DIY PD for LT – ALIA’s Lib Tech 2017 Conference Recap

When I heard that the ALIA Lib Tech Conference were looking for abstracts, I thought, why not give it a go? So I ended up standing in an auditorium full of fellow library technicians talking about what I do, and it was a fantastic experience.

The one overarching theme of the conference was DIY PD for LT (Do it Yourself – Professional Development for Library Technician’s). The conference provided an opportunity see the range of issues that library technicians face and how these cross over to what I do working with a special collections repository.
Another theme was, ‘we’re all in this together, let’s collaborate’. There were a great range of social activities for networking opportunities. The sessions were great but perhaps even more valuable were the connections I made with others in my field. It was also wonderful to be a presenter at a smaller conference like this, people were very friendly.

Here’s a day by day recap of the conference.

The Tours – Day 0

I toured the fantastic digitisation lab at State Library of NSW and the Art Gallery of NSW Library. Both of these were fantastic but I won’t dwell on these but simply say, if you have a chance to tour either of these facilities, take it! An interesting tidbit, the State Library refers to their library users as ‘readers’ not ‘clients.

Mitchell Library Reading Room, State Library of NSW

The Sessions – Day 1

The conference started with a bang with President of ALIA Vicki McDonald discussing the need for information professionals to both take advantage of opportunities and create opportunities for themselves. You are in charge of your own professional development (this came up time and time again throughout the conference).

Debra Gilmore who won the LT Research Award presented on the question, is there a need for increased ICT training in library technician courses in Australia? Great research here. Debra surveyed libraries and library technicians and the answer was an overwhelming, Yes.

Trent Tascon-Guillame had a wonderful presentation on connecting youth with the community. It was really interesting to see the ways in which he and library he works at are encouraging cross-generational learning and collaboration. He discussed three challenges in engaging with young people: change, age-based biases and ‘token’ participation. Trent used the slide below to point out some of the differences between age groups in their use of ICT, a good example of knowing your audience.

Statistics on age difference and IT use from Trent’s talk

Renate Beilharz asked the question, Is programming essential for metadata specialists? She said that catalogers represented a very small piece of the pie in the world of data (see picture below). We don’t need to become programmers to be catalogers but we need to understand the underpinnings.

Metadata Universe capture
Excerpt from Seeing Standards – A Visualization of the Metadata Universe from Jenn Riley, CC BY NC SA, referred to in Renate Beilharz’s talk

Dr. Edmund Balnaves gave an interesting overview on harvesting to build institutional knowledge resources and discussed how cataloguing and search were essential for access.

The Q&A open forum panel discussion was with two librarians from America and one from Canada about differences in how how library technicians, professional organisations and conferences work in North America to how they work in Australia. One interesting fact from this one: the ALA conference usually has about 20,000 delegates! I can’t imagine what a conference like that would be like.

I also presented on this day and I will make a separate post with that content later.

The Sessions – Day 2

Day 2 started off with Dr. Perry McIntyre from Anchor books talking about how she believes in the value of physical/print books, an interesting perspective in an increasingly digital world.

Roxanne Missingham (rock star of the Australian library profession) discussed bridges for new careers and libraries as bridges of knowledge. Her presentation was very engaging with some live polling taking place during the presentation. She urges that we needed to be open to movement across sectors, especially since we have a lot to learn from each other.

‘A student walks into a University Library’ by Gaynor Cotter and Elizabeth Quilty of University of Sydney, explored some of the ways they support and encourage their students. I was amazed at the similarity between what they are providing at their library and what we are doing for students at the University of Newcastle.

There was more to this day but this post is getting too long…I will post more about the conference’s PD theme and ‘future-proofing’ your career next week.





So you want to be a conference presenter

Earlier this year I attended my first ever conference, now I’m getting the chance to write about presenting at a conference for the first time.

I am writing this for any librarians (or other GLAMRs) out there who might be reading this and think, “I could never do that” or “I could do that, why haven’t I?”.  Maybe there are people reading this interested in presenting at a conference and not sure where to start. This is the best conferencing advice I have so far (after completing only one, I am now an expert 😉).

My first experience presenting was at the Oral History Australia conference on a panel and my next one is in two weeks’ time at ALIA’s Library Technician conference present by myself. Next year I am presenting at VALA 2018 with my boss. The completed OHA presentation was on the Voices of the Hunter oral history project.

