Helen Hayes

Helen Hayes BA LAARegCert FALIA

  • ALIA Fellowship 1999

The leadership skills Helen Hayes demonstrates in responding to the challenges confronting library and information service professionals have contributed to the recognition of libraries and librarians as leaders in the use of good management techniques. Her implementation of quality-management strategies and her active participation in many different forums have ensured a positive image of Australian libraries and librarians beyond the library and information sector both nationally and internationally.

Helen's career in the library and information profession began with her appointment as librarian at Yarra Valley Boys Grammar School. After a period as librarian at International Computers she moved into academic librarianship, where she held various positions within the libraries of the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne State College before her appointment in 1986 as chief librarian of the then Melbourne College of Advanced Education. Following the College's amalgamation with the University of Melbourne Helen became associate librarian in the University in 1989. In 1993, after a period of acting in the position, Helen was appointed University of Melbourne librarian, a position which she still holds in addition to her recent appointment to the position of vice-principal (information).

At the time of Helen's appointment in 1993, the University of Melbourne was seeking a new strategic direction and management philosophy to meet the requirements of the academic community. Helen recognised the need to develop quality services and to improve access to resources worldwide and set this as a major priority for the library. Under her leadership, a quality-management framework was established, ensuring effective use of resources and a strong customer focus. This involved in part the creation of a Customer-Support Information Technology Unit in the library and the establishment of an Information Development and Marketing Unit with responsibility for designing new products and services, including print and electronic publications, to meet customer needs.

Another major change which Helen initiated in moving the library to a customer-focussed culture was to restructure collection management and technical services areas into customer-based groupings or teams. Achieved over a two-year period, the restructure enabled staff to acquire feedback from customers, improving customer knowledge and service responsiveness. Helen's work in implementing a quality-management framework was recognised by an award for Achievement in Business Excellence from the Australian Quality Council in 1996.

As part of her creation of a quality organisation, Helen maintains a commitment to staff development. An exemplary role model for younger members of the profession, Helen encourages her staff to further their professional qualifications and formally recognises those who achieve excellence in librarian and library technician studies.

Helen's interest in benchmarking of library services - especially in the higher education sector - saw her encourage a pilot of the Library Industry Competency Standards in the University of Melbourne Library to assess how applicable the standards were to the library's desired human resource processes as well as to provide relevant feedback to the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). Further, she recommends that other university libraries use benchmarking as a means of measuring performance and improving services to users. To this end, Helen has developed strategic alliances with university libraries in South Africa, North America as well as in Australia.

Helen has also successfully involved her library in projects of national importance. Her library is involved in three Australian Research Council (ARC) funded projects which demonstrate this. AgriGate, for which the University of Melbourne Library is the lead institution, is a pilot project to develop a national web-based gateway to evaluate information resources in agriculture and related fields. The library is also involved in national projects to digitise theses and to catalogue microform sets, and is a participant in a national project to provide an internet gateway to evaluate information resources in chemistry.

Beyond the University of Melbourne Library Helen has an outstanding record of work in professional forums. She has worked collaboratively with colleagues to improve collection coverage within regions, for example, in Victoria through her work with Co-operative Action by Victorian Academic Libraries (CAVAL). She has made a major contribution to the work of the Friends of Libraries Australia (FOLA) organisation and, with FOLA president Peter McInnes, has authored a strategic plan which aims to encourage and assist the formation and development of Friends groups in Australia.

From 1994 to 1997 Helen was president of the Australian Council of Libraries and Information Services (ACLIS). In this role she was a strong and resolute leader who recognised the need for effective national advocacy on copyright reform by the profession; the need to address standards and associated issues concerning co-operation in the new technological environment; and the need for effective advocacy on resource issues to the Commonwealth and other governments. Her recognition that the profession could only represent itself to government on strategic issues such as telecommunications and copyright to name but two, by the establishment of a new peak cross-sectoral organisation for the Australian library community saw her, together with Helen Tait, then ALIA president, initiate the first processes in moving towards a new peak organisation for the library and information sector. Helen would then go on to make a significant contribution to the work and strategic thinking of both ACLIS and ALIA through her vision and commitment to the establishment of the new peak organisation.

An active member of the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL), Helen served a four-year term as deputy president before being elected as president in 1998. She has been involved in CAUL projects which gather statistics - CAUL statistics form the only comprehensive collection of Australian library statistics - and CAUL strategic planning and supported efforts such as the Janus proposal to DEETYA in 1998.

A long-standing member of the Australian Library and Information Association and a previous office-bearer in the University College and Research Libraries Section (Victorian Group), Helen has participated in a range of activities designed to promote the profession. She encourages her staff, including senior staff, to be active in the Association and to seek office-bearing positions. Helen also provides opportunities to enable them to work on ALIA state and national projects and working parties.

Helen is an important member of the library and information profession in Australia. Her commitment to quality management and her participation in many forums have contributed to raising the profile of the profession both nationally and internationally. Helen Hayes is a worthy recipient of the distinction of Fellow of the Australian Library and Information Association.