Susan Courtland is an eServices Specialist for the City of Kalamunda Library Service. She was awarded National Library Technician of the Year in 2013 and is Deputy Convenor of of ALIA’s WA Library Technicians Group.
Can you tell readers about your journey into libraries?
The library was always one of my favourite places to be, and this led to me choosing a library career path. On completion of Year 12, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts (Librarianship) at the Western Australian Institute of Technology (WAIT) now Curtin University. I completed my first year and then decided I needed a break, deferred my studies and stepped away into the big-wide world and got a job. I ended up working in the field of accounting for 7 years, gaining valuable life skills and experience. The next chapter, motherhood and volunteer work in my boy’s schools guided me back to libraries and I enrolled in a Diploma of Library and Information Studies at Central TAFE, Northbridge in 1999. Two years on, I completed my work placement employed as a library technician for a term at Lumen Christi College in Martin.
In Term 4, 2002 I had the privilege of working with teacher librarian and information specialist Maureen Smith at St Norbert College in Queen’s Park. The role expanded my knowledge in the area of audiovisual technologies and across all facets of school library services. Maureen’s passion for children’s literature inspired me to further my studies in this area. I attained a Graduate Certificate in Children’s Literature from Deakin University in 2013.
My library career began in earnest in 2003 when offered the permanent position of Library Technician at Lumen Christi College. With the evolving nature of school library services, and with the advancement of Internet Communication Technologies, a new role was created in 2009 and I was appointed Manager Multimedia Resources at the College. I was responsible for the coordination, integration and provision of multimedia resources and curriculum support services. This also extended to working in collaboration with the ICT Manager to secure laptop computers for the college as part of the ‘Digital Education Revolution.’
In 2013 I transitioned to ‘the public library side’, accepting a newly created role as eServices Specialist for the City of Kalamunda Library Service, a leadership role. I manage the library systems and the digital & social library services.
What skills or expertise do you draw on regularly in your role as an eServices Specialist?
The technical knowledge and skills required in managing library and digital technologies is extensive. I regularly draw upon the following skillset and areas of expertise essential to my role:
- ICT – platforms, hardware, software, databases and multimedia proficiencies
- Project management
- Problem solving
- Teaching, training and technical writing
- Communication oral and written
- Decision-making & analytical thinking
- Social media experience
- Promotion and marketing
You have emphasised the importance that rebelling has played in your career. Can you explain to readers how being a rebel and embracing innovation has benefited your professional development?
In my creative drive to make a difference in libraries, I have dared to challenge traditional library conventions, finding better more innovative ways of doing things. I’ve taken chances in acting decisively rather than risk delay in seeking approval. As per Grace Hopper’s famous quote, ‘It’s easier to seek forgiveness than it is to ask permission.’ Fortunately, acting decisively has worked out just fine. My judgement having prevailed, humble apologies given and accepted on occasions.
I have made and embraced opportunities within and beyond my area of expertise, forever pushing to learn new skills to help meet the challenges of library services in the digital age. I, like many library technicians, have taken advantage of ICT changes, carving out dynamic new roles through our own initiative and support from enlightened library managers. Continued professional learning is the key to success as is the willingness to accept change. Change being the constant in our industry.
Being a ‘rebel,’ together with passion and dedication, has awarded me many ‘serendipity’ career moments, taking me on an incredible professional journey in libraries. Career highlights include being awarded study scholarships and conference grants, attending awesome library and children’s literature conferences, being a conference speaker, working in the classroom with teachers and students, project work and professional writing for INCITE and other publications.
My biggest career achievement to date has been as Conference Convenor for the National Library & Information Technicians Conference, ‘Back to Basics’ – Perth 2011. I led a dynamic team of 15 library professionals in achieving the delivery of an amazing conference.
My proudest career moment was being awarded ‘National Library Technician of the Year’ in 2013, being acknowledged by my peers and receiving the award at the National Library of Australia.
And the most important contribution I believe I have made to the library and information industry is working with ALIA to have library technicians recognised as library professionals.
What advice would you like to give library students and new professionals?
In 2017 I was invited to speak on behalf of ALIA at an award presentation for Library & Information Studies students at North Metropolitan TAFE. I encouraged the students to make the most of opportunities, continue to grow, take risks, be a rebel, diversify, be visible, to do things with gusto and have FUN. Also to never stop learning – however, it is important to pace yourself as we also have a life outside of libraries.
I also advocate the importance of ALIA Membership as a career and professional investment. Memberships of ALIA and the ALIA Western Australian Library Technicians Group have helped me to achieve professional goals, and build a valuable professional learning network of friends and industry colleagues.
Ultimately we are responsible for managing our own careers. So make it happen!