ALIASNGG WednesdayWanders:QanA Throwback Thursday with Gemma Steele!

Gemma Steele, the Librarian at Museums Victoria, Melbourne Museum Library is smiling and pointing at Phar Lap in the Melbourne Gallery.
Image of Gemma Steele from @museumbooks Twitter (2020).

This month take a look back or read for the first time Gemma’s 2020 #WednesdayWanders: QandA interview and discover places for professional development reading and advice for students and new graduates.

Answer 1: Gemma Wednesday Wanders: QandA

I’m Gemma Steele, and I’ve been a librarian at Museums Victoria for over six years now. I’m originally from Scotland and my background is in journalism and marketing. I came to Australia 10 years ago and I studied Information Management and Commerce at RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) in 2012 – 13.

Answer 2: Gemma Wednesday Wanders: QandA

I never intended to be a librarian: I studied information management intent on becoming a researcher, but I did a work placement in the Museums Victoria library and fell in love with the job. I was lucky the librarian role came up the year after I graduated – just meant to be!

Answer 3: Gemma Wednesday Wanders QandA

The most obvious thing is being disconnected from the patrons and adapting to new ways of being in contact and assisting people online, which has taken a lot of creativity. Our library is predominantly print based, so being separated from much of the collection is a challenge too.

Answer 4: Gemma Wednesday Wanders: QandA

Many of my regular duties can be done from home, such as cataloguing and requesting loans and documents from patrons, so most of the adaption for me was getting set up and getting used to Zoom meetings. The silver lining is being forced to be adaptable and think outside the box.

Answer 5: Gemma Wednesday Wanders: QandA

Working with a rare book collection is really a special thing: I’ve learned so much and had lots of ‘wow’ moments helping people to access and research rare books.

I love sharing all the wonderful things I find in and about rare books with the public and on my Twitter @museumbooks.

Answer 6: Gemma Wednesday Wanders: QandA

I’m not sure anyone plans to be a special librarian exactly as the roles are few and far between, but as most special librarians have to do a bit of everything it is helpful to have at least a base level of experience in acquisitions, circulation, reference service, information technology, and customer service.

Answer 7: Gemma Wednesday Wanders: QandA

There is definitely crossover in the types of work: we all have roughly the same skills, they’re just administered in different ways. I would recommend visiting a special library and talking to staff if you can and checking the Position Description of past job ads to see what your skill gaps are.

Answer 8: Gemma Wednesday Wanders: QandA

I think it is important to be client-focused in everything you do, and you will need to have a deep understanding of the organisation and the needs of the library users. Marketing and communication skills are vital in maximising value and access, and you will need to be proactive.

Answer 9: Gemma Wednesday Wanders: QandA

I’ve enjoyed learning about bibliography and book history: the people of the book have very specific jargon and methods!

If you want to learn more, Leah Price’s ‘What we talk about when we talk about books’ and John Carter’s ‘ABC for book collectors’ will provide a good intro.


Answer 10: Gemma Wednesday Wanders: QandA

One of the big differences is that most of the library users are employees of the museum – such as curators, researchers and scientists – so I have gotten to know a lot of the users and their specialisations and research interests very well, which makes for a more bespoke service.

Answer 11: Gemma Wednesday Wanders: QandA

  • Australian Library and Information Association via Twitter @ALIANational
  • NewCardigan via Twitter @newcardigan
  • Australian Museum and Galleries Association @AMaGAnational via Twitter for all things GLAM.
  • Bibliographical Society of Australian and New Zealand @BibSocANZ via Twitter.
  • SHARP (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing) @SHARPorg via Twitter
  • CERL (Consortium of European Research Libraries) @CERL_org for rare books

Twitter has been a great tool for learning from others in the profession – I follow anyone with similar interests or roles to me and learn from them.

Answer 12: Gemma Wednesday Wanders: QandA

I think social media is a great way to learn about librarianship – I have a hive mind on hand that I can learn and get ideas from Twitter users.

