Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Day 27: My first library job

So, following on from flexnib and Jane's post about their first library job, here's mine (since I'm running short on original ideas today!).

My first library job was not a library job.

It was in the Percy Baxter Collaborative Learning Centre, which was a state-of-the-art learning facility located on the first floor of the University of Melbourne's Baillieu Library. It was equipped with new PCs and Macs, complete with scanners, and the centre was one of the very few places on campus that had wireless internet access. There were two large separate training rooms for group learning, but the main centre had, iirc, about 60 or so computers. But this was more than just a student computer lab - the unique setup was designed so that computers were grouped into carrels for small-group collaboration. It opened in June 2000, and I was one of the original staff, working there until I moved to Darwin in September 2006.

I worked as an ongoing casual on the front desk, working regular shifts, primarily helping people with printing and loaning our wireless cards (remember them?). I would also assist students and academics in accessing journal databases, and showing them how to identify and download full-text articles. I also received training in using Endnote and supported students and academics in using it. In the later years, we offered technical support to teaching staff using the Learning Management System (LMS), uploading and organising course material for online delivery.

What interests me in highsight was how "not part of the library" this centre was. We would often have people referred to us from the information desk downstairs - particularly those wanting to access online resources. There was quite a bit of referencing and citation training too - academics would often bring groups of postgrad students up for their research methods training using the training rooms.

For me and my colleagues, this facility seemed to be the exception to what a library was at the time - where it really should have been quite integral! And there's no doubt that my experience working in this centre over those six years equipped me with many of my primary skills for becoming a librarian - customer service, supervising a space, troubleshooting equipment, one-on-one information literacy training, referencing and citation knowledge, and so on...

A year or so ago, I revisited the Baillieu Library after hearing that they'd completed a major renovation. The Percy Baxter Centre now seems to have been superseded by the modernisation of the rest of the library, and just feels like a run-down computer lab. The service desk and offices are now vacant, as there doesn't seem to be a need for in-person support.

I suppose, these days, they'd just go and ask a librarian.