GLAMR Professional Profile – Sarah Howard

Sarah is a Liaison Librarian at QUT with the Faculty of Health and is currently leading a project investigating how virtual reality can be incorporated into the library. ALIA New Grads sat down to chat with Sarah about the project.

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The integration of virtual reality (VR) into our everyday lives has long been imagined in sci-fi and pop culture but with advances in technology this is becoming, well, a reality. The release of low cost VR equipment such as Google’s cardboard headset and with VR apps available on Android and iPhone the technology is already at our fingertips. It’s also steadily making its way into libraries. In California Facebook’s Oculus partnered with California State Libraries to make 100 sets of Rift headsets, touch controllers and computers available in 90 libraries. While there hasn’t been the same support from technology companies in Australia a couple of academic libraries are investigating ways to make VR accessible to their users. The University of Adelaide Library undertook a two phase project to determine how they might best use and include VR technology in their collection and at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Library Sarah Howard is leading a project in partnership with ProQuest that has similar aims.

As a liaison librarian for the Faculty of Health virtual reality doesn’t specifically fall within Sarah’s position description which includes a mix of “research, teaching and learning and also information resources”. To make her passion for VR part of her day job Sarah undertook an independent research project to explore how the library could source and provide VR content and equipment to users as part of QUT Library’s Off the Grid program. During this program Sarah was able to dedicate 30 hours of her work time to investigating the idea. Sarah’s findings turned the head of the then director of the library, Sue Hutley, who set up a partnership withProQuest to develop the project further. Through this partnership Sarah and the team are aiming to investigate the kinds of virtual reality content library users want and the platforms that would be needed to house and distribute the content. As Sarah explained, “With ProQuest we’re trying to find out whatthe need is, not just for students or library staff but academics and then giving that information back to ProQuest to try and get them to help us source some actual virtual reality tools”. To do this Sarah is asking faculties, “if you had VR content how would you use it or what would you want from it?” She says the Creative Industries, Science and Engineering and Health Faculties have already created VR content, but further support is needed to provide them with a place to store content and overcome compatibility and bandwidth issues.

The library has also purchased VR equipment including a Playstation headset, Oculus rift headset and an Alienware laptop. Some of this equipment was put to the test at QUT’s Robotronica event, an all ages one-day event during National Science Week that showcased QUT’s work in the robotics field. Sarah set up a computer on wheels and a Playstation VR headset with the game The Luge from PlayStation’s VR Worlds series. The computer screen meant that people could watc21041211_262476150908688_1221909120446103552_n(1)h the action while others were playing. Over 100 people came and tried the technology, “Every single person that came through loved it and there were some people who I would have presumed would have [experienced] virtual reality before, but every person that came child, adult, I’d say have you done this before and most of them said no”. Despite the apparent simplicity of a short game like this there are many challenges in setting up VR. There are a surprising number of occupational health and safety considerations. During Robotronica the VR headsets had to be wiped down after each use and the cables had to be arranged to make sure they weren’t a trip hazard. Sarah also the needed to get parental permission before younger children could participate as Sony recommends that only children over the age of 12 should use the headsets. For Sarah one of the biggest challenges is finding a platform that offers institutions access to their content, as most platforms are built to cater to individuals. While ProQuest is currently creating both educational VR resources and a platform to make it accessible, Sarah is investigating ways to set up institutional access to platforms such as Steam, which Sarah describes as: “the game platform equivalent of Netflix”.

Sarah says that faculty members have been surprised that the library can help them with VR but this shouldn’t be so, “… we’re a library, we’re a resource, not just ebooks and databases but also images, virtual reality resources”. By having conversations and creating partnerships Sarah hopes to establish a VR community of practice with the library as a central hub, “where people can come together and share what they’ve got and ask what they need”. To cement their position as VR advisors the library itself has also become a content creator, producing a 360 video tour of the Kelvin Grove campus Library which you can view on YouTube. The demand for virtual reality content and equipment is only going to increase, “… the Gartner reports and a lot of other reports are saying yes it is definitely, in say the next five years… going to be more mainstream”. To keep up with this ever-changing environment Sarah encourages young librarians to be agile and future-focused, “see what the need is before it becomes a need, just so you can predict what you need to know”. Set up alerts, use social media and RSS feeds, Google alerts, Podcasts and don’t be afraid to share information with others and be part of the conversation.