The Facebook groupTroublesome Catalogers and Magical Metadata Fairies‘ is a great community to put any curly cataloguing questions to.

Contacts and References:

Australian Library and Information Association. (2022).

Australian Museums and Galleries Association (2022). Who We Are.

Bibliographical Society of Australian and New Zealand. (n.d). About BSANZ.

Consortium of European Research Libraries. (2022) About CERL.

newCardigan (n.d.) About – newCardigan.

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing. (2022). History.

Museums Victoria.(2022). Library

Take a look at volunteering at Museums Victoria as a Collections and Administration volunteer, to learn your cataloguing, administration, data entry, transcribing, digitisation, restoration, object re-housing and research skills in the GLAMR sector.

Museums Victoria. Become a volunteer.

Thank you, Gemma, for joining our Wednesday Wanders: QandA Twitter chat. Follow Gemma on her Twitter @museumbooks to see new posts of rare book collection finds from the Museum Victoria collection.

Keep your eye on ALIASNGG Twitter and WordPress Blog in 2023 for more #WednesdayWanders: QandA’s.


ALIA WordPress Blog GLAMR Interview – Alex Dupriez

In November, Kate Davis, ALIA Students and New Graduates Social Media Coordinator (WordPress Blog) interviewed Alex Dupriez for the blog’s second GLAMR Professional Profile Interview.

Alex is a new professional in the LIS sector, who currently works as a Library Services Officer at Brisbane’s Griffith University. Alex also sits on the New Generation Advisory Committee with ALIA. Known online as the Swordfighting Librarian, you can connect with Alex via his Twitter: @Alex__Dupriez

I have quite a diverse background. I’ve always been drawn to the library, art, museum, and general GLAMR side of things, but I didn’t realise there was a designated path to get into libraries. I initially wanted to go to university but was unsuccessful in getting in, so I couldn’t learn via that pathway. I was a tradie for a while and happened to also be doing data collection for native frogs at the time, and I found I really enjoyed it! Not long after that, we had the bushfires, so I had to find a new industry. I thought okay, I’ve always been interested in art, I’ve always been good at art, so I’ll go into that.

As I was finishing up my Certificate of Arts, I was signing up to do a Diploma of Visual Arts at a booth, and one of my friends mentioned they were there doing stuff for libraries. I actually remember just before I went into a trade, I was going into the library every day for a year, and I had asked the librarian how to get into library work. They’d said I needed a master’s degree, which wasn’t accessible to me at that point. But on this day, I thought considering how much time I’ve been spending time in libraries over the past few years, that would be ideal. So last minute, I was quite literally signing up to do a Diploma of Arts and asked if I could change. I switched right then, got to the orientation session half an hour late, and here I am now!

I am someone that has multiple disabilities; I am autistic and have ADHD, so I have to be able to work in an environment that will work with that. One of the things I’ve always really liked is categorising things and analysing them, organisation – I’d do that for free forever! But I’m also incredibly sound-sensitive, so working somewhere in retail wasn’t an option. I knew I needed something that I’d be able to sustain my therapy as well and find an environment I was able to thrive in and one that would be able to work well with what I have.

A lot of ways that libraries are built to work, I happen to be built to match really well. I rarely run out of things to do, because if I’ve somehow done all the work for the day, it means I can go into the collection and organise, and I get praised for it! I used to do this for free for years! I’m lucky enough at Griffith too, the way they set up the timetables works well for me. Every hour is a different task and that’s exactly how my brain works with everything – it’s a match made in heaven.

I would say customer service, especially under pressure. If it’s something that is potentially timed or something that I’m not fully familiar with, it’s always been one of my weaker spots. But it is something I’m constantly working on.

