In November, Kate Davis, ALIA Students and New Graduates Social Media Coordinator (WordPress Blog) interviewed Alex Dupriez for the blog’s second GLAMR Professional Profile Interview.
Alex is a new professional in the LIS sector, who currently works as a Library Services Officer at Brisbane’s Griffith University. Alex also sits on the New Generation Advisory Committee with ALIA. Known online as the Swordfighting Librarian, you can connect with Alex via his Twitter: @Alex__Dupriez
I have quite a diverse background. I’ve always been drawn to the library, art, museum, and general GLAMR side of things, but I didn’t realise there was a designated path to get into libraries. I initially wanted to go to university but was unsuccessful in getting in, so I couldn’t learn via that pathway. I was a tradie for a while and happened to also be doing data collection for native frogs at the time, and I found I really enjoyed it! Not long after that, we had the bushfires, so I had to find a new industry. I thought okay, I’ve always been interested in art, I’ve always been good at art, so I’ll go into that.
As I was finishing up my Certificate of Arts, I was signing up to do a Diploma of Visual Arts at a booth, and one of my friends mentioned they were there doing stuff for libraries. I actually remember just before I went into a trade, I was going into the library every day for a year, and I had asked the librarian how to get into library work. They’d said I needed a master’s degree, which wasn’t accessible to me at that point. But on this day, I thought considering how much time I’ve been spending time in libraries over the past few years, that would be ideal. So last minute, I was quite literally signing up to do a Diploma of Arts and asked if I could change. I switched right then, got to the orientation session half an hour late, and here I am now!
I am someone that has multiple disabilities; I am autistic and have ADHD, so I have to be able to work in an environment that will work with that. One of the things I’ve always really liked is categorising things and analysing them, organisation – I’d do that for free forever! But I’m also incredibly sound-sensitive, so working somewhere in retail wasn’t an option. I knew I needed something that I’d be able to sustain my therapy as well and find an environment I was able to thrive in and one that would be able to work well with what I have.
A lot of ways that libraries are built to work, I happen to be built to match really well. I rarely run out of things to do, because if I’ve somehow done all the work for the day, it means I can go into the collection and organise, and I get praised for it! I used to do this for free for years! I’m lucky enough at Griffith too, the way they set up the timetables works well for me. Every hour is a different task and that’s exactly how my brain works with everything – it’s a match made in heaven.
I would say customer service, especially under pressure. If it’s something that is potentially timed or something that I’m not fully familiar with, it’s always been one of my weaker spots. But it is something I’m constantly working on.
In my case, particularly with ADHD, I constantly need to do multiple things at once; if I’m not, I feel like I’m not doing enough. When I’m doing document delivery, scanning, and interlibrary loans, if the item Is about a topic I’m interested in (especially history), I’m sitting there learning things. I didn’t go to university, but I now have access to academic documents that could be furthering my interests, while also doing my job. I’ve got a background in visual arts, so using programs to scan everything is fast and repetitive for me, which I love.
Quite literally I’ve just come out of that neck of the woods, in April. When I was finding my placement, we were advised to start looking 2 months prior, but I recommend doing it as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the beginning of your course because particularly post-covid, placements are much harder to find than before. Some places are also more selective. When I started looking, I thought I’d try my local public library, but at that point, they weren’t taking placements or recruiting, indefinitely. When I was looking, I was flexible enough to be willing to take on anything within a 150km radius. At that point, only 5 places were taking any placements within that radius; most were already booked out 6 months in advance.
The only reason I got a placement is that I went back to my primary school to ask if I could do my placement with them. If there’s a school that you’re familiar with, take that opportunity. Otherwise, look into libraries that aren’t obvious; even if you have experience in other areas, medical libraries are always an option. Legal libraries as well, museums, and art galleries, all have libraries.
When I was job searching, in almost every single interview I did, I was told, you’ve got good experience, background and study, but you are the number 2 candidate. So, I thought I’d see what ALIA had that I could use to try and get myself more involved in the industry, to give myself that edge to get me over the finish line. At the same time, I was also doing a lot of other volunteering stuff. I saw that the New Generation Advisory Committee was looking for new people, so I applied. I thought the worst that could happen is they’d say no, but they wanted me to join on!
From there, I thought I’m going to take this opportunity; everything that I had to jump over in terms of hurdles in trying to find employment, I’m going to try and give all that information that I wish I had known to everyone that I do know now. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since! I enjoy helping people, but now I’ve got a title and backing to do it!
One of the things I like is surprisingly how well-spread out the sector is, with connections to other industries. Almost any other industry you work in can be transferred to libraries or GLAMR in some way, shape or form. Another thing I enjoy is how integral to the community the sector is, especially if you’re someone who enjoys helping people, likes being informed on current events, or enjoys expanding your knowledge. Libraries and GLAMR all connect in that sense. There’s almost always continuous self-development as well as industry development, and always being connected with everything. Then you can have more of a focus on particular aspects; you can be as widespread or as niche, as you want, and there will almost always be a way to pursue that within the GLAMR sector.
I recommend while you’re studying if you have to opportunity to do volunteering in any way, do it before your placement. Some places, like the Salvation Army, might need volunteers for archiving or cataloguing; snap those up as much as you can! Once you get your foot in the door, you’re pretty set, but the first step is always the hardest. If you can get yourself that nudge further, sometimes that’s just what you need to get the edge over someone else.
Also, help people out. Do the best you can for yourself but help others out. Libraries are a lot smaller than other industries, and the word does spread quickly. Eventually, everyone knows everyone, so little acts of kindness do end up going a long way, and people do remember that years down the line.
A huge thank you to Alex for sitting down with us for the interview!