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Perth ALIA NAC session report

Perth ALIA National National Advisory Congress report by ALIA WA State Manager Carol Newton-Smith:


We had a lively Perth ALIA National Advisory Congress at the State Library thanks to Margaret Allen for hosting the meeting and chairing the session. For those who were unable to attend, the event was tweeted using hashtag #alianac


WA ALIA members are pleased that their views were heard by the ALIA Board. The two Perth conferences demonstrate the extensive contribution that WA ALIA members give to the profession.

Discussion topic: ‘Future of the Profession’

1. What are some of the changes being experienced in your professional life?
• Many library positions did not exist even four years ago e.g. emerging technologies librarian
• What is a librarian? The role can change and vary according to your interpretation, your sector and you level. All librarians in some sense are assisting people find information whether or not they are sitting behind a reference desk. It is not always the traditional librarian role but the philosophy behind what you do is the same. Some positions such as being a manager are removed from being a professional librarian but you still use some of the skill set.

• Library staff now needs to learn a whole range of skills other than technology skills. For example skill development in:
1. dealing with licensing issues in the electronic era
2. negotiating skills in dealing with vendors
3. policy writing policy writing for detailing why we need new services/products to the executive.

• Legislation/copyright is struggling to keep up with new technologies and how they are used. For example one of the biggest issues for school library media centres is copyright especially related to
YouTube and teachers using clips in teaching. What is the role of a librarian in this especially with regard to teachers?

•Classification schemes needs to be more flexible to cope with change. For example one library needed a way to use Dewey to shelve books the genre e.g. detective.

Users find things in different ways to library staff. How do we learn what users are doing?

Entry into libraries may now may be from another profession.

How do you then get qualified as a librarian while working full time?
•Recognition is needed for on the job training.
•There is now an expectation of some pr ogrammes (e.g. those run in Public Libraries by Youth Services Librarians) that their success rating is judged by the size of the crowd being enticed into the library and the evaluation they receive.
•Librarians and library technicians need ongoing accreditation to foster respect as a professional. For example, teachers and health professionals (such as nurses) do not see librarians a profession because they have to do ongoing accreditation and library staff do not. Allied to that library staff are not good at branding themselves and marketing e.g. most council staff do not use librarians in a public library in their professional capacity, mostly they do not know what librarians are capable of. You need to be accredited to work in a Catholic school which increases respect for the profession. Librarians and library technicians now want accreditation. How can ALIA facilitate this Continuing professional development – people want to be doing professional development/units that are relevant to what I am doing.
•The number of inquiries submitted to reference librarian inquiries is diminishing. How can library staff engage with people coming to library websites and through the doors? What should library staff be doing for these people?
•In companies and government departments people can find so much information themselves (some of which libraries have set up). Although fewer in number, the questions that librarians now receive tend to be more complex.
•Digital literacy – a lot of librarians’ digital skills are lacking. Library technicians are often called on to assist librarians in this area.
•Library technicians lose respect for librarians if the librarians do not want to develop the skills themselves.

2. What do you believe the essential knowledge and skills to work in library will be in say 5 years? 10 years?

•Information management.
•Cataloguing and classification.
•May be doing it differently and classifying different objects but still need the analytical skills.
•Marketing & promotion of library services.
•Evaluation. Need the ability to analyse and assess the services that we provide. Including the skills of:
o needs assessment
o analysis of feedback forms
o breaking a process down
o Customer skills.
o Interpersonal skills so important in staff – you can teach technology skills.
o Management skills (including budgeting). “Step into management”
o programme – run by ALIA was excellent.
o Project management – including be able to condense 24 hours work into 8 hours
o Policy writing.
o Technology skills.
o Computer programming and developing databases.
o Need to be able to train people and understand principles of adult learning.
o Skill to know when to employ ‘shambrians’ (non librarians working in a library) or contract for their services e.g. marketing advice. Not an option for small libraries so the staff in these need to be more multi- skilled. Balance between developing skills or seeking assistance is tricky.
o Partnership development and working with partners. Work out what is of benefit for your partner and yourself.
o Negotiating with vendors and dealing with licensing issues.
o Networking.
o Digitisation and being able to manage a digital repository.
o Dealing with legal and ethical issues.
o Assessing services and facilities for accessibility.

Beyond these specific skills it was considered that you need to be able and willing to continuously learn.

3. What are the greatest influences or drivers for change within the profession? Outside the profession?

•Technology development e.g. multimedia has just exploded. So much to learn on how all the different formats work. Need more training.
•New professions encroaching e.g. health informaticians – come from a range of backgrounds.
•Economics – is not going to get any easier. It is going to be even more important to show the value of what we do or other allied professions will exploit it e.g. health informatics (http://www.hisa.org.au/about)
•Increasing role in literacy – trying to assist people to be more employable. Librarians need to have an increasing role in a range of literacies. Key element to our role is that information is free. Make a social contribution by equal access to information for everyone. Assist in increasing literacy of less advantaged sector of the population
•The research finding that pupils do better in a school which has a trained librarian should be a useful tool to increase the number of schools with trained librarians.
Need to market the value of reading to parents of new children from birth.
Contribute to the evidence based approach of professions by teaching people how to save time by effectively searching for quality material.

4. What can ALIA do to support the growth of a strong and vibrant profession?
•Develop ongoing accreditation. Can all librarians be chartered like CILIP? Can ALIA develop a framework?
•ALIA Continuing Profession scheme is awesome
•Could we ask ALIA for certain training courses e.g. HTML for librarians
•Open doors of ALIA to shambrarians (work in libraries but not qualified as a librarian). Also Employ best person for the job whatever their level in the library and information profession and qualifications (i.e. don’t designate jobs for librarians/library technicians.
•Need to work as a team in our profession whatever the qualification.
•Accreditation needs for all contributors to the profession e.g.librarian and library technician. Don’t call library technicians “paraprofessionals”.
•Good for the people who stumble into the role from other avenues to train and become a librarian without going through years of study. Get credit for on the job learning

5. Local issues
•Conferences are good value. Attending conferences gives inspiration for the future of our profession
•Great partnership of Libtech2011 and NLS5. “Back to the Future Forum” provided an excellent opportunity for networking. A bringing together of conferences/seminars is good. Excellent recent WA conferences. Back to back model was exhausting might have been better if the two conferences had been run in partnership.
•Biennial conference will have web streaming for keynotes.
Podcast possibly better for WA because of time difference. NLS5 did podcast keynotes why was this facility not available at the Library Technician conference
•ALIA groups in WA could collaborate more and also with other professionalassociations. Could use social media more for communication.

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