Monday, 16 January 2017

How I learned to stop worrying and love the GLAMR label...

I first heard the term GLAM about eight years ago when I was working at the State Library of Victoria. At the time, it was used in relation to the scope for collaboration and partnership between the major cultural agencies within the State Government, namely the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums. This made sense - they were all cultural institutions that acquire priceless collections to preserve the cultural memory of the region, much of their public engagement involved public programs and exhibitions, they were based on similar principles of cultural collection management, and together, they make a cool acronym.

These connections became more apparent when I had the opportunity to use my librarian experience, particularly in working with local history collections, to work in a number of museums. During this time, I attended some professional development run by the University of Queensland, which explored the principles of "Museum 2.0" (this was back in the days when 2.0 was still a relatively new concept!) and for about 90% of the content, you could have replaced "Museum" with "Library" and it would have echoed everything I'd been reading in the library industry at the time.

And then, whilst my career moved more into NGO / intergovernmental agencies, focusing on the implementation of information and knowledge management in the international development sector, the GLAMR (the "R" being for Records Management) label took off back in Australia, acknowledging the scope and intersections between professionals in these industries. No longer were people like me simply librarians - no, we were GLAMR professionals!!

Except that I was working as an information professional outside of the GLAMR sector. I'd see my former colleagues and peers heading off to GLAMR events, and feel excluded. Sure, I could have turned up anyway, but they'd probably be talking about libraries and museums and records management principles - things that weren't a part of my professional life at that time.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it's not that I was being excluded by the industry - I'd pretty much taken my skills and left the industry in order to work elsewhere. And that's okay too. 99% of people in the GLAMR industry aren't going to be interested in working in the development / peacekeeping / humanitarian sector, and nor are their activities going to be relevant outside the context of the GLAMR sector. At the same time, information professionals working in civilian crisis information management or digital humanitarian aid going to be attending professional development for that field, and probably not the next ALIA conference.

And it's important, not only to open the scope of one's sector, as LIS has expanded to GLAMR, but also to recognise its boundaries, in order to manage their own brand and their community. The question I often dread in a new job is, "Where were you before?" as people make a snap judgement about your immediate past experience and its relevance to your new role. Generally speaking, most people in the GLAMR sector are familiar with what most other people in the GLAMR sector do. Other sectors... not so much.

And I must say, it's very exciting to see how far the library industry has come over the years. It would have been not even ten years ago where I'd witness fierce arguments over whether a library should consider recruiting professionals with non-LIS qualifications as librarians, but now I work in libraries where librarians might come from diverse fields such as teaching, museum studies, art curation, journalism and so on. Yes, it means having to compete with a wider range of professionals for those coveted jobs, but it makes for a much more interesting workplace. Plus, if I ever get bored of libraries, there's a wider range of fields to move into more organically.

By embracing this professional diversity, opportunities open up for us to question each other's professional practices, and learn from the successes across these intersecting sectors. And whilst I'm still a little sad to have left my not-so-GLAMR'ous (see what I did there?) career path behind, I'm pretty excited to be back in the GLAMR sector, and to see what this brave new world has in store.