In five words, describe your place in the sector.
Creative, collaborator, connector, concatenator, conspirator.
What first drew you to the sector i.e. Do you have a particular memory of a moment that got you hooked?
Rewinding audiobooks at Mt Roskill Library [quietly dying inside] and looking up to see the local history scrapbooks and thinking “I could index those”.
I have always been interested in creating connections and telling stories about the history of a place. I need to understand the broader context in which I work and the collections in which I am working.
The best parts of my previous library roles have been archival projects that I started off my own bat. I didn’t ask permission, I just quietly took them on and once I was rolling I would talk to my manager.
I really enjoyed working in an academic library but I knew the rigid career progression wasn’t truly for me. I applied for a subject librarian position at the Fine Arts Library, after working there for 5 years. I did this because I felt that what was expected. When I didn’t get it I felt an intense sense of relief. I could definitely do that role but I didn’t want that role and the interviewers could see that. But I couldn’t see any other career path. Less than a year later I got a job in the Library at Auckland War Memorial Museum, Tāmaki Paenga Hira.
What challenges have you faced in your career so far?
Knowing where I fit. I am both a librarian and museum worker. I manage a digital collection while also helping to tell people's stories. It has taken me awhile, to figure out that I need a space where I am allowed to be loud, abrasive and challenging as well as quiet, introspective and tactful. Auckland Museum has provided me with that opportunity. While I enjoy working in a traditional library setting, I can also be creative in the way I attack certain tasks and reined in when approaching others. I can express myself. It is a great but unusual position to be in.
Has anything or anyone in particular provided you with support?
I am lucky to work and learn from both museum and library professionals. I am a committee member of the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa Documentary Heritage Special Interest Group. I work alongside Jane Wild, my former manager at the Fine Arts Library and current Research Centres Manager at Auckland Libraries, Mark Caunter (Heritage Team Leader, Hamilton Libraries) and Fran McGowan (Senior Librarian and Web Content Co-ordinator Manatū Taonga - Ministry for Culture and Heritage). Despite us being peppered throughout New Zealand maintaining these connections especially when feeling a touch disconnected from the library profession has been really important.
I also value the support I have received from two former Auckland Museum colleagues. Jacqui Snee in regards to tikanga Māori - she has a real knack for keeping me honest. Jacqui is now the Māori Services Librarian / Kaiwhakarato Pārongo Rangahau Māori at Massey University. And Philippa Robinson, former Librarian, Manuscript Projects at the Museum and current Library & Archives Manager at MOTAT. I feel we are effectively mentoring each other through a similar period of change in our career - managing teams.
What do you think people at your own level (emerging etc) bring to the sector?
Creativity, flexibility and drive. But to be honest all I know is that it is important to bring your true self to work and be real.
What is a positive change you would like to see in the sector?
I come from libraries which is a client / customer / patron focussed industry. The academic, student, parent, retiree, teenager, child, toddler etc etc are our key concern. They are central to our purpose. I feel that museums in many cases end up talking to themselves especially in the way they describe and share collections. Libraries have been providing public access to their catalogues and research support since day dot and people take this access for granted. The more you share the collection the more you will benefit. So publish your stuff. Put it up. No one cares if there is a mistake or you use a natural language title instead of its taxonomic one. Libraries are no more special than museums - they have just had more practice at sharing. No one expects every record to be correct especially for collections that have been built over generations.
And finally let people tell their stories - they really want to. Allowing them to tell the stories side by side with the “official” stuff makes the records richer, more nuanced and much less “us” versus “them”. We don’t know everything and no one expects us to.
What is your karaoke song?
“A Whole New World” from the Aladdin soundtrack. As everyone at the Auckland Museum Library can attest...