Youth Engagement



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Things I learned Today.

This instance (edition? Issue? Update?) of Things I Learned Today isn’t very pleasant. There’s punishment and torture, penal (heh) colonies, criminals and lawless Commandants aplenty. I’m updating the MARC records for our Australian history reference collection ahead of the start of our third term at the college and came across some interesting reading. Here’s what I learned:

Norfolk Island, South Pacific Ocean. Sub-tropical weather, a nice island lifestyle. Sounds quite nice doesn’t it? Well not if you lived in the late 18th to mid 19th century.

Norfolk was settled 3 times, the second of which, from 1825 to 1855 allowed no private settlers, and was a penal colony only. Run by Commandants, and only loosely presided over by the British government, bad conditions, punishment and torture and executions were all extremely common. There was little to no regard for convict rights and prisoners were forced into grueling manual labour. The single attempt at reform was foiled by subordinates. Finally, government reforms were initiated after intense public pressure was applied, and the penal colonies were abolished. Norfolk Island was settled by Pitcairn Islanders in 1886 and officially became part of Australia in 1914, most likely due to mounting international troubles and threats caused by WWI. It’s amazing to think about how hard so many people’s lives were. And, sadly, in many places around the world people are still living in horrible conditions.

Also it turns out that, from the material I read, historic writing in the 1970’s and 1980’s seems to have been a tab homophobic: “The convicts developed a cruel sub-culture little better than the one which dominated them and in which homosexuality was the norm.” I’m not comfortable with that description in the blurb. Yes I know that the convicts had to do what they could to survive, both mentally and physically. Yes I am aware that probably some prisoners were victimised against their will. That’s not a problem. It’s more that the author’s description, and therefore judgement seems a bit… skewed. Oh well, them were the days I guess. Not.

So yes. Interesting material today. Stay tuned for the next update of Things I learned Today (don’t really, you’ll probably be waiting a while…). Instead maybe look for my next post about library people and job titles, and whether they actually matter any more. I’m hoping to have it up tomorrow (9/7/13), or at the latest Thursday (11/7/13). Thanks for reading.

Britts, M.G. 1980 The Commandants: the tyrants who ruled Norfolk Island KAPAK, Norfolk Island.

Cox, P. & Stacey, W. 1971 Building Norfolk Island Nelson, Melbourne ; Sydney ; London.

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Things I learned today.

I’m trying this out as a regular feature on 245. As librarians we, and this may be a massive generalisation, tend to learn new things quite often. Strange, wonderful things we never thought we would ever need to know or ever come across. In fact you can read about it here over at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Basically I’m going to try and post fairly frequently, probably irregularly, about interesting things that I learn in the library.

Going through our old library records in the process of building our archive collection, we found an original 1919 Australian infantry discharge certificate from the 45th Battalion. It was quite a surprise find considering our current library was only built in 2001, and previous to that the collection was spread over three or four different libraries. It’s safe to say that no one who has worked here in the last thirty years knew it was there. We’ve added it to our archive collection as a curiosity and a possible history learning resource. While checking its authenticity I learned all about the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and the 45th’s role in the Hundred Days Offensive and the Battle of the Hindenburg Line. It made me think about what the original owner must have gone through. Having grown up in Scotland and only coming to live in Australia at the end of 2011, I found it all very interesting and it was humbling to work with such a historical document (which is now in archival quality storage).

While cataloguing for the archive collection I also found quite a lot of material on the old, decommissioned Hydro villages in Tasmania. For those of you that don’t know, Tasmania runs entirely on hydro-electric power. Between 1914 and the late 1980s quite a few Hydro villages were built out in the middle of nowhere, to accommodate construction and dam workers and their families. Gradually lower water supply and lower than expected demand for power lead to the end of further dam building, and as the major dams became more efficient lesser dams were also closed. That meant that these small communities no longer had a purpose, so they literally picked up everything and moved elsewhere. Click here to see what’s left of the Butler’s Gorge power station community. There are at least ten, if not twenty ghost abandoned Hydro villages around Tasmania. It’s really weird. Like really, really weird. Some, such as Tarraleah, have managed to survive as tourist destinations, but most are just gone, leaving behind empty blocks of land and deteriorating roads.

