Jess started working in special libraries before a chance role with UNSW Records & Archives ignited a new passion. She now works in corporate records while completing her Master of Information Studies. She is particularly excited to have just finished a placement at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia Records & Archives, so her Bachelor of Art History was put to good use.
What did you wish you knew before entering the library and information industry?
Don’t be afraid! People are friendly and willing to share their time, advice and opinions with you. It took a lot out of me to go up to the Fine Arts librarian during my undergrad (Anthony Green at Schaeffer, University of Sydney) and ask about the industry, but he and Nicholas Keyzer was so generous with their time, so kind, and offered me work experience.
I’ve tried out different fields and sought out different experiences to get where I am today (in archives and records), and I couldn’t have done that without the generosity of a variety of people, who were willing to help and teach. There’s such a great community around GLAMR, particularly on Twitter. Getting involved in both the social side and the industry discourse helps me feel connected in a way that was lacking from my online studies, and continues to spur me on in my professional development.
What advice would you give students and new graduates starting out in the industry?
Just go for it, don’t wait for permission and don’t think you’re not the ‘right’ person with the perfect knowledge and skills to fit whatever gap you see. Good things don’t come to those who wait, they’re given to those who ask for them. Don’t second guess yourself; ask for what you want. You may have failures and set backs, but these can be lessons. You made a choice, and now you can learn from the outcome, and if you don’t like it you can change your tactics – but you wouldn’t have known how without the experience.
You must fail often and fail fast if you want to improve. You won’t know how to improve if you delay and try to perfect your first attempt, and agonisingly fail, compared to if you failed often and fast. Do it, learn, and do better next time. Don’t trip at the first hurdle. You don’t have to know everything, and you don’t have to have all the answers. I felt – and still feel – pressure to be an expert because in such a small industry, we’re interacting with experts and authorities in close quarters, and I want to hold my own. But take a moment to enjoy the freedom of ignorance, and the joy of learning. You’re just starting out, you have all this time to learn. Feel the burning passion ignited by new knowledge, new theories, new approaches, all this wisdom you can flex your brain around!
Remember, you don’t have the answers simply because it hasn’t happened to you yet. All it takes is for something to happen a second time, and now you know just what to do. You can’t be expected to know everything yet. We are all continuously learning, evolving beings. We need to unlearn preconceptions and prejudices, we need to learn emotional intelligence and self-care, and we need to learn our profession. Never forget to be growing and learning in every aspect of yourself. Take time to centre yourself, decide your priorities and commit to building the life you want.
You can connect with Jess at @jessmcdnor.