Judy Hutchinson

Each month an ALIA member is profiled and we learn a little about their professional life and a bit about their not-so-serious side. Using just a few questions, we try to keep the profiles fun while highlighting the variety of members in our Association. So, without further ado, welcome to our Member of the Month for August 2018… ten questions with ALIA Member Judy Hutchinson.

1) Tell us a bit about yourself

I was born in Australia and lived in England from the age of 4 to 18. Canberra has been my home town since 1973 (apart from a couple of years in Sydney in the 1980s). My 34-year working life was spent at the ANU and the Parliamentary Library with a brief stint at the Attorney-General’s Department. I’ve worked in serials sections, reference, a law library, bibliographic checking, run a small special library, cataloguing and indexing, client relations, publications, creating databases and senior management. My family is large and interesting – my husband and I have a blended family of six adult children between us and a lot of grandchildren. We can rustle up a crowd of 40 or so at the drop of a hat or the mention of a birthday. My husband and I like to walk and to travel and have a house at the coast. This year I’ve taken up botanic art through the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

2) What is your current role and some of the responsibilities?

I’m retired and currently keep in touch with the library world through my membership with ALIA. I highly recommend continuing membership of ALIA into retirement as an easy way of keeping in touch with former colleagues and keeping up-to-date with what is happening in the profession. As well as passively absorbing information through ALIA Weekly and INCITE I am also co-convenor of ALIA CRR (Canberra and Region Retirees). ALIA CRR is one of ALIA’s special interest groups. Helen Roberts and I are the co-convenors. This ACT-based group was launched this year and meets once a month at Bookplate at the National Library of Australia. The aim of the group is to allow retired library people who worked in the ACT and surrounding regions an opportunity to keep in touch. Our monthly event is called ‘Connect and Chat’ and is great fun. On behalf of all the ALIA ACT Groups, I organised this year’s ALIA ACT mid-winter dinner at Muse, with a 1968 theme as a nod to the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Chifley Library, ANU and the current building of the National Library of Australia.

3) What led you to a career in LIS?

Libraries were always a fascinating source of information for me. I grew up in London and used a public library in South Kensington on a regular basis. As a young teenager I started browsing the non-fiction shelves and became interested in biographies, particularly of artists. At that time, I went to high school in Camden Town, to the Frances Mary Buss Foundation Camden School for Girls. This school was founded as the first free high school in London for girls in 1871 and had a great library full of nineteenth and twentieth century biographies of early women pioneers, including the autobiography of the first woman doctor in the UK and several on the Pankhursts. All of which makes me sound as though my reading habits are incredibly serious but actually once I could read I read anything and everything (including the complete works of Georgette Heyer). Starting to read was hard for me as I have a mild form of dyslexia. I’m still one of the worst spellers ever and rely heavily on spellcheck. I went to CCAE in 1974 and started a degree in librarianship as I wanted to do an arts degree that led to a professional career. My second major was literature so the degree structure linked in comfortably with my avid reading habits.

4) What are some of the challenges faced by libraries today?

Libraries are challenged always as they compete for resources and strive to remain relevant. In my experience, libraries that do well are those that are led by people who are prepared to question the status quo and to reposition their collections and the services they deliver towards what is required by their target audience.

5) Ebooks or Print?

I devour ebooks by the dozen and the bulk of my career was spent in building online resources. Ease of access, portability and the economies of managing ebooks are very attractive to library managers. On the other hand, browsing library shelves and good bookshops facilitates serendipitous discoveries and these can be very illuminating. I’m waiting for true browsability to become an online option.

6) What words of advice would you have for newbie library and information professionals

Three points, firstly for those starting out, don’t be discouraged if your first job in the field isn’t what you thought it would be. There are many, many different ways to work in the profession. Second, if you are ambitious, be prepared to apply for and take on the roles that some people shy away from. Finally, learn to love technology – it’s the greatest friend the profession has.

7) What is most misunderstood about library and information professionals?

Maybe that it’s a soft option profession with little opportunity for challenges and development. My experience has been that the best library and information professionals are open to challenges throughout their careers and that they constantly update their skills and embrace change willingly and eagerly.

8) Why did you join ALIA and how long have you been a member?

Librarianship is a profession and it made sense to me to be a member of ALIA and its predecessor LAA (Library Association of Australia). That said, I’ve been a sporadic member of the association since I graduated in 1977, joining and letting my membership lapse a few times. I’ve been a constant member since 2006.

9) What is the most hilarious question you have ever been asked?

I worked at the Mt Stomlo Observatory Library in 1984–85 as the Librarian-in-Charge. It was a fun atmosphere, with lots of PhD students and some interesting visitors. One day a young man wandered in and asked if there were any maps of the star Antares available to look at. I thought he was a visiting student and directed him towards the charts and sky maps. At that point, he told me that Antares was a VERY important mystical star. I think he was in the wrong library.

10) What's your dream job?

A job that is well resourced, with an ample budget, happy team members, technology that is responsive and flexible and meets new requirements effortlessly, in a state-of-the art facility. A job that is stimulating but does not generate anxiety. And a thirty-five hour week. If that’s not available, there’s a lot to be said for working in a special library. The special libraries I’ve worked in had clients who were genuinely interested and needed the information and resources available from the library.