Also, apparently we have John Le Carre novels in the library now, so that’s a win.


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Advice for New Grads

So here it is. I am a new grad. I am a qualified librarian working as a library technician on a permanent contract. I’ve volunteered for the state library, I’m an Associate, I’m on the state and public relief registers and I’ve worked as a relief reference librarian. I’m still hunting for that elusive full-time, professional position that we all dream of. I’m not exactly the most experienced of librarians but I know that being a recent graduate can be tough, especially outside of the major cities and business hubs. I have learned a few things though, through finding what work I can and talking to other, longer-serving professionals.

Here are ten pieces of advice, some of them gained from others, some of them I’ve learned myself along the way. Some of them were even ignored, thrown away and then came back with that irritating I-told-you-so, knowing smile…

Be open minded.

It’s important to remember that you’re only one of many newly qualified librarians. Gone are the days when there was a job waiting for every new graduate (actually I’m pretty sure the last time that was an option was a couple of decades before I was born…). Entry level positions are already becoming a rarity, so unless you have a few years of highly relevant experience, say in education, management or publishing, you’re not going to have an easy ride. Being open to new ideas and situations is essential not only to survive but to progress.

One of the most important things I’ve found is that to work in the library and information services industry, especially as a newcomer, you need to be ready to accept any work that is offered. Whether that is casual work or work below your qualification level, like technician and customer service positions, it all helps you build your practical experience and shows your resilience. Freelance research for both individual and corporate clients (law firms are great for this) is a way to build those reference and business skills and get paid for it while searching for more permanent work. Universities often offer a few paid casual hours a week for shelving, so there’s that too.

And when you do find regular work, don’t be afraid to try as many new and different things as the position is able to offer. Branch out and you’ll usually be rewarded.

Volunteer… selectively.

At the start of your job search, you may want to consider volunteering for everything that will give you experience, if you have the time to spare. Volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door, from helping clients with IT and general computer issues, to offering help with genealogical research through local history societies. There are many many ways you can combine your interests with volunteering to build your skills.

You shouldn’t continue mindlessly volunteering for more than a few months though. If you want to find work, eventually you’re going to have to volunteer selectively. That means doing some serious thinking about who the big employers are. Public libraries, state libraries, city/state archives, universities. You have a portfolio of previous volunteer work, now find some unique and valuable way to volunteer and approach all of the major employers you can think of. Build a detailed project package, outline what you can offer and that it is a valuable, and most importantly free, service. Skilled volunteering can lead to employment, even at a casual level. Getting paid for your work means that you can put even more time and resources into getting that permanent job.

Volunteering is a great way to meet people, one of the most important things in the sometimes small and insulated LIS community. You’ll find that most people working in the sector, at a local level at least, will know each other quite well, which is why it’s so important to…

Network network network!

The three N’s. Well the one, big N, repeated two more times for emphasis anyway. Get out there and meet people, get your name known. Social media is a great starting point for being an active member of the community. Reading and commenting on blogs and joining mailing lists are great stay at home ways to contribute. Twitter especially has thousands of LIS professionals ready, waiting and eager for professional discourse. Ok, maybe more like busy and checking Twitter in the odd bits of down time they have rather than waiting, but you get the picture and I digress.

But like everything to do with technology these days, it can be easy to focus on social media without paying proper attention to your physical locality. It is unlikely that social media will give you a job for example. You need to promote yourself so that employers know you’re there. Applying for jobs is a start, but follow up on every application by phone to really stick in people’s minds. Go to meetings and conferences. Arrange to have a tour of your local public/state/university library. I’ve found that if you go about it in the right way, people are very receptive to showing you around and telling you about what they do. People are actually pretty nice.

You should already have at least some sort of contact list from library school, like your lecturers, the uni librarians and staff from your student placements. Use that as a starting point and see who they can get you in touch with.

