Susan Walton ALIA SNGG Profile

Welcome to the GLAM professional profile for May!

This month we meet Susan Walton, the Collection Services Manager at the NSW Parliamentary Library. Susan has worked in many roles throughout her information career, presented at conferences and written journal articles. Here she provides us with some invaluable tips for those starting out in their GLAM careers.

What advice would you give students and new graduates starting out in the industry?

1. Ask lots of questions. Your colleagues who have been in the industry for a while are generally the best source of information. When they tell you they don’t mind how many questions you ask, they mean it!

2. Don’t be put off or feel slighted if you’re asked to do the small stuff. I was a library assistant for three years before I became a librarian and I still consider it the best basis for a career in the library and information industry. I gained experience in every aspect of library work and those skills never leave you – I can still cover books like a pro!

3. Try not to roll your eyes and make rude noises when people say to you, ‘Oh you’re a librarian. I love reading!’ Just politely say that you love reading too, but as a librarian you barely have the time these days!

What skills or characteristics have been most important to you in your career, and how did you develop them?

1. The ability to learn fast and hit the ground running. In my 25 year + career in the industry I’ve had proper training and induction to a job just the once. Particularly in contract roles, the other library staff generally just want you to get on with the job and there’s usually no time for training anyway if you’re there for just a few months.

2. Knowing what it’s like on both sides of the ‘professional fence’. Starting as a library assistant gave me an appreciation for the different skill sets of librarians and library technicians. Qualifications don’t matter when you can’t locate an item and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been rescued by an LT when I was on the reference desk!

3. Mastering the art of keeping a professional demeanour when inside your head you’re shrieking, ‘you want to know what?!’ This has been an essential skill during my career, especially when I’ve been asked to find items such as a 1971 edition of Australian Playboy (yep, that was a real inquiry …)

Check out a recent journal article Susan wrote, ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat’: Navigating an ocean of media in the New South Wales parliamentary library in the Australasian Parliamentary Review. Available on APAFT or freely via the publisher’s website.


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