by Katherine Howard
Billed as the ALIA event of the year, the ALIA Access 2010 conference did not disappoint. It was a conference of many “firsts” – it was the first ALIA conference to offer live web-streaming to ALIA members unable to attend in person; the first ALIA conference to have multiple, sector-based conference streams organised by multiple committees; and it was the first ALIA conference to be sold out – a great achievement considering that it was organised in just 14 months, after learning that IFLA 2010 would not be held in Brisbane as originally planned.
On a personal level, it was a time of many “firsts” for me also – it was my first time to Brisbane (I have been to many other parts of Queensland, but never to its capital, Brisbane) and it was the first time I had both attended and presented at an ALIA conference. In fact, I presented 2 papers – one about my experience as an Erasmus Mundus student in the International Masters in Digital Library Learning (DILL) programme and one about the issues of access and equity in relation to people with a print disability, with special reference to people who are blind or vision impaired.
Day one of the conference comprised library tours to various libraries (academic, public, special) in Brisbane and surrounding regional areas. My selected tour took me to three libraries. Firstly, we visited Chermside Library – a “hub” library which is part of the wider Brisbane City Council network of public libraries. Of particular interest was the children’s area, called “Flight Deck 4032.” Everything in this area is space and/or rocket related – even the alphabet cards continue this theme with “A is for Astronaut:, “B is for Blast off” and so on. The area is dominated by a huge model rocket to really set the scene! Reading suggestion lists are strategically placed in this area, and in “The Corner” – the young adult space which also includes x-boxes and chairs for teenagers to make themselves comfortable.
The next two libraries we visited were in the Moreton Bay Regional Council area – the Pathways Library and Redcliffe Library. The Pathways Library is a joint use library, sharing the public library facilities with the senior campus of the local state secondary college. One Friday of each month, the Pathways library holds a “Loud @ Pathways Library” night, a youth engagement initiative for 12 – 17 year olds.
The library at Redcliffe is co-located with the Redcliffe City Art Gallery. The library itself is environmentally driven – it heats from the floor up and there are huge louvre windows which work in conjunction with the air-conditioning, automatically closing when the temperature falls below a certain level to allow the warmer air to be retained. The louvres also let in vast amounts of natural light and allow fresh air to circulate (much better than recycled air!).
Presentations started in earnest on day two. The conference was given an international flavour in the “Collective Wealth, Global Sharing, Global Resources” stream with a presentation by Poul Erlandsen from the Royal Library / Copenhagen University Library in Denmark. Other sectors to have concurrently running sessions included Health Libraries; Technical and Further Education (TAFE) libraries (TAFE is a pre-university, tertiary level educational institution in Australia); and a discussion about whether Information Literacy and Web 2.0 is a paradox or not, lead by Professor Christine Bruce from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). The New Grads Group had a strong presence at the conference, with a full day of presentations by new graduates who shared their experiences of what they have done to enhance their careers.
The New Grads Group continued their support of new-comers to the library profession (and to conferences!) by holding a “Library Camp” on day three. Stephen Abram gave a virtual presentation – “The keynote you have when you are not having a keynote”!
A fabulous half-day workshop on Library Leadership was facilitated by Dr. Neil Carrington, formerly from the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER) Leadership Centre and now CEO of ACT for Kids. Dr. Carrington discussed the differences between leadership and management, and that there is a time and a place for both in the workplace and our personal lives. Two things that remain in my memory from this session (although there are many others!) is that leaders know how and when they should lead, and how and when they should manage; and that leaders understand how others think. The workshop interactively discussed current workplace performance cultures and how leadership rather than management could help move from an undesirable workplace culture to a desirable one.
The final session I attended was another workshop format – LIS Education for the 21st Century, facilitated by the Project Team