You can find Sarah on Twitter: @nairarbiltuq

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GLAMR Professional Profile – Naidene Sartori

Naidene is an Assistant Library Campus Coordinator at Griffith University and is currently studying her Masters of Information Studies through Charles Sturt.

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What was your path to librarianship?  What was it that drew you to librarianship?

I guess you could say I fell into it. I have spent years studying music and education with no real stable job prospects so becoming a librarian was a very natural transition for me. I already had strong transferable skills in IT, literacy and organisational skills. So changing career focus was a new start for me that I was very excited about.

What drew me to librarianship was the variety in job roles and the constant learning. I think a love of knowledge is where it all started. As a librarian you need to keep up with the latest technologies, to help guide people find the information they need and to appropriately organise and manage information you’re entrusted with. I enjoy this immensely, as a librarian I find I am mentoring, training and educating staff and patrons on a daily basis to find, access and use information.

Where are you doing your library qualification and when will you graduate?

I am studying a master of information studies externally through Charles Sturt University. I am hoping to finish by the end of 2017.

Where are you currently working and what is your job title?

I am currently working at Griffith University. I started as a Library Campus Services (LCS) team member but I am currently enjoying a secondment opportunity as the Assistant Library Campus Coordinator. I help assist and train LCS staff across both Nathan and Logan campus libraries. The LCS staff are the face of the library and assist and support academics and students of Griffith University.

What does a standard day look like you for?

A typical day is quite varied as my responsibilities are vast. The majority of my time is spent deputising for the campus coordinator and supporting the staff in their daily operational activities. Whether that be liaising with staff to develop or update ‘Best Practice Work Methods’ that support staff in completion of daily operations, as well as developing training activities for the staff to improve or upskill. There are always a number of interesting little projects that I will be working on as well. Such as the review and rewording of the Griffith Library webpages, deselection and weeding of the physical library collection, or organising and arranging spaces in the library for events.

What is it that you love most about your job or librarianship in general?

What I love most about librarianship is the role is ever-changing and renewing. Libraries are innovative places and  holistically embrace change within education, technology and information. On a daily basis I am learning something new or discovering new ways to find, create, and share information.

What I enjoy about my current job the most is interacting with students everyday and the staff. I am a part of a large team of library campus services staff and they are a very supportive and dynamic group. I enjoy the customer service aspect, especially when I get thrown a good reference question. There is nothing more rewarding then seeing the look of stress disappear from a student’s’ face because you managed to find what they were looking for. It’s the feeling of empowerment when you have really helped someone.

Do you have any advice for students and new graduates forging their careers in librarianship?

Be proactive and show initiative. Libraries are always changing and re-inventing so it is admiring when someone shows initiative and thinks outside the box. Especially working in an academic library, students need and want to have the latest and greatest in their services. So constantly upskilling and keeping abreast of new trends and solutions in technology and education is desirable. I recommend not waiting for your employee to recommend training, make the effort to constantly learn and immerse yourself in the world of libraries, information and technology. For example just recently I participated in an adobe education online training course. I have already implemented what I have learnt to improve my work practice. I developed skills in a number of adobe software products, which have also been beneficial when dealing with students who need basic help with adobe software that they may be using for their assignments.

Can you tell me about one of your early interviews for a library role?  How did it go?  Any advice?

Interviews are always very daunting and stressful, so preparation is key. The interview I attended for my entry into Griffith has been the most successful to date, not only because I got the job, but how I went about it. While I had no library experience I was able to demonstrate through transferable skills I had developed working in retail and throughout my university studies. Understanding the role you are applying for is vital and ensuring you can demonstrate succinctly your capability and what you can bring to the role. Don’t waffle! Come prepare with 2 to 3 competency examples to demonstrate to the panel your capabilities.

Where do you hope your career takes you?

To be honest I have only just started experiencing what libraries have to offer. There are a myriad number of paths to choose from in Academic libraries alone. Within the foreseeable future I am just looking forward to exploring those numerous roles and hopefully find where exactly is my forte.

You’ll be attending NLS8 – What are you most excited about?

NLS8 have an exciting line up of keynote speakers, such as Jane Caro, R. David Lankes, Mylee Joseph & many more. It would be great to hear from them all as they have a wealth of knowledge and with most currently contributing innovatively within the library sector.

I am most excited about the opportunity to network and connect with others who are working and studying in the librarianship field. Conferences are a great way to keep in touch with the current trends of the industry, which is generally inspiring and energising.