ALIA board elections 2016: Vicki McDonald

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 Vicki McDonald.

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?

I believe that it is an exciting for the profession!  There is great diversity in roles and there are opportunities to work in a range of activities.  As information professionals our skills are in demand in new areas, e.g. data management and digital curation.  

Libraries are innovative – they offer a wide range of opportunities.  One of the great attributes of libraries has been our ability to evolve and develop our services.  So, as new graduates you have the opportunity to imagine new ways that you can contribute to organisations.

But, I also acknowledge that it is competitive job market for graduate roles.  Budget cut-backs are very much in the news at the moment, and this can be discouraging.  If new graduates are having difficulty securing their first professional library role, these are my suggestions:

  • Attend ALIA events – proactive networking is a great way to meet other professionals at all levels – from students, to new grads, experienced librarians and managers.
  • Be involved in the profession – join an ALIA group.  Besides meeting other professionals, you will have opportunities to enhance your skills and develop new skills.  For example, if you are part of the team to deliver an event, you will further develop skills which can be transferred to the workplace.
  • Stay current!  Join the ALIA eList for your state or sector of interest.  Social media is a great way to keep up with what everyone is talking about.  
  • When you are applying for a role, telephone the Hiring Manager and ask them about the priorities for the role, what are the skills that they are seeking – this can give you valuable insight as to what you should highlight in your application.
  • Ask someone to review your job application before submission.  Getting an interview is the first priority, and unfortunately I see many applications that have not addressed the selection criteria.  As you know, Graduate roles are competitive, so it is important to make the most of your written application.  If you are unsuccessful, ask the hiring manager for feedback.  
  • Register with one of the recruitment agencies.  Many libraries have fixed term roles and recruit directly from agencies.  This can be a good way to get some experience, but also make yourself known to a library.  Fixed term appointments can lead to longer-term appointments.

2. How can ALIA help students and new graduates? For those in hiring positions what are the benefits of hiring new graduate LIS professionals?

One of the key benefits of hiring New Graduates is that they bring a new perspective to the workplace.  All organisations are enriched by diversity of experience.  Within my organisation we highly value our new graduates – they are tech savvy, enthusiastic, and willing to explore new opportunities.

ALIA offers a broad range of services to new graduates:  professional development, training opportunities, networking events and so on.  In my response to Question 1, I have also made some suggestions that relate to ALIA.  

As a new graduate, I encourage you to join ALIA so that you can enjoy the full benefits of ALIA membership.   There are reduced membership fees for students and new grads – so take advantage.  New grads are very active on social media – so join the conversations.

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?

In our technological society, we need to embrace change.  A willingness to learn and adapt are therefore key skills.  To be relevant, we need to be willing to continuously learn and also respond to the organisational context we are working within.  Contexts are continuously evolving.  When I was a new grad, I remember that CD-ROMs were considered innovative! (Yes, I know that was a long time ago…!)  

ALIA does a great deal to promote librarians as skilled and effective professionals and services providers, e.g. their accreditation of courses preserves the integrity of our profession.  Through national Inquiries and Reviews, ALIA emphasises the value of libraries and the importance and relevance of information professionals.  
I am aware that our professional association, ALIA,  is well respected by other professional associations – this reflects well on all of its members.

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?

Ongoing learning and development is a key responsibility of all professionals.  Throughout my career I have taken up opportunities for professional development to increase my knowledge / understanding, as well as learn new skills.  Because I have moved between library sectors, undertaking professional development has been very important.  I have also taken opportunities for continuing formal education as well.  I am currently enrolled in an Executive Master Public Administration – one of the great benefits is that I am learning new skills that I can apply in the workplace.  

Participation in ALIA’s PD scheme demonstrates that you are committed to your professional development and you are taking personal responsibility for your own development. It is an efficient way to keep track of what you are done, and encourages you to reflect on your learning experiences.  The key objective is ongoing professional development and that should be the focus!

5. What would you like to see the ALIA board achieve?

In my statement on what I would like to achieve as a Board, I said:

It would be a great achievement, as a Board member, to know that I have contributed to members feeling compelled to renew their membership because they acknowledge the importance of their professional association and can see the value the Association offers both to individuals and the profession.

It is important for ALIA to engage with membership across all sectors and stages of career.  It needs to be an association that values both its long-term members but also welcomes and supports new graduates.  From my previous experience as a Board Director, I understand that there is a broad range of stakeholder expectations for the Board.   There are expectations from individuals, institution members, sector groups and they cover a diverse range of services from delivery of professional development to advocacy.

At the end of the day, I feel that our members demonstrate that they see value in the work of the board by participating in ALIA activities and renewing their membership, as measures of success for the Board.  Beyond our membership, our success as professional association will be measured by the extent that other professional bodies, institutions and government agencies reach out to ALIA for comment and participation.


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


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