Get to know the major players… and your competition.

A cross between networking and stalking… no not really, but knowing who’s in charge is beneficial. Find out who the managers are and who the power brokers and recruiting managers are in your local library sector. These are the people you should be focusing your applications and networking on.

On the other side of the coin, find out more about your competition. What do other new grads have to offer and how do they compare to you? Are they doing anything different? Do they have different job search strategies you could use? It may also be a good idea to share information with them to build relationships in the future. These people will probably be among your future colleagues after all.

Get on relief registers.

Relief work is work, and while not permanent, it can lead to contract work, or at the least become a regular thing. It helps build your experience and improve those skills too. It also lets you try working in a variety of different organisations and can therefore help you figure out what suits you best.

Keep on top of that professional development.

Obviously our skills are important, and just like any skill they need practice and can always be improved on. Academic reading, blogs, workshops, courses, discussion with others, it’s all good.

Become an associate.

Associate member of ALIA

Being an associate is a good thing!

Joining your national association (ALA, ALIA, CILIP, etc.) is expensive, but it is worth it in the long run to have access to their professional development schemes, journals, networking and job listings. If you have the time and inclination, you can get involved with their groups and events. It shows commitment to your chosen profession and the PD is accredited. Associations try hard to help out new grads, championing conferences and symposiums and offering various free and member services, like resume review services.

Also, post-nominals!

Scope out the industry in your area.

How does your immediate area look in terms of job prospects? Do you need to travel further afield for work? Do you need to move for work? Is there a shortage of jobs now but in one or two or five years time positions will become available to replace retirees? Does it even look like retiring employees will be replaced? Look into local city and state policy for libraries and recruitment. Look for trends in hiring and positions offered. There may be wider budget cuts that could affect recruitment so check government publications and the news too. Budget cuts are horrible and libraries are often one of the first targets. For example budget cuts may lead to a trend of deskilling in the area, with customer service positions being offered over library technicians or librarians.

Don’t be afraid to branch out.

You can use your qualifications and skills across a fair few sectors. You’re not tied to public libraries, no matter what the stereotypes say. Archive offices, private collections, museums, schools, universities, government departments and law offices all use information professionals.

There’s the option of going into consultancy, especially if you have an understanding of ICT systems and management. Information organisation is actually pretty important (duh…), and corporate businesses are on the ball in this regard. Anther option for LIS professionals may be knowledge management positions, thinking about how knowledge and information is stored and transferred in a corporate setting.

Basically, if you’re having trouble finding work in an actual library, there are a lot of other options out there.

Don’t give up, ever.

It’s important not to give on finding work. I should know, I used to work in the music industry! Casual and part-time work is a great stepping stone, both for experience and onto further employment. Yes, you may have to work in a non-related field, even in an unskilled position if needed. Apply for every job no matter how high level, if for no other reason than to practice your application technique. And you never know, you might even get the position. Think about interviews and how to practice for them. Active searching needs to be maintained and monitored, as it’s so easy to slip out of the habit, especially if you have some sort of work already. Overall though, employment rates are actually pretty good, with I think around 90% (citation needed…) of LIS graduates in Australia working in the industry after their first year out of uni. You just need to stick it out, be smart and get out there.


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245$a Two Four Five / $h [blog] $c James Mcgoran.

Welcome to 245, a new blog for librarians new and old, and everyone else. I hope you all like the reference in the blog title (actually if even one person gets it then I’ll be ecstatic…). I’ll talk about being a new graduate, the state of libraries in today’s world and what role they should play.

I’m a new graduate my self from the University of Tasmania, having completed my librarianship, the Grad. Dip. of Information Management at the end of 2012. I’m a library advocate and believe that libraries and library professionals have a vastly important role to play in they way the world finds and accesses high quality information. I have a background in commercial music, including events management, A & R, production and publishing. I’m currently working as a library technician in Launceston, Tasmania, among other things.

Please allow some (lots of) time to allow me to set up the blog and to write posts.


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