In my case, particularly with ADHD, I constantly need to do multiple things at once; if I’m not, I feel like I’m not doing enough. When I’m doing document delivery, scanning, and interlibrary loans, if the item Is about a topic I’m interested in (especially history), I’m sitting there learning things. I didn’t go to university, but I now have access to academic documents that could be furthering my interests, while also doing my job. I’ve got a background in visual arts, so using programs to scan everything is fast and repetitive for me, which I love.

Quite literally I’ve just come out of that neck of the woods, in April. When I was finding my placement, we were advised to start looking 2 months prior, but I recommend doing it as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the beginning of your course because particularly post-covid, placements are much harder to find than before. Some places are also more selective. When I started looking, I thought I’d try my local public library, but at that point, they weren’t taking placements or recruiting, indefinitely. When I was looking, I was flexible enough to be willing to take on anything within a 150km radius. At that point, only 5 places were taking any placements within that radius; most were already booked out 6 months in advance.

The only reason I got a placement is that I went back to my primary school to ask if I could do my placement with them. If there’s a school that you’re familiar with, take that opportunity. Otherwise, look into libraries that aren’t obvious; even if you have experience in other areas, medical libraries are always an option. Legal libraries as well, museums, and art galleries, all have libraries.

When I was job searching, in almost every single interview I did, I was told, you’ve got good experience, background and study, but you are the number 2 candidate. So, I thought I’d see what ALIA had that I could use to try and get myself more involved in the industry, to give myself that edge to get me over the finish line. At the same time, I was also doing a lot of other volunteering stuff. I saw that the New Generation Advisory Committee was looking for new people, so I applied. I thought the worst that could happen is they’d say no, but they wanted me to join on!

From there, I thought I’m going to take this opportunity; everything that I had to jump over in terms of hurdles in trying to find employment, I’m going to try and give all that information that I wish I had known to everyone that I do know now. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since! I enjoy helping people, but now I’ve got a title and backing to do it!

One of the things I like is surprisingly how well-spread out the sector is, with connections to other industries. Almost any other industry you work in can be transferred to libraries or GLAMR in some way, shape or form. Another thing I enjoy is how integral to the community the sector is, especially if you’re someone who enjoys helping people, likes being informed on current events, or enjoys expanding your knowledge. Libraries and GLAMR all connect in that sense. There’s almost always continuous self-development as well as industry development, and always being connected with everything. Then you can have more of a focus on particular aspects; you can be as widespread or as niche, as you want, and there will almost always be a way to pursue that within the GLAMR sector.

I recommend while you’re studying if you have to opportunity to do volunteering in any way, do it before your placement. Some places, like the Salvation Army, might need volunteers for archiving or cataloguing; snap those up as much as you can! Once you get your foot in the door, you’re pretty set, but the first step is always the hardest. If you can get yourself that nudge further, sometimes that’s just what you need to get the edge over someone else.

Also, help people out. Do the best you can for yourself but help others out. Libraries are a lot smaller than other industries, and the word does spread quickly. Eventually, everyone knows everyone, so little acts of kindness do end up going a long way, and people do remember that years down the line.

A huge thank you to Alex for sitting down with us for the interview!

ALIA SNGG Book Club Jamaica Inn Week 2!

Week Two: Not Your Average Heroine.

Join the #ALIASNGGBookClub Week Two discussion of Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier.

Our heroine Mary is not a shy, simpering maiden but a hardworking, fearless farm girl. This week we want to hear about your favourite Marry Yellan Jamaica Inn moments.

Join the conversation via ALIASNGGBookClub on Facebook!

#ALIASNGGBookClub #ALIASNGG #bookclub #JamaicaInn #DaphneDuMaurier

GLAMR Professional Profile!

Join the ALIA SNGG WordPress Blog, on Monday 28th of November, for a brand new GLAMR Professional Profile Interview.

ALIA Students and New Graduates Group Social Media Coordinator (WordPress Blog) Kate Davis interviewed Alex Dupriez, Library Services Officer at Griffith University, and NGAC member!

Learn about Alex’s journey into librarianship and his advice for students and new graduates.