ALIA Blog Article

ALIA Blog: Cathie Warburton heads to Adelaide

Earlier this month I travelled with ALIA’s Communications Manager Liz Bradtke to Adelaide. We enjoyed meeting with ALIA members and others working in library and information services. I’m continuing to learn about the depth and breadth of the sector, its history and hopes for the future. Making connections with people, listening to their stories and their perspectives is a real privilege. Thank you Adelaide!

Our first stop was the Adelaide Central School of Art (ACSA) where we met with Dr Catherine Kerrigan, one of two librarians at the school’s art library. ACSA is an independent higher education provider of tertiary courses in the visual arts. Set amongst the heritage buildings at the Glenside Health and Cultural Precinct, it has been identified as the best art school in South Australia by the national QILT Student Experience Survey for five years running. 

Since starting at the library 10 years ago, Catherine has overseen the growth of the collection from 2,500 items to over 10,000 items relating to the history and practice of art. Along the way, she has put in place an alternate system of classification with the collection now arranged by broad subject area and period to better cater to the needs of students and their research. In the same vein, Catherine introduced a new online catalogue using library management system Libib to make the library’s multimedia collection more searchable. 

Like many library professionals, Catherine is a real ‘Renaissance’ woman. With undergraduate qualifications in analytical chemistry, a diploma in science journalism and a PhD on the role of the independent library, she has worked everywhere from the public service to the private sector, in desktop publishing in the UK and now in the library and information services profession.  

Our visit concluded with a tour of the Art School where pieces by current students and alumni adorn the walls and hallways, and where the building’s history is not only preserved but also creatively incorporated into the repurposed work, teaching and exhibition spaces. 

That evening we met with members of the ALIA South Australia group for drinks and conversation at Treasury 1860.  It was terrific to spend time with this energetic group drawn from the university, public and school library sectors, all of whom had useful and timely ideas about how to energise Members following the challenges of lockdowns, professional development opportunities for early-career professionals and ways for ALIA groups to collaborate and share resources in mutually productive ways.  





1. One of Catherine's initiatives is the 'Read me and leave me' shelf, where students have all-hours access to essential reference books outside the library. 

2. Dr Catherine Kerrigan           

3. Student artwork at the Adelaide School of Art 

Day two of our trip began at the State Library of South Australia where we were met by the Director of the Library Geoff Strempel who is also on ALIA’s Professional Pathways Advisory Board. In addition to leaning about existing programs where ALIA collaborates with the State Library of SA we were able to explore future opportunities around the delivery of short courses and the joint development of video content for media campaigns showcasing the variety of work undertaken by those working in libraries. 

ALIA’s Liz Bradtke met with the State Library’s Manager, Communications and Marketing Lucy Guster.  Lucy gave an overview of some of the work being done at the library to ensure its long-term sustainability and value to the South Australian community. In addition to their recent brand and logo re-design and the rollout of the online ‘The Stories that Make Us’ initiative showcasing tales from within the State Library, the team have been heads-down in some extensive consultation and planning to re-align the services and spaces of the library to better accommodate and reflect how people are using them. 

We were then joined by Hanlie Erasmus, Associate Director, Public Library Services. Hanlie is a passionate and deeply knowledgeable leader in public libraries whose role is to manage the One Card network on behalf of Library Board South Australia. She was excited to share with us the work being done on a re-brand of the One Card network as well as the new SA Libraries Performance Framework which creates benchmarks so that public library services can better measure and report their performance. 

A memorable part of our meeting with Hanlie was hearing her reflect on her early library career in South Africa. Hanlie shared an exhilarating moment when she heard that Nelson Mandela had been freed and apartheid was no longer. Hanlie managed a library that had only been accessible to white people by law. On hearing the news Hanlie rang the bell, opened the doors and welcomed everyone into the library, black and white. Following this Hanlie implemented a number of programs to ensure the library was there for the whole community. It was a reminder that we can’t take our freedoms and privileges for granted.   

Following these meetings we received a tour of the library from Manager, Future Services Andrew Piper and Project Librarian, Future Services (and former ALIA Board Member) Emily Wilson. A highlight was the spectacular Mortlock Wing which houses the exhibition bays, quiet study areas and the Sir Josiah Symon Library.

