Derek Whitehead, Vice President elect of ALIA, LINTerview.

Posted May 9th 2007 @ 5:16 pm by

Derek Whitehead is currently Director, Information Resources and University Copyright Officer at Swinburne University of Technology. He is Vice President Elect of ALIA and was conferred with a Fellowship of ALIA in 1995.

That’s not what impressed me when I was digging around for an introduction for this LINTerview . I’m impressed that he’s obviously been bitten by the blogging bug. He started a blog as part of his election campaign, but I didn’t subscribe because I presumed it was a short term thing – maybe Derek did also. It’s now morphed into Derek’s ALIA blog, designed to communicate with ALIA members. It has a nice RSS feed, posts are tagged and he is regularly updating it with snappy and amusing posts. If you want to speculate about the future of the ILMS or Wikipedia, or the meaning of chook mahal or fairy gobsmacker – he’s your man.

Here, then, is Derek Whitehead’s response to our questions.

Why do you work in the library field?
I’m not sure that I do. My current job spans library, responsibility for the university web site and management of copyright, as well as just managing. I am involved in a lot of other things that aren’t specifically library, too. There is a real problem in working out just where the boundaries are now. For example, I am involved in two areas outside libraries – I chair a panel which is reviewing the Australian name policies, and I am a member of NetAlert, Australia’s national Internet safety advisory body. Not the library field, but you can see why it might be relevant to have a librarian involved.

What was your first library job?
As a student, an unqualified assistant in the library of the theological college where I was studying – Whitley College. Around 1966 I think.

What’s your favourite library joke?
As Acquisitions Librarian at the State Library of Victoria I set up a humour collection, with the assistance of John Clarke, who organised the money. We defined the content as anything which was intentionally funny. Otherwise, as John pointed out, you could put pretty much anything into it, including the whole of Hansard. What’s not to laugh at? Sorry, that wasn’t a joke.

Is there someone you have worked with you’d like to acknowledge? Who, Why?
Heaps of people – I’ve worked with lots of wonderful people, both in the (two) libraries I have worked in, and on the many committees and groups I have been involved with one way and another. Only one person has worked with me in both libraries, and that is Gary Hardy, a hero of Victorian libraries. Helen Tait, our State Librarian in Victoria for several years, was a wonderfully brave (I guess that’s the word) leader who enabled us to achieve remarkable things, especially the establishment and astonishing growth of Vicnet, that we would not have done in other circumstances.

What advice would you give to new librarians starting out today?
Be flexible. Flexibility is hard to learn or fake, so if you don’t have it, better become something else.

What 3 skills/characteristics do you think are important for librarians to have in the 21st century?
Number 1 is the same for librarians in any century, curiosity. The second is to be organised – when anyone says “I would like to get a librarian for this job” that is probably what they have in mind. The third is liking books, I’m not joking, much.

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