Below is a photo of my co-presenters and our panel Chair. Left to right are Alistair Thomson (Chair), me (Paige Wright), Rosie Heritage, Tyler Hersey and Lyn Keily. Rosie started the panel by introducing the oral history collection and it’s creator, Jack Delaney. Lyn and I talked more about the collection, data and how we enrich and provide access to the collection through our Living Histories @ UON site and through community outreach. Tyler discussed how to examine data from site traffic and use that to connect with audiences better. Lyn, Rosie and I worked together on the Voices of the Hunter project and Tyler works for NZMS whose community engagement platform Recollect runs the Living Histories @ UON site.

conference team

So how did I get there?

The first step is getting your abstract accepted and I have some very particular advice about this:

If one of your peers from another institution, library, whatever dropped by to see what you do at work, what would you tell them about your job? Is there anything new or exciting you want to share? The thing that you want to share with everyone about your job is the thing you should be writing an abstract and giving your presentation about. What is your story? It could be a story of success or a story of failure, people are interesting in hearing both at conferences. You don’t have to present Research at a conference but you can if you want. Sometimes you present first and end up doing a research project later (see Annelie de Villier’s experiences).

Also for a first-timer, why not present as a duo or part of a group? I found I was very comfortable presenting alongside my colleagues for the OHA conference. The amount of work you have to do in abstract writing, paper writing, and presenting in a group is less than if you had to present by yourself.

Once you’ve found the topic you want to present, then find a conference to suit. My first approach to abstract writing was to pick a conference that I really wanted to go to and make up something that I thought people at that conference would like to hear. Guess what? That one was not accepted because it wasn’t ‘real’, I wasn’t connected enough to what I wanted to say.

Instead of looking at conferences related to your particular GLAMR field, why not try a different one or one that would suit more than one profession. The OHA conference is an example of one that is attending by GLAMR people from many different types of institutions. You can also go the other way and try to find the conference that most specifically suits your nice, such as mine as a library technician. In any case, both of these are smaller conferences and I would suggest STARTING SMALL. It’s less pressure, less people and overall a more comfortable atmosphere.

I also want to point out the importance of knowing your conference. Do you have to write a peer-reviewed paper? Do you have to write a paper at all or just do a presentation? Find this out before you say ‘yes’ to presenting as it can make a big impact on how much time and work it will take you to prepare for the conference.

Building professional-level public speaking skills has been something I have worked on for years. In the lead up to this, I was given many opportunities to present to groups at workshops and events, and even presented to my colleagues at a university library staff update. All of these have helped build my presenting confidence but I still get nervous. One of my work mentors gave me some really great advice on this she said, “Just remember, you are the expert on this. They are not listening to you trying contradict you are prove you wrong, they just want to learn from you.”

One other piece of advice I can give is the more preparation you do, the better your presentation will be. Go over your slides, again and again and again. Practice them in front of people. Write notes on your Powerpoint  (you can see these during the presentation).

This first conference experience has been so positive. Everyone has been wonderful in telling me and my co-presenters that they enjoyed our session. Also, it was great getting feedback on the presentation on Twitter. I was so flattered that someone posted a photo of me presenting, it felt wonderful that others were so interested in a project that I had put so much work into.

One of the most helpful things I did in the lead up to my first conference presentation was to attend a VALA webinar on writing and presenting conference papers. You can still see the content of the webinar here. They outline some excellent do’s and don’ts of presenting and, unlike myself, the individuals speaking in the webinar have years of conference presenting experience.

So get out there, build your skills, write an abstract and if it’s not accepted don’t take rejection to heart (I didn’t).

FYI – Just in case you didn’t know, presenters are required to PAY to go to the conference, just like everyone else, but usually at a discounted rate. You might be able to get your employer to pay for the conference fee out of their PD fund (it’s worth a shot?). 

Will I have even more advice after my presenting by myself at the Lib Tech conference? Tune in, in about two weeks’ time for the answer.



The Why and How of PD: ALIA Lib Tech Conference Recap (Part 2)

This is my second post recapping ALIA Lib Tech 2017. The first can be found here.

One of the major themes of the conference was the importance of professional development (PD). As one speaker put it, “You are the CEO of your own career.” Why is PD so important? There are many reasons but one of the most challenging is that you never know what’s around the corner and PD will help you prepare for the future.

Natalia Fibrich’s ‘Future-proofing your career in times of change’ was absolutely packed full of great advice, engaging slides with beautiful images and quotes with a few relevant stats mixed in. She warned us not to get complacent in our current roles. Natalia gave five tips for a future-proofed library career: Practical experience, networking, attitude, foresight and professional development. My favourite quote from Natalia is, “Your career is always in Beta mode.”  Another interesting point she made was how the 70:20:10 principle applies to your career. Here’s the best infographic I could find to explain this:

Image: 70: 20: 10 model as part of the Adidas learning campus, Source: Adidas

What does the 70:20:10 principle mean for our professional development? If we don’t actively participate in PD activities, we are missing out on 30% of what we need to know.

