What does NLS mean to you?
For me, NLS is about our identity as new librarians. It is a forum for developing our own ideas of who we are as new librarians; where we fit in to the industry, where our unique strengths lie, and what common challenges and barriers we need to overcome. It is also a safe place where we can have a voice and share ideas as new librarians. We can express our frustrations without fear of condescension from our peers, and celebrate our limited experience and knowledge as a starting point to develop and grow.
When I attended NLS3 in 2006, I was only three months into my first librarian role. I had plenty of preconceived notions of what being a librarian was all about – all of which were swiftly debunked!
Coming to NLS in was an opportunity to meet many other librarians in the formative years of their career. Some of them were in a similar position as I, whilst others were a little more experienced, but still new enough to be able to understand the issues and provide peer support in overcoming challenges. It was also a chance to network and meet the “big-wigs” of the Austalian industry who have taken an interest in the future generation of librarians – people like Roxanne Missingham, Alan Smith, Alex Byrne, Helen Partridge and Graham Black.
Similarly, NLS4 in 2008 was particularly focused on unique barriers that new librarians face in the industry and, again, provided a forum for sharing our experiences and discussing strategies for overcoming them. It also turned an eye to the future of the industry, and the changing role that we will be playing, as librarians of the future, with keynotes from visionary thinkers such as Erik and Jaap from DOK, Delft, and Mark Pesce.
Each of these events have been utterly inspiring for me as a new librarian. They’ve been a boost to my enthusiasm for the industry, and a time to get excited about the possible futures of the industry, and the roles that we can play in it. They’ve been a place to not only think about my identity as a new librarian, but also find my tribe within the librarian community – colleagues and friends with whom I continue to share successes, work through challenges, and re-energise whenever my enthusiasm for the industry wanes.
Why did you get involved with NLS
I commenced my first job as a qualified librarian in September 2006 and, right from the start, I was keen to get involved in the ALIA New Graduates community. The NGG e-list was quite different back then, before everybody had a blog. It was *the* place to find library job listings, but it was also a vibrant forum for issues in the library industry. Discussion was plentiful, insightful and occasionally heated. There was a lot of online buzz leading up to NLS 2006 in December, and I was keen to meet many of the faces behind the names. Then, a call was put out for a couple of new graduates to participate in the “Great Debate” that opened the symposium. I put my hand up, and found myself on a team with Kay Harris and Roxanne Missingham. We won, of course.
Following NLS2006, I stayed in touch with many of the people I met, one of whom was Tania Barry, the NLS4 convenor. I found that we were very much on the same wavelength with our experiences and passion for the library industry, and when she asked me if I wanted to get involved in the committee in 2007, I jumped at the opportunity to join the team as the marketing coordinator. The theme was “Breaking Barriers”, looking at the barriers that exist in the progression of our careers, our profession, and the industry. These were all issues that I’d been blogging about at the time, from my perspective as a new librarian, and the opportunity to create an event that framed these issues within the inspired model of the New Librarians Symposium felt like the most valuable contribution that I could make to the industry, as a new librarian myself. That, and it was also a good excuse for a party in Melbourne.
How would you like to see NLS develop?
One of the biggest strengths of NLS is that, as a symposium, it has the flexibility to deviate from the traditional models of professional conference events. It’s not just about librarians getting up onto the podium and talking for 30 minutes with a powerpoint slideshow, whilst everybody takes notes (and tweets to each other). It also has panel sessions, workshops, debates, and forums. I’m a big fan of these kinds of interactive events, and getting delegates as involved in the sharing of ideas as possible, and I’d like to see this happen more. I also think that NLS can definitely be a safe space for really speaking one’s mind, and getting to the crux of the issues that can be so crippling for many new librarians. I’d like to see NLS create forums for more heated debate on the more controversial topics, which I’ll admit isn’t the easiest thing to do, but with the right kind of moderation to keep things on-topic and respectful, Tony Jones style, we can whip up some lively discussion that will keep us thinking for months afterward.
NLS is also unique in that it provides many new graduates to gain experience in delivering their first conference paper, and build their confidence in public speaking. However, this can often be a weakness to the program. I’d like to see NLS develop a more enforced peer review process, but with a difference. It wouldn’t be as a way of critiquing and questioning the validity of the paper, but more as a way of mentoring and supporting first-time presenters in building papers and presentations that are informed and interesting to the audience, and ensuring that presenters are well-prepared to deliver a first-class presentation on the day. I would also like to see a more interactive element brought to conference papers, incorporating a panel discussion and Q&A to papers, where speakers can drastically expand and debate the issues in their presentation.
Andrew Finegan is currently the acting Community Development Librarian at the City of Boroondara. He was the Marketing Coordinator at NLS4 and has also volunteered for ALIA with the New Graduates Group, Top End Group, and New Generation Advisory Committee. He tweets as @librarianidol.