The Melbourne Study Visit highlighted the diversity and richness of library and information agencies and emphasised the variety of opportunities available to us as students of Information Services. As a student who has only worked in school libraries, I found it extremely valuable to experience a broad range of library services and clientele and to listen to librarians talk about the challenges and rewards of working in this profession. I learned that across the sector there are many common challenges being faced by library and information agencies. Most organisations are finding it necessary to develop strategies to market and advocate the value of their role & services, many are struggling with funding and managerial support. This is very pertinent for those working in schools and it was helpful to see how others were handling these issues, adapting to change and working to improve communication, foster collaboration and form closer relationships with stakeholders and users. It was a great opportunity to meet other students, to talk about our experiences and ponder our future roles in the profession. I am reminded of the importance of connection and collaboration and intend, once my studies are complete, to keep the connections going through listservs, social media groups, association memberships and attendance of professional conferences. The learning that comes from these experiences is invaluable.
William Angliss Institute Learning Resource Centre
I had the opportunity to visit William Angliss Learning Resource Centre (WALRC) during my Diploma of Library & Information studies. I completed my placement there in 2007 while it was still called the Cyber Centre. At that time, it was a busy tertiary library full of books, magazines, journals and many desk top computers to access the network. I was surprised to see that the space had been opened out and enlarged to accommodate many more banks of desk top computers. In the age of mobile computing and BYO device I thought this quite retrograde especially considering all the work being done on the new library website, online content management system and discovery layer. As it turns out, the institute is having ongoing problems with Wi Fi access and IT services. Library staff spend a lot of time trouble shooting for students and assisting with IT issues. Access to school networks is fraught with issues relating to security and privacy and it was valuable to see that other institutions are grappling with these problems. It was also relevant to read that Single Sign On and space re-design are future highlights of the libraries current strategic plan.
Another area of interest was the impact of government budget cuts and funding on library services and the controlling role of institute CEO’s. As in schools, when funds are reduced the library team is the first to undergo a restructure, reducing staff hours and salary. The role of the library and the work of the librarian is unknown and unappreciated by upper management and teaching staff therefore the need for library staff to advocate their role, report and apply evidence based practice is vital. With the institutes introduction of higher education subjects in 2016 there will be massive challenges ahead for the WALRC team to provide adequate services to meet student needs. A common problem for many who work in school libraries.
Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre
Prior to this visit, I was completely unaware of the Melbourne Discovery Centre and was pleased to discover that we were visiting an information agency, not another library in the traditional sense. I loved the Discovery Centre and learned that it is a free information service provided by Museum Victoria. The services offered by the Discovery Centre are similar to library reference services. Like librarians, museum staff respond to enquiries from the general public. I learned that public enquiry can range from object identification, general research, donation offers and image requests to coordinating public access to Museum Victoria’s collections. Discovery Centre staff may need to refer to their own exhibits or Melbourne Museum reference collections, library resources and museum specialists when handling reference enquiries and, like librarians, they provide a referral service to other organisations if unable to satisfy the client requests. It was thought-provoking to ponder the commonality of reference services.
As a teacher librarian I valued the Discovery Centre’s educational philosophy to support and facilitate independent research. The website is a wonderful resource, providing access to a vast range of information and pathways to research enquiries. I was interested to learn that much of the self-published content on the website was generated from popular enquiry and continues to grow, so much so, that there is need to find a larger content management system. Curating online collections, providing and facilitating access to digital information and online resources is a key role of the teacher librarian and school library services. Use of social media and blogging to share and access information is still new to schools libraries. I found it significant to learn that there are common issues between school libraries and other information agencies when providing information and commentary via blogs and social media. It was useful to know that others are grappling with the need to have controlled procedures in place to manage, privacy, copyright and propriety.