Review by Alison Hommema
University of South Australia
5 April 2006
After having missed out on the last ‘A Day in the Life’ held by SALIN, I was determined to make it along to this one, and it was well worth it. The three speakers we were treated to were:
# Jenny Paradiso (Support Librarian, ExLibris)
# Jane Thimke (Archivist, State Records)
# Helen Hennessy (Manager, Gawler Public Library)
While it was very interesting to hear about how different types of information agencies are run, it was also interesting to find out how these professionals got to the positions they are now in. All three gave lots of good advice for new information professionals.
Jenny had worked in public libraries for over 10 years before she made the move to the “dark side” and now works for a library vendor. While it meant making a complete change in career, and was a bit daunting at first, she’s extremely glad she did it as she loves her job and now thinks it would be hard to go back. Some of the advantages she finds having made the move to the private sector are: the travel, due to ExLibris being an international company Jenny gets to travel around the country to visit her clients as well as overseas for conferences and training. She loves that she gets to speak to and meet people from all around the world, she feels this position has broadened her horizons as she gets to learn so much about different cultures and countries. Another advantage she finds is being able to manage herself and set her own goals for what she wants to achieve, she also doesn’t manage any staff which she feels is a nice break from previous positions.
However even though the travel does get to scratch her itchy feet, she also finds doing so much of it can get a bit tiring and she does get a bit homesick. Also the fact that she is the only representative for her particular products in Australia can be hard as it is quite isolating, there is no-one to ask the quick questions. Due to the time differences by the time someone gets her email, then sends her back the answer it is the next day for Jenny and then if the other person misunderstood her she has to send another email and wait yet another day! Overall however she feels the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
Jane has led a very varied career, working for the Cancer Council in Melbourne, working for a government television station and a greenhouse in the US, before finally moving to Adelaide about 10 years ago after completing her masters in library and information studies with a focus on archives administration. Jane originally wanted to work in public libraries, however after joining ALIA to get involved with some networking she gained a position of setting up a basic information management system for someone who was quite influential and who helped her immensely with her CV and acting as a referee. Jane could not emphasise enough the value of networking and also gave us the great advice of not pigeon holing ourselves as you never know where life is going to take you, as has obviously been the case for her.
In regards to working at State Records, she loves, the research and the satisfaction in helping clients, there are records which date back to 1836 and Jane finds some of the history fascinating. She also gets to meet interesting people, researchers, and peers in the history field from around Australia, such as State Libraries, the National Library and National Archives. She does however find the red tape and structure of Government a little restricting at times, as it can mean that finding information or making changes takes time. One of Jane’s mottos is that who you are shows through in your job, you should do your best to find a job where you can be yourself this has obviously worked for her.
Helen returned to the public libraries sector after a gap of 13 years. She thought that by working closer to home she would have more free time, but unfortunately that time that used to be spent travelling is now spent at work. She misses that time that was spent reading and is surprised she hasn’t been kicked out of her book club, luckily she has been able to find enough reviews to bluff her way through so far! Helen gave us some great advice that you have to love what you do, and as she loves variety it sounds like she made the right decision taking on the position she currently has. Helen says that far from being the ‘typical librarian’ dealing with order, her day can be completely chaotic. She has to be extremely flexible and be ready to deal with anything, from working on council and library projects, to managing and training staff, to working on the circulation desk. Flexibility also helps with the wide variety of clients that use the library and the wide variety of team members that work in the library.
Helen finds that communication is the key to her job, the library is the public face of the Council and by making sure she greets other council staff members at the start of her day, she raises the profile of the library. Humour is also important, Helen likened working in a public library to living in a goldfish bowl, customers notice the mood of the staff and make their opinion of the library within the first 3 seconds. Some great advice given by Helen was that no past experience is wasted, she herself draws on past Human Resources experience to manage her staff. She also feels that protecting your reputation is extremely important as Adelaide and the information sector is small and you never know who you might meet again.
I however would be happy to meet any of the above three again!