Judy Brooker, ALIA’s director of learning, spoke about professional development and becoming an ALIA Certified Professional. Judy’s was one of the most both exciting and practical presentations.

I have been a member of ALIA’s PD scheme for a few years now and I highly recommend it. One of the most useful things of being part of their scheme is Amy Walduck’s PD Postings email. The PD scheme is FREE to any ALIA member. ALIA’s PD scheme also provides skills audit checklists. You can also choose a specialization, which could help you switch from one field to another.

Judy’s top tips for PD were:

Make a plan, set realistic goals and put PD in your calendar.

I am definitely putting these into effect and in a few month’s time I will write a blog post reporting progress on my PD plan. Anyone else out there pledging to put PD in their calendar?







Those research birds: a day with LARK

Friday I attended the ALIA LARK (Library Applied Research Kollektive) seminar, Holy Evidence! Research in Information Practice. This post will discuss some highlights and tips from the seminar, so if you are a GLAMR professional interested in research, read on! If you are interested in knowing more about LARK, please read their blog.

The day started out with Dr. Suzana Sukovic (‘Mother of LARK’, works at HETI) explaining a bit about LARK itself. She made the point that a lot of research happens in bubbles and LARK is about breaking these bubbles and making connections between LIS researchers. She noted the biggest challenges faced by LIS researchers are time, skills and that it’s not part of their job descriptions. Librarians can be aided by organisational support, communities of practice, grants to free time and interprofessional learning.

It is important to note at this point that research is a complicated topic. There are academics out there doing Research, living in the world of Phds and peer-reviewing. There are also information practitioners who are doing research, sometimes internally for their own workplace benefit and sometimes presenting their findings at conferences. After this seminar I can see that these two types of researchers can benefit from each other. In fact, Fiona Salisbury and Dr. Bhuva Narayan, Co-chairs of the ALIA Research Advisory Committee talked to the group about how the ALIA research grant focused on providing support for projects in which academics and LIS practitioners collaborated.

We also heard a bit from Dr. Bhuva Narayan and Dr. Mary Anne Kennan about JALIA – ALIA’s journal. I learned that JALIA articles had different levels of articles, including a feature called ‘Information in Practice’ which is sharing what people are doing in the field and not peer-reviewed, although peer-reviewed research articles are also featured. It gives an opportunity for people with different research skill levels to be involved in being published.

One re-occurring theme of the day was intraprofessional learning. We heard from David Schmidt of HETI who talked about overcoming barriers to research and being enablers of research. He also noted that often people put research on a pedestal, thinking it is something that people somewhere far away in lab coats do. David says, “If you have tenacity and curiosity, you have what you need to be a good researcher.” One of my favourite takeaways from David’s talk was the statement that ‘Librarians underestimate their ability to enable research by connecting people’.  Here is a slide from David’s presentation, which shows off his amazing MS Paint illustration skills:

A slide from David Schmidt’s presentation.

The research in LIS practice panel discussion was amazing and we heard from an academic librarian, a public librarian and a health librarian. They all had interesting projects and unique perspectives. Sally Scholefield talked about her collaboration with academics on writing a research paper on the RFID project at UTS. You can read the paper here. Liz Griffiths from Willoughby City Council Libraries discussed peer-led learning in a public library and I found the public library research perspective fascinating. Suzanne Lewis from the Central Coast Local Health District talked about her collaborative project designing an integrated care search filter. Suzanne’s research amazed me in that there were so many different people involved in the project and she managed to co-ordinate them all.

The second half of the day we heard more from our research experts on skills for research in practice. The biggest takeaways from this were 1) align your research with the strategic goals of your library and get the support of you organisation 2) Follow through all the research steps: planning, acting, observing, reflecting, organisation process, organisation support 3) Share your research, either internally with your colleagues or externally by publishing or even blogging about it.

The overall outcome of the day for me is that I am more interested in research than ever before. From here I’m going to comb the LARK blog for more tips, keep reading peer-reviewed LIS research articles, comb through my notes from the seminar and start forming my research question.  I’m interested in hearing your first-time research stories and tips. If you have any for me, please comment or tweet me at @WrightPaige.

Standing Against Hate


Hello, I am a privileged middle-class Caucasian woman and I probably have no right to talk about this, however, the repeated instances of racism, inequality and hate in both the America and Australia truly astound me and this is my way of standing up and saying IT’S NOT OK.

