This month we meet Amy McKenzie, a Collection Liaison Specialist Librarian from the State Library of NSW. In this role Amy has the amazing responsibility of developing the State Library’s collection. She works with all kinds of material, but specialises in rare books, artists’ books, and maps. Here Amy talks about the challenges of her job and the qualities that make for a great librarian!
What did you wish you knew before entering the library and information industry?To embrace ambiguity! In this job there’s often no right or wrong answer, and sometimes there’s no procedure to follow. I make decisions everyday about whether or not material is significant enough to be housed in the State Library in perpetuity, which can be a lot of responsibility. Having to make a judgement call was something I struggled a lot with initially. I just wanted someone to tell me the correct answer! I still like having guidelines and procedures to follow, but I’ve come to see ambiguity as an opportunity rather than a disaster (because then we get to make decisions appropriate for how we do things right now). And, provided I’ve consulted the right people and done the research, I feel much more confident about my decisions.
What skills or characteristics have been most important to you in your career, and how did you develop them?
Curiosity – all my life I’ve always been digging deeper to find out why things are the way they are. I’m lucky to be in a role that really utilises my love of history. I get to research stuff I’d probably read about for fun anyway, and on top of that I get to uncover stories about all kinds of weird and wonderful people (such as James Mudie and his feud with the Blaxland family). [Amy’s blog on this topic can be found here http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/blogs/cats-paws-and-felonry-colonial-new-south-wales]
How do I develop my curiosity? I’m always reading and educating myself. Living in Sydney, there are so many opportunities with museums and galleries and festivals, so I try to take advantage of that. The more I know, the more connections I’m able to make. But there will always be more to learn, and this is exciting!