NGAC is delighted to have been able to ask questions of the candidates for this year’s ALIA board elections. Our questions were focused on issues specifically related to students and new graduates. Each candidate’s responses will be posted separately. There are a number of candidates this year and we’ve received a fabulous response so far.
Many thanks to all candidates for taking the time to answer our questions.
Today’s responses come from Roger Henshaw.
1. What do you think of the state of the profession for new graduates? If they are finding it difficult to find their first job what advice would you give them?
- New opportunities within the greater information industry – including jobs in social media
- Profession is ready for Gen X and Millennials – generally they are more ‘widely’ educated (2 or more degrees), more mobile (taking experiences and skills to a number of workplaces) and ‘born digital’ (so eager to grasp new technology and innovative practices)
Job hunting – be prepared to work in a different city or town; do not allow (mis)perceptions of workplaces to colour decisions (e.g. country public libraries are NOT sleepy traditional places and law libraries are NOT really the best place to meet rich, eligible barristers!! ☺); consider volunteering or interning. Also, having some experience in a customer service role is invaluable – our profession needs excellent front of house and interpersonal skills, no matter which library sector you eventually work in.
2. How can ALIA help students and new graduates? For those in hiring positions what are the benefits of hiring new graduate LIS professionals?
- ALIA can help with: professional accreditation; job advertisements; mentoring; advice on salary levels; access to information and resources; working and collaborating with various peak bodies, and importantly with networking opportunities. It can also help by listening to those studying to be LIS professionals i.e. to better understand the challenges being faced by new graduates and those still studying.
- Benefits of hiring new graduates: future proofing the profession (aids in succession planning); new ideas and practices; enthusiasm (lack of cynicism!); more likely to play a devil’s advocate / questioning role than established staff
3. What are the essential skills librarians and information professionals need in order to be relevant both today and going into the future? What could ALIA do to promote librarians as information professionals and service providers with skills relevant to a wider range of industries?
- Skills – exemplary customer service; willingness to take risks / fail / make mistakes; marketing (adept at the 60 second elevator pitch); social media; smart technology; and curiosity (never stop exploring and learning!)
- ALIA promotion – case studies of library professionals in non-mainstream careers; work towards making continuing professional development (Certified Practitioner) more widely adopted and promoted (similar to the ads for Chartered Practicing Accountants); promoting the impact and service value delivered by library professionals (how we make a difference!)
4. What have been the benefits of undertaking professional development in your career? Why should the Professional Development program be compulsory for all ALIA members?
- Keeping abreast, and hopefully a step in front of, new technology and practices
- Developing and marketing appropriate and relevant services for library customers
- Adopting (and adapting) best practice
- Ongoing learning helps keep ideas fresh
- Exposure to the wider information industry and GLAM sectors. I have been blessed to have worked with some great people and wonderful customers / clients, and to have experienced a broad range of library workplaces. This has included the opportunity to diversify i.e. take on a wider range of cultural service roles, in museums, archives, and galleries.
Continuing professional development and accreditation is a given in many professions. Not making it compulsory in LIS tends has the potential to de-professionalise our industry, impact on our ongoing relevance, and perhaps further cement the perception (by some organisations) of libraries as a ‘soft service’. In my experience this view or perception is not found when dealing with other professions, for example, lawyers, engineers, planners, accountants etc. The right professional development will help us develop more leaders!
Time to shed the ‘spend all day reading books’ image and replace it with ‘innovative, smart, tech savvy, risk taking, fun professional’.
5. What would you like to see the ALIA board achieve?
- Greater understanding of the challenges facing all library sectors (this is a constant)
- Regular and meaningful communication with members and, wherever possible, non-members
- Build the membership i.e. show the value of membership, and that it benefits all who work in our libraries
- Continued support LIS graduates, and ongoing professional development, and networking opportunities
We encourage all eligible members to consider these responses as they make their decisions to vote in the election. Voting is underway in the 2016 ALIA Board of Directors election and will close on Friday 8 April 2016.
More information about the process and this year’s candidates can be found at the ALIA website.
Alisa Howlett, Chair ALIA New Generation Advisory Committee