a generic cover letter and when writing your cover letter, but sure to touch on the main position requirements listed in the PD and align your experience to them. It is also a good idea to format your resume for each application to highlight the your experience that is most relevant to the role you are applying for – this could involve customising your outline/professional statement and/or providing more details about your relevant work experience, and keeping the details of the non-relevant work experience brief. 

 

My final piece of advice is to take on whatever casual work or short-term work you can get in order to build up experience AND open up additional opportunities! SO many academic librarians start out as casuals. Once you are a casual at an academic library, you will have the option to apply for internal roles and secondments, many of which are not advertised publicly. It really is a great way to get your foot in the door. Even as an experienced Librarian, I have taken on casual work at a university library which I wanted to work at, as a successful pathway to other roles in that library.

Thank you Lucinda for assisting our Academic Library QandA.

Stay tuned to our ALIA Students and New Graduates Grou blog for more Academic Libray QandA blog posts!

– ALIA SNGG Team

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