Emily and Andrew also filled us in on the project to re-activate the State library’s historic Institute. A key part of the library’s overall project to revitalise services and spaces, the re-activation of the Institute will help in developing and facilitating learning programs that invite participation and contribute to the wellbeing of the community, including a ‘Possum Magic Corner’ thanks to a collaboration with children’s author Mem Fox. 

Next up it was a trip to the Federal Court of Australia to meet with Georgia Livissianos Manager, Library and Information Services. In a peaceful, 9th floor library with views across the city of Adelaide and into the hills, we heard about the work that Georgia and her team do as law librarians, managing the extensive legal reference collections and catering to the research needs of 165 judges, 110 registrars, their staff, court experts and many more. 

We finished the visit with a tour of the library and adjoining floors, where we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of the judge’s chambers – those hallowed spaces where laws are made and lives changed.   



1. Andrew Piper and Emily Wilson                                                               

2. The Circulating Library, Institute



That night was the Leadership and Innovation Roundtable. Following on from the roundtables in Perth, Brisbane and Hobart, the evening’s discussion was structured by some prompts given to guests in advance of the dinner including the key challenges and opportunities for the sector and ALIA’s role in supporting the long-term sustainability of the profession. Those in attendance opened up about a wide range of issues including leadership and workplace culture, marketing and advocacy for the sector, loss of identity for library professionals, and better supporting LIS students and new graduates in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The voices from Adelaide along with voices from every other State and Territory capital will make up a national report reflecting the current issues and themes for the sector across the country. 



1. Geoff Strempel and Hanlie Erasmus                     

2. Catherine Barnes and Emily Wilson                                       

3. Sarah Altmann                             

4. Diane Velasquez, Pepper Mickham, Georgia Livissianos 

The last day of our trip saw us head to Marion Cultural Centre to meet with Damian Garcia, Unit Manager Libraries, City of Marion and President of Public Libraries South Australia. Damian has worked in libraries and local government for over 6 years, and has a background in finance and youth work – another diversely experienced LIS professional. Damian was able to provide invaluable insight into the management of public libraries in South Australia and the need to forge clear pathways and ensure proficiency for those entering LIS from different disciplines and professional backgrounds. 
After meeting with Damian, it was time for all things higher education.

At Flinders University we met with Associate Librarian Liz Walkley-Hall, Director of Library Services Prashant Pandey, Content Strategy Lead Beth Prior and Library Coordinator (Education Engagement) Liz Hounslow. Over lunch the conversation turned to ALIA’s strategic direction, ideas for expanding our Professional Development scheme and what makes someone an LIS professional. 

After lunch we set out for the University of South Australia to meet with Program Director, Information Management Diane Velasquez, Course Coordinator, Library and Information Management Jo Kaeding, Course Coordinator, STEM Catherine Barnes and Lecturer, Information Management Kathryn Greenhill. This impressive quartet of educators shared with us their own pathways into and through the profession and once again we were struck by the variety of backgrounds: computer science, economics, theatre, consultancy, the world of corporate America and more.  Each member of the group spoke with expertise and compassion on the evolving needs of students enrolled in their Information Management courses, and were able to give us first-hand accounts of how the diminishing number of accredited courses may affect the profession into the future. 

Our last official stop was ArtLab, just behind the State Library of South Australia, where we were taken on a behind-the scenes tour from our colleague Heather Brown. Librarian, Sector Standards and Education at ALIA. Heather works part-time at ArtLab - a world leader in the conservation of cultural collections. During the tour we saw this incredible conservation work in action as a member of the team set to work on restoring a turn-of-the-century map of a regional town in South Australia and a springback book binding on an 18th century account book. We even saw some seal-skins being re-humidified and heard about Artlab’s previous work on the Eureka flag and the sari of slain former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

We are deeply grateful to all those who met with us, shared their time, expertise and stories, and who gave us their valuable insights the future of the sector and the role ALIA can play in ensuring its success.  
My next stop is Sydney, followed by Brisbane, Bundaberg and Darwin, so stay tuned!