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 February 2018… ten questions with ALIA Member Lisa Tyson.
1) Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m the Projects and Development Manager at the Western Sydney University Library. Over the years I’ve accumulated a variety of qualifications, including my BA (Liberal Studies), AssocDipArts (Lib Prac), MAppSci (Lib & Info Sci), Cert (Lib building planning & management) and a range of other qualifications relevant to the role I was in at the time. I’ve been very fortunate to have had a wide range of roles across the library (we have 6 full libraries, and a hub library) and the wider university during my time at Western Sydney. It’s allowed me to study quite broadly and to find new challenges and opportunities just as I start to get itchy feet.
2) What is your current role and some of the responsibilities?
My current role is as the senior library manager responsible for our building projects (renovations, relocations and new builds), staff development and library promotions. With 6 libraries and 45,000 students, there is always something to be done, and evolving expectations and use by students means always trying to stay ahead of the trend. In addition to representing the library at internal and external meetings and on committees, my role is to be very aware of the directions the university sector and libraries are taking, and with the rest of our management group try and predict where we need to be in the future and get us there. This also means encouraging staff to undertake courses, step outside comfort zones and take calculated risks.
3) What led you to a career in LIS?
In a way I fell into it after my first uni degree and not really knowing what I wanted to do. That said, I think I’ve always been involved in libraries. I was an assistant in my library way back in primary school, manning the loans desk and helping the teacher-librarian. Wow, if I count those years I should have retired already.
4) What are some of the challenges faced by libraries today?
The perception that libraries aren’t needed because everything is free online, Google is good enough, and that all we really do is read/lend books. We need to get behind our profession, and really start to sell ourselves and the unique value-adds we bring to our communities. In my current work context, this is reflected by our recent employment of a dedicated marketing and promotions person to be our spin-doctor to the University community. The role quite deliberately did not require library qualifications. We are intent on stepping up and out of our comfort zones and getting ourselves seen ‘out there’.
5) Ebooks or Print?
In a work context, e-books where possible simply because space in our campuses is at a premium. Personally? Print books at home, e-books when travelling.
6) What words of advice would you have for newbie library and information professionals?
Be willing to try anything, learn new skills wherever you can, play with technology and be prepared to take some side-roads along the path of your career. Master public speaking, it’s a skill that is invaluable no matter what role you have. Join ALIA groups, go to conferences (not just library ones!) and really become involved in your profession.
7) What is most misunderstood about library and information professionals?
The stereotypes that persist: all library and information professionals are introverts, read books all day, hate any noise above a whisper and all have glasses/buns/pick your stereotype. It comes back to the way we’ve traditionally been seen and promoted, and needing to bust out of that to show the true diversity and dynamism of our profession.
8) Why did you join ALIA and how long have you been a member?
I joined ALIA when I started my first professional librarian role after gaining my Masters degree, and have been a member ever since. ALIA is a terrific advocate for our profession in a wide range of arenas and supports all levels of the profession. It’s a good way to network and learn more about the wide range of libraries in Australia
9) What is the most hilarious question you have ever been asked?
Being in a building-focussed role for the past 8 years (it’s not unusual to see me in steel cap boots, hi-vis vest and safety helmet with tape measure and plans in hand) the most common question I get asked from non-library staff is ‘Are you really a librarian?’. My assertion that I really am often floors them.
10) What's your dream job?
Doing what I’m doing, designing library spaces our students appreciate and love (though an unlimited budget, and a tropical location wouldn’t hurt).