Our next professional profile focusses on the other fantastic Co-Convenor of the ALIA Students and New Graduates Group – Annette Messell. Annette currently works as a Learning and Teaching Services Librarian at the University of New England. In this interview, Annette explains her roundabout journey into librarianship, the importance of creativity in the LIS profession and opportunities to connect with cultural institutions online.
Can you tell readers about your journey into librarianship?
I think my path to librarian reflects a lot of people’s experience with librarianship – in that the path isn’t usually very direct! For my undergraduate degree I majored in Creative Writing and Religious Studies, after coming out the other end with no career prospects I thought I would study high school teaching – which I did, but soon discovered it wasn’t something that filled me with passion. To run away from my problems I thought I would go to South Korea to teach English. I spent just over a year in a city north-west of Seoul making new friends and exploring Korean culture and my heritage. While I was enjoying myself, I knew that I didn’t want to live in Korea forever and made a plan to come back home. The only reason I could say I chose librarianship was because in the past, whenever I would look up jobs on Seek I would always find myself looking at the libraries section – I don’t know why it never occurred to me earlier to investigate how to become a librarian. I also went into the degree thinking I would come out the other side and work in a public library – I didn’t know how big the library world could be!
You are one of the two co-convenors of the ALIA Students and New Graduates Group alongside Maddy Meddlycott, what have been some highlights of your time in this role?
For me, the convenor role has given me the experience of working with and managing a large team of people – this is something I wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to do in my day-to-day role. Ultimately, I have really enjoyed meeting a wide-range of information professionals from all around Australia both in-person and online. I’ve made friends in this role and feel really connected to the industry. Maddy and I work really well together, so it is has been really great to share this experience with her and brainstorm ways we can make the ALIA SNGG community better. We are both really about making connections in a fun and relaxed way – one of the ways we go to do this was at the Asia-Pacific Library and Information Conference in 2018 – we organised a social gathering for conference first-timers to get to know each other in a relaxed way… I distinctly remember dodgem cars were involved! We also had a daily tweet-up to reflect on the conference – see our #CatsofAPLIC Wakelet wrap-up.
You were recently a guest editor for the May/June issue of INCITE. The theme was create. How important do you think creativity is in the LIS profession, especially in adapting to the current health crisis? How does creativity manifest in your own professional practice?
Creativity is so important to the LIS profession, but also for personal growth too! I really enjoyed the opportunity to guest-edit for Incite, along with Melissah – who is a member of the SNGG Instagram team, and Paige – who is a member of the New Generation Advisory Committee. We got to pick the articles for the issue, and had a hand in deciding what the cover would look like, as well as the overall look-and-feel of the “Create” section. I didn’t realise there were so many moving parts and stakeholders involved with putting Incite together, and kudos to the new editor Andrew Finnegan for leading us through the process.
When I reflect on my experiences with being creative I always underestimate how brave you need to be because you’re always putting an honest piece of yourself to the work – it sounds a bit airy-fairy but I think it is true. In terms of my professional life, Maddy and I work well trying to think of creative ways to teach legal research skills, most recently we did this by making two “escape rooms” for NLS9 in Adelaide in 2019. If you can find someone to be creative with, I highly recommend it! Mostly I try to find moments of creativity through-out my working week, whether that be creating resources for teaching or taking a moment to read an article.
What are your top tips for people to work well remotely and stay connected?
I think checking-in is so important when working remotely – there are so many mechanisms for us to do that these days, whether it be through social media, or professional tools like Slack – which we use for SNGG, Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts. I really value the moments where my workmates have contacted me via these tools just to check-in and say hi! I also had one lovely colleague who took the time to send me a small gift in the mail, if you have the means to do that – I’d say give it a go! There are also so many opportunities to connect with our cultural institutions online – like the live stream of “Tim” that just ended at MONA or listening to the “Sounds of the Bodleian” from the Bodleian Library.
What is the best piece of advice you have for GLAMR students and new professionals?
One piece of advice I would give to GLAMR students and new professionals is to put yourself in a position where you have the option to say no. For me, it meant putting myself in the way of opportunities as they presented themselves – even if I was unsure I wanted to take them. And to be honest, I have taken 99% of the opportunities, it actually led me to my first job! Things like job applications can be daunting, and sometimes anxieties or imposter syndrome get in the way. A way I got around this was to tell myself that I could always say no if I got offered an interview – it’s funny how those moments can provide clarity with what you really want. To cut a long story short – you’ve got to be in it to win it!