As Australian Library and Information Association celebrates its 80th birthday this year they have asked Australian Library staff to share a story about their library journey and here is a part of mine.
The first library I worked for was Caloundra City Libraries (now part of Sunshine Coast Libraries) and I was employed as a Children’s Library Assistant. It was late 1984 and big hair was in and I had only moved to Queensland about 10 months before so felt quite privileged to work with a team encouraging children to read and enjoy libraries . My application was hand written — which was specified in the application — and detailed my lifelong love of reading, joy of learning, my local community work. My job history was very eclectic and included a variety of roles -Federal Government administration, Usherette at a Circus, Kitchen Manager at an Asylum and hospitality work. You can see that I definitely suited the role.
The City Librarian at the time was Dawn Maddern who was a leading library practitioner who allowed library staff to try interesting and new ways of reaching out to community. I can remember taking part in a Library parade, Children’s Festivals, and really large holiday programs with families galore. Dawn also believed in giving all staff a chance to shine with projects being given to stretch your skills, trust that you could learn to do the project and support when you got stuck. So I found myself writing a tender for a semi-trailer and discovering that a turntable was not just something on a vinyl record player, working with community on a community run Learning Center and planning a new Branch Library in a hinterland town. I was also supported to undertake my Degree while working at this library and as I learned I was given professional responsibilities which in turn enabled me to succeed at my studies.
Dawn and the professional team at Caloundra City Libraries were also active in the Library Industry, supporting the Queensland Public Library Association, being active in the State Library of Queensland Public Library committees and delivering professional presentations around the State. We were also very successful grant recipients as we were not short of community project ideas and had amazing grant writing skills within the team. Dawn was also a very effective political advocate within the Council itself and our local politicians and senior Council staff were always included and involved in the Library and our special projects.
I was also part of a dynamic storytelling duo with the very experienced Children’s Librarian and Children’s author Jo Jensen. Jo generously shared all her storytelling tips — which included amazing humor, puppets galore, retelling and re-imagining classic children’s stories and researching new diverse tales from many cultures to share. I was the bad baby to her elephant, the monster who came to visit and some very sneaky little pigs who tried to trick the big bad wolf. Together we visited every school in the Council district annually and children would come up to me in the supermarket after staring at me for a long time saying ‘Did you come to my school?’ or Shouting Mum, Mum there’s the bad baby and pointing at me with gay abandon. We got such a name for ourselves that we also taught the Storytelling module at the local TAFE for the Certificate III Early Childhood.
I undertook many roles at this Library Service and finished my time there as the Hinterland Services Librarian, in charge of two small branch libraries and the mobile library. My professional practice was forged at this library service that valued ideas, innovation, and being a leading library service in engagement with the community. I was very lucky to have met such wonderful professional librarians who are still friends to this day.
A key piece of advice from Dawn Maddern that has stayed with me is:
‘Always remember to be humble in our practice and be mindful that it is a privilege to serve our communities as a librarian’.