Fiona Fieldsend

Fiona is one of those tuakana from the wider sector that I can't remember when or how I (Matariki) met her yet it feels like she's always been there to support us. Although I've never worked with Fiona but I know she is part of the wider, welcoming and enveloping National Digital Forum whānau who have been so supportive of us here at Tusk. In all of our interactions, Fiona has been gracious with her time and infectious with her energy, and having someone like her believe in the mahi that we do at Tusk, and in our day-to-day jobs, is really emboldening. So, thank you Fiona, we look forward to continuing to work with you!

Fallow Deer Dama Dama at Paradise Valley Springs by Giverny, licensed CC By NC

Fallow Deer Dama Dama at Paradise Valley Springs by Giverny, licensed CC By NC

In five words, describe your role in the sector. 

Listening, thinking, connecting, supporting, doing. (If I could have a 6th it would be juggling).

What is it about the sector that you love?

I love what Matthew Oliver said about the "opportunity we have to make positive change in creative ways.” I think we have been particularly creative at collaborating together and I am proud that the GLAM sector in New Zealand has a history of working together on innovative projects. Time and time again I've heard international people say they're impressed that we manage to work together on initiatives like the National Digital Forum, DigitalNZ, NZ Museums, EPIC and Matapihi for the benefit of our sector and New Zealanders.  We've done some amazing things over the years and I hope we continue to build on this history.

What have been some challenges in your career?

I started my career in libraries (shout out to Christchurch City Libraries, VUW Law Library and Wellington Medical Library). Early on I got interested in project based work and found a great job helping develop an online current awareness service at Parliamentary Library. Then, in 2003, I got seconded to National Library to help set up the consortium EPIC - enabling NZ libraries of all types to collaborate to bring down the cost of subscription electronic resources. That was supposed to be for six months. But here I am at National Library nearly 14 years later.  Now, as part of the fabulous DigitalNZ team, I get to work  across the GLAM sector and beyond on the lofty but invigorating goal of helping make New Zealand's digital content easy to find, share and use. 

So along the way I've had some great career opportunities in, across and beyond our sector.  There have been a myriad of challenges related to working across sectors, sorting out what collaboration actually means and how things can get done collectively and at scale.  However, the biggest career challenge I have is kicking my severe case of impostor syndrome in the butt.  Even while writing this Tuakana piece there is a voice scratching away at me saying: "You shouldn't really be among those other amazing Tuakana you've profiled on Tusk."   

Some of that impostor syndrome comes from being an introvert with a tendency to be a quiet, reflective and slow thinker. I need to be confident about things before I can talk about them confidently. I’m usually one of the quiet ones in those interactive workshops. It has taken me ages to believe that I don't have to be a loud, snappy, witty, quick thinker in order to make a difference, to be an effective leader, and to get good stuff done. I've now built up the confidence to know it is okay, in many situations, to take a breath and say, "I don't have an answer for you right now, I need to mull it over, can I get back to you?".

As a pakeha woman in paid employment I'm also hyper aware of my privilege. Toby Morris, who I think is a genius, repeatedly takes my breath away with his insights about privilege (, the differences we could make if we walked together (, the stands we can make for ourselves ( and the confusing and turbulent state of our society and world ( ). I know I have it really good and that I need to consciously check my privilege. It worries me that I'm not making enough difference for our communities, and that is a challenge I'm placing on myself and the work that I do.

Since 2009 I've had the challenge of being a working parent and, more recently, a part-time manager. My work/life juggling act is a bit wobbly. I have an excellent husband and two curious boys who fill my home life to the brim. At the same time I have a busy job and a career that I want to keep in forward motion. I have a terrific manager and a fabulous team who provide moral and practical support to help me keep in balance. Recently I've been encouraged to come up with a "third place" where I have no other demands on my time so that I can find the peace to think, write and be. Finding that third place is a particular challenge at the moment and, to be honest, I'm really not doing very well. This Tuakana piece is evidence of this. It has taken me several weeks to write (Sorry Matariki and Nina!) and the final draft you are reading owes its thanks to a Peppa Pig DVD from Wellington City Libraries. Muddy puddles!

What challenges can you see moving forward?

All of the challenges detailed above remain my ongoing challenges. So I'm thinking about big challenges for our sector in this answer. 

I know we need to determine and draw more on evidence to shape our services and show the differences we are (or aren't) making in our communities. I loved Mark Crookston and Ariana Tikao's excellent NDF session on the initial findings of the Korero Kitea research which "attempts to provide evidence of the relationships between digitised te reo Māori archives with the difference they are making to the people and communities who use them, and to some of the broad objectives of New Zealand society."  This is a benchmark piece of research for our sector. I adore their point that "access [to our collections] is important but it's just a precondition of use and use is where the value is generated”.  Most significantly, they have been able to prove connections between our sector’s digitisation activities and three macro government outcomes including  the Māori Language Strategy, the Treaty of Waitangi Settlement process and Treasury’s Living Standards Framework. So I think we need to put more resource into building our collective skills in research, metrics and data analysis.  Because we need to get better at determining, and communicating in compelling ways, the qualitative and quantitative evidence of the value and impact our sector is making.  

Another challenge, as I mentioned in my answer above, is a need to build on our sector's positive history in collaboration. We've achieved some great things but collaboration takes both compromise and cooperation. That means letting go of some big things in order to make a collective impact. None of this is easy or fast. I would be remiss not to mention National Library of New Zealand's Te huri mōhiotanga hei uara | Turning knowledge into value - Strategic directions to 2030 which focuses on achieving greater economic and social impact through collaboration. There are some great ideas in there and I'm hoping I can be part of that mahi.  I'd love to work with more GLAM sector colleagues, and I'd especially relish working more with others from beyond our sector.

What do you think people in the early stages of their careers can offer the sector?

Oh, so, so much. You can inject vital energy into a team. A type of energy that is hard to get in any other way. You can bring in ideas and perspectives that I don't have the time or space to read about, uncover or form. I need you to challenge assumptions and question why we're doing (or not doing) things. There are many things I will only learn by working with you, and that makes the work we do together even better.

I particularly admire early career people who take up opportunities to support professional organisations. Our various professional bodies really need your energy, enthusiasm, connections and ideas.

What is your spirit animal?

So I decided to do so some research and gather evidence. Sadly, my methodology is questionable…I did three of those online tests.  One was Te Papa's "Which Te Papa object are you?" test which is very clever way to encourage use of an online collection! However, it suggested I'm Phar Lap. My spirit animal is definitely not Phar Lap.

However, the other two both came up with deer. While I question the reliability, both results talked about the deer being determined and gentle in approach, being good listener, and someone who builds and values trust.  I really hope I am all of those things. So a deer it is. Though, I’m preparing myself for jokes about venison.