Roxanne Missingham is currently President of ALIA and Parliamentary Librarian, Australian Parliamentary Library. Her enthusiasm for increasing the profile of library services, for library education, and responsible use of technology were apparent in her previous roles as Assistant Director, Resource Sharing Services at NLA, at the CSIRO and the Australian Nature Conservation Agency.
She has been described by unidentified sources as a “super networker…who may well know every librarian in Australia” and “someone who can talk underwater with a mouth full of gravel”. Here’s her answers to the LINT 5.
1. Why do you work in the library field?
Because it’s a great deal of fun and makes a difference. Every time I get to do a library survey I am blown away again by how important people (staff) are to our users (and conversely how technology and content are less important). For me part of the best thing about being in libraries is the people I get to work with.
I am enormously impressed by the range of services provided by libraries and library technicians – all of which are incredibly important. I remember going to children’s story time and activities at the ACT Public Library when my children were young and seeing them come alive and discover reading (thank you Catherine and others). My niece now runs story time in Greenacre Library in Sydney (she’s a library technician) and the difference it makes to a very multi—racial community is enormous. And those contributing to success for students, staff and researchers in academic, special and school libraries are similarly making a great difference in all their organisations.
2. What was your first library job?
I was incredibly fortunate to start at the National Library of Australian in Australian Selection (acquisitions). When young uns talk about the difficultly of finding their first job I do have some sympathy—although I was very fortunate. I was one of three new library graduates recruited by the National Library in their equivalent “graduate recruitment” and one of my co-starters, Sandra Henderson, is still in libraries and make a fantastic contribution to policy (and indexing and so many other things).
3. What’s your favourite library joke?
An old concept – how many libraries does it take to change a light bulb? Five – one to acquire the manual, one to catalogue it, one to retrieve it, one to train the user to use the catalogue and one to actually change the light bulb
4. What is the most unusual/funny question you’ve been asked while working in a library?
On the reference desk at the National Library — for a yellow covered book on geography by Smith and you guessed it – he’d know it when he saw it.
5. What advice would you give to new librarians starting out today?
Move around and see as much as you can and think. Every library (and manager and colleagues) has good and not so good points. The best way to figure out what is good from your point of view is to be exposed to as many of these as is possible (but you don’t have to move every month).
Keep an open mind – when you say to someone at an interview panel that you can do cataloguing because you know everything about it because you did a 4 week stint and a course at university or TAFE be patient with us when we smile (or look a little surprised). I heard a story on ABC radio once that Mark Twain said at 13 his parents seemed remarkably stupid but as he got older they seemed to get brighter. The same thing will apply to older library staff from your point of view.
Keep asking the question – “Why?” Why do you do that? Or why do you do it that way? You will bring great insights (and a few that aren’t so good but that’s ok) and the only way the rest of us will know about them is if you tell us!
Join ALIA and be active in professional activities – you may meet your next employer, someone you can have a terrific interchange of ideas with or someone who is just fun!
And if you leave libraries think about coming back one day!