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“Never say ‘I like books’ in a job interview,” and other advice for librarians

It’s Australian Library and Information Week, so we asked Alison Bates, Library Resources and Access Manager at RMIT University in Melbourne, to fill us in on what motivated her to become a librarian in the first place, keeping her work/life balance, and how realising the impact you can have in your role is the key to job satisfaction.

What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at the library?

Greet the other early starters – 7:30am start to waste as little of the day as possible – then log on to check emails.  About half an hour later I stagger to the café downstairs to get coffee to deal with the effect the emails are having.

What made you want to become a librarian?

The best bit about studying was always going to the library and finding and collecting all the resources I’d need to write the essay.  I could do that all day – writing the essay was not so much fun.  Although I was warned never to say it in a job interview, I also like books.

What’s your first memory of a library?

Tuesday night, library night at the Ivanhoe Public Library.  Sometimes already in pyjamas and dressing gown I’d go upstairs to the third magical level where the Children’s books were.  I’d read as many as I could while the family were in the building to maximise value as I was only allowed to borrow a few to take home.

What projects are you currently working on?

I always seem to have a few projects on the go at once, but probably the most satisfying ones at present are making our processes simpler to make it easier for Academic staff and students to engage with our collections.  An example is reviewing our ‘suggest a purchase for the collection’ process, and removing as many barriers to receiving suggestions as possible.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

I really enjoy working with creative, energetic colleagues to make a better experience for our users.  I have always worked in the Technical Services side of library work, but you don’t have to be client-facing to be client-focused.  In fact, it is even more important to be aware of the impact of your work on customers if you are not face-to-face with them every day.  I also have a bit of a thing for streamlining workflows – any workflows.

What part of your job do you think people would find the most surprising?

The sheer number of books I don’t have time to read.  Probably not surprising to other librarians, but to anyone you meet socially who asks what you do, apparently astonishing.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

Running a small farm in my spare time means that every waking hour not given to librarianship is devoted to agriculture.  I am constantly on a steep learning curve that involves cutting and baling hay, fencing and with our first cows arriving next month, cattle management.  At least I know how to find information – it is the practical experience that is the harder teacher.

What has been your proudest moment as a librarian?

I went to the ALA conference in 2014 to present a poster session and did some other presentations along the way.  It gave me a strong sense of our potential to have an impact by sharing our experiences and evidence.   It is great to work in an industry where collaboration and sharing are the norm.

Featured image: Knowledge by Dariusz Sankowski, Public Domain via Pixabay.

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  1. Lib Mike

    “Never say ‘I like books’ in a job interview,” and other advice for librarians – Where is the advice???



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