This blog is a result of a few influences. A couple of weeks ago a came across this post by American archivist Jarrett Drake about how he felt it was time to leave his profession due to a ‘complicit silence’, systemic racism and insensitivity. It made me think a lot about myself and my career as a librarian and how I could put myself in the shoes of fellow minority co-workers. I had seen the news from the US about the riots in Ferguson, MO, but felt very distant to what was happening there (though I am American, I have lived in Australia for over a decade). Drake’s post made me think twice about what was happening over there and how it translated to what was happening here in Australia, especially the quote about how archivists ‘curate history not confront it’.

The second major influence for this blog was reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I listened to it on audio book and it moved me to tears. It’s the account of a young African-American woman who witnesses her friend being shot by a white police officer. I just want to note here, that I love and respect police officers. My father was a police officer that died in the line of duty. The book however, was not about disrespecting police officers. In fact, the main characters’ uncle was a police officer. It was about what Drake was talking about in his blog, the systemic racism built into American society. It is well-written, dramatic and a wonderful eye-opening read for anyone from middle-school onward. One of the most important things this book does is look at racism head on and make the point that just because you don’t consider yourself a racist, have racist intentions and didn’t say or do a thing to intentionally hurt someone, that doesn’t what you said or did ok.

You might be thinking, what does all the American stuff have to do with Australia? It has everything to do with Australia. Racism is everywhere towards both migrants and the traditional owners of this land. Racially motivated police brutality in Australia might not be as direct as it is in America but it’s there. All you have to do is take a look at the statistics for Aboriginal deaths in custody. Also, there is the recent case in Kalgoorlie of a white man who ran over an Aboriginal teenage boy. The man was found ‘not guilty’ of killing the boy, by an all-white jury.

Now that my eyes are opened and I am more aware of what’s happening, what can I do to change it? I am outraged, I am saddened and I vow that I am no longer silent when it comes to racism. I will take every opportunity to bring up these issues, to urge people to read The Hate U Give, I will stand up against racist behavior at every opportunity and I will educate people when I can. As a librarian in a special collections library I will recognize the traditional owners of Australia at every opportunity.

If you want to know more about the issues I have discussed in my blog today, please consider looking at these sources:

Racism on the Rise in Australia – Sydney Morning Herald

Racism in Aboriginal Australia – Creative Spirits

Black Lives Matter

If you work in the GLAM sector, I would highly recommend following the blog posts of ‘Archival Decolonist‘ Nathan Sentance. He has fascinating insights on Indigenous issues in the GLAM profession and I find myself reading his blog posts more than once just to digest all he’s saying.

One last thing: I know the little I’m doing is still not much in the scheme of things but I CARE,  it’s a start.








Who do we think we are? The GLAM Identity Crossroads

With the growth of the GLAM movement, there has been more talk about the convergence of galleries, libraries, archives, museums and everything in-between. Working in the Cultural Collections area of an Australian academic library I work at the intersection between these disciplines. Our team contains a hodgepodge of professionals: archivists, librarians, a conservator and an historian. We also regularly collaborate with the campus Gallery Co-ordinator. What do we all have in common?  A passion for culture, people, curation and preservation. Our tasks can sometimes overlap but we all have strengths and skill sets that complement each other.

The similarities and differences between GLAM professionals makes for interesting reading. I particularly enjoyed the passion of Archivist Adrian Cunningham in Digital Curation/Digital Archiving: A View from the National Archives of Australia. In this article Cunningham strongly objects to the phrases ‘digital archives’ and ‘digital libraries’ being interchangeable. He states that they are different but both a form of digital curation. While his discussion starts with terminology, his main focus is on how archives work is different from that of museum or library work. He states that  ‘archives implement and manage systems for carrying record keeping systems forward across time and domains of use’. Basically for archivists, it is not just about the records but also the contextual relationships surrounding them. Cunningham believes that losing distinctions between information professions is a problem:

  “…broad cross-domain collaboration does not serve us well if it means we ignore the vitally important differences between our various professional missions”
– Adrian Cunningham (2008, p 532)

To look at it a different way, a librarian might search for a book that directly meets an information request. An archivist might go to that same book and think about how the book got on the shelf and who owned it before it got there and if there are any bookmarks in the book. A museum curator might think about which illustrations or spread of the book would look nice in an exhibition. A historian might think about the era the book was published in and what it tells us about that era. A conservator might look at the book and think, how much longer will this book last and what can I do to make it last longer? It is true, we are sometimes very different.

The issue here is they could all apply to me depending on what project I am working on. I’m not the only one, this is happening more in our industry than ever before and the word ‘librarchivist’ is starting to appear. It has been noted that this overlapping of tasks is an effect of the rise of digital resources in our professions, something called digital convergence.

A great paper I have recently come across on digital convergence is an essay in a 2014 issue of Library Trends by Paul F. Marty. In it, Marty highlights the ideas of W. Boyd Rayward who was one of the first academics to examine how electronic information is changing the traditional roles of information professionals. In 1998 Rayward predicted that as we move forward there will be less to distinguish between cultural institutions such as archives, libraries and museums. Marty points out the difference between our internal institutional identities and the external identities of how we are viewed by our users. The distinction I made in the above paragraph between how the archivist, the librarian and the museum curator would view a book makes sense to those in the information profession but does not register with our users.

To put us in this perspective let’s look at the example National Library of Australia, National Archives of Australia and National Museum of Australia. All reside in large, impressive buildings in Canberra, all hold items of historical significance and they all have both physical and virtual exhibitions. In fact, I’m sure you would find a large percentage of people employed by those institutions would have a professional equivalent in each of the three institutions. It’s important to point at here that they are NOT the same. They are all wonderful institutions that do fantastic work and each is important. However, what distinction would the average person on the street make between these three institutions? Users are more interested in what services they are provided with at these institutions than the professional title of the person providing that service.

Why is this a big deal? What does this mean for us a professionals? It means that we are all facing the same users and the same issues (Marty, 2014). What it means is:

We have more in common than we admit. We should SHARE more, COLLABORATE more, CO-OPERATE more.

In my professional readings on this topic, I came across an interesting study by Helena Robinson surveying institutions that have converged teams of professionals (2016). It is interesting to note that her research found many negative aspects of cross-disciplinary teams including a decline in specialist skill quality. Considering this perspective highlight’s Cunnigham’s (2008) view that we need to remember what makes us different. I can see that we can LEARN a lot from each other but we should not try to BE each other. There is a fine balancing point between keeping our professions too far apart and bringing them too close together. The good news is, there are already organisations at work doing just this.

The GLAM Peak body is working on finding common ground in joint advocacy of issues that effect all cultural institutions. I’ve also heard rumors of a 2020 GLAM conference in Australia, but what do we do until then? Personally, I’m not just going to keep track of library conferences and library journals, but have a look at what the archivists and museum associations are doing. I’m also going to take every opportunity to work on special projects with other GLAM professionals. Perhaps the easier way to keep track of GLAM issues is on social media. For example, I will be tweeting about this blog tagged with #GLAMblogclub (and I’m sure many of you reading this would have found it that way). I believe that by making these small changes in the way we think about our profession and the way we interact with other professions will help move all of our professions into the future.


Marty, Paul (2014) Digital convergence and the information profession in cultural heritage organisations: reconciling internal and external demands, Library Trends, 62:3, 613-627, DOI:10.1353/lib.2014.0007

Robinson, Helena (2016) ‘A lot of people going that extra mile’: professional
collaboration and cross-disciplinarity in convereged collecting institutitions, Museum Management and Curatorship, 31:2, 141-158, DOI: 10.1080/09647775.2015.1070368

American Gods – Revisited

americangods2 AmericanGods.jpg

Six years ago I first read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and I blogged about it here.

I have recently listened to an audio book version of the text and my former review seems woefully inadequate.

American Gods is a beautiful blending of folk tales, Americana, prose, lyrics and vivid storytelling. I was swept away by Neil Gaiman’s descriptive writing and his unique perspective on American life. Reading it I am filled with sadness, thoughtfulness, amusement and sometimes even a little hope. Here is a small quote, which reflects the tone of the book, without spoiling anything:

“The house smelled musty and damp, and a little sweet, as if it were haunted by the ghosts of long-dead cookies.”
Neil Gaiman, American Gods

As an American who has lived in Australia for eleven years now, the vivid imagery of my ‘home’ (Midwest America) in the American Gods books made me nostalgic and homesick. The little diners, ‘Walking after midnight’ playing on the old jukebox, the friendliness and fierce protectiveness of small town residents, all of these things reminded me of home.

Reflecting back on the themes outlined in the book, I think the most important is the never-ending cycle of life, death and rebirth. This book was published over sixteen years ago and, sadly, the America Gaiman wrote about does not exist anymore. Luckily for us, a small piece of that era is preserved in this masterwork.

I wonder what American Gods would be like if he had written it about today’s America? One thing is for certain, America is changing and going through it’s own cycle of decline…but someday perhaps we will be experiencing America’s resurrection.

The adventure’s not over yet though, I look forward to reading the sequel, Anansi Boys, and watching the American Gods TV series.

*A quick note, I read Neil Gaiman’s Norse Gods anthology a few weeks previously and it was very helpful for understanding the Norse pantheon characters and associated symbolism in American Gods.