Sally Turbitt was co-convenor of the most recent New Librarians Symposium, NLS8, is NSW State Manager for ALIA and co-hosts the podcast Turbitt n Duck with her NLS8 partner-in-crime, Amy Walduck. You can find Sally on Twitter, or on her website.
- How did you become involved in libraries, and what made you make the shift to becoming NSW State Manager?
About ten years ago I returned to study, first at TAFE and then I enrolled in a health science degree. Using the library databases and systems piqued my interest in information curation and knowledge management so I did some research on possible careers and made the switch to the information studies degree. In hindsight, this is work I’ve done throughout my working life, I just didn’t realise there was a name for it! I started working in a special library following my university placement (as a side note, I heard about this particular special library at NLS6 when the library manager gave a talk about health libraries – another reason to go to a New Librarians’ Symposium!)
Since my first library role I’ve worked in research communication and governance, a public library and now for ALIA. My role in research communication gave me the opportunity to build a stronger connection with the organisation’s library and to undertake outreach work. I am passionate about advocating for libraries and connecting people to resources and other professionals, so when the opportunity to join ALIA came up, I took it.
- What motivated you to become co-convenor of NLS8?
When we put the call out at NLS7 for people interested in organising the next symposium, I never anticipated being the co-convenor, I just wanted to be involved in the next event! My motivation was two-fold: being involved in the new graduate community was important to me and a great way to network and learn more about the industry. And, having attended NLS6 and presented at NLS7, I thought there were things that could be done differently.
Working with a brilliant team to create the event we wanted was an incredible opportunity and I learnt a great deal about myself, our team and what new graduates and students are looking for. They are lessons I still reflect on now.
- If you could have imparted one skill or piece of knowledge to the NLS8 attendees, and to those reading this blog, what would it be?
Be curious. Because if you’re curious, you’re learning! Which leads to challenging yourself with new things, whether it be presenting at a symposium, cataloging, being the e-book app champion at work or a student who has great networks. Be curious about library neutrality, critical librarianship, diversity and the needs of your community. Read outside of your comfort zone and beyond the recommended readings, listen to podcasts, watch videos, participate in discussions – be comfortable with not knowing and then commit to curiosity and learning!
Many speakers at NLS8 were first-time presenters and watching them speak about their work, knowing it was their first time and understanding how difficult it can be to submit an abstract, let alone actually present was inspiring. I’m still motivated by that experience to keep finding ways for people to share what they do and to push myself as well.
- What is your ultimate aim for the Turbitt and Duck podcast, that you co-host with Amy Walduck (your NLS8 co-convenor)?
To share stories from library people and find ways to get those stories heard outside of our profession – we need to people to know about what libraries do for their communities. The podcast is a platform for anyone to talk about their work, passion, interests, even the day to day nitty-gritty of working in a library or information role. People are interested in the details! We thoroughly enjoy every conversation that we have on the podcast and I definitely learn something new every time we record.
- Finally, is there any advice you would like to give library students and new professionals?
- Spend time getting to know yourself, what your values are and what’s important to you in your new career. Many of us graduate and feel like a completely different person than the one who started the degree, so you might need to recalibrate your expectations and goals.
- Keep engaged with library and information world, you will miss opportunities to connect with peers and potential employers if you sit and wait for them to find you!
- Be comfortable with always being a beginner – library staff are expected to be all-knowing fonts of knowledge but really, that’s not possible. So learn to be fine with saying “I don’t know, but let’s figure it out” and also playing with technology to see what it can do.
- If you don’t know, ask! As a distance student who wasn’t working in the profession, I felt isolated and there were many things about libraries I didn’t understand. Ask questions on the discussion boards, talk to your lecturers, join online groups and Twitter. Ask questions and listen!