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 May 2017 … ten questions with ALIA Member Mel Duncan ALIATec.
1) Tell us a bit about yourself
Hello! As might be suspected, I’m a bit of an information nerd. I collect hats, both literally and figuratively. I’m a coffee snob and a terrible roller skater. I’m mainly kicking around Newcastle, it’s a wonderful city.
2) What is your current role and some of the responsibilities?
This is where my figurative hats come into play – I am group convenor for ALIA Hunter and an enthusiastic volunteer, having this year volunteered at events such as Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras and the Newcastle Writers Festival. I’m looking forward to volunteering at NLS8 in June as well! Until recently I worked at Newcastle Maritime Museum & Visitor Information Centre, and I’m currently studying my BIS online. I see communication and customer service at the heart of most of what I do.
3) What led you to a career in LIS?
Like many, I didn’t see the potential of a career in LIS until a little later in my working life. I know that as a child, I often day-dreamed of being a librarian, but that was something I forgot about for years until I was most of the way through a degree in biology. I realised that I already had many of the passions and skills needed, and just needed to beef that up with some knowledge and experience!
4) What are some of the challenges faced by libraries today?
I feel we do still unfortunately have an image problem - very few people that I speak to outside of the LIS/GLAMR sector know much of what is done in libraries beyond the circulation desk. Libraries are growing and changing in what they offer all the time – we need to be just as good at marketing these services as we are at providing them.
5) EBooks or Print?
Ah, that old chestnut! Different tools for different jobs – I know I personally prefer print textbooks for the ease of quickly paging through and for remembering information, but I find eBooks excellent to travel with for light reading.
6) What words of advice would you have for newbie library and information professionals?
Well, I am one of you really! I try and remain flexible, and say yes to as many things as I can. Depend on your professional support networks, and don’t undervalue yourself – you have more to offer than you might think.
7) What is most misunderstood about library and information professionals?
I think we still have this inflexible image and that that might stop people from approaching us with new or weird ideas, when really in this rapidly changing information environment flexibility is key and we LIS professionals generally love the weird stuff! Bring it on!
8) Why did you join ALIA?
I was amazed to find an industry that had an organisation that supported its professional networking and training so well. I’ve worked in areas where you had to do it all yourself. It made good sense to me.
9) What is the most hilarious question you have ever been asked?
In my role at Newcastle Maritime Museum & Visitor Info, I was once asked about how to get around to places in Newcastle I had never heard of before – and I’ve learned a lot about Newcastle in that job. I eventually figured out that they had looked online for spots to visit and that the places they were asking me about were actually in Newcastle upon Tyne in England, our city’s namesake, not Newcastle, Australia! We had a good laugh about that.
10) What's your dream job?
You know what? I’m not sure. I think the only way to get there is to focus on small goals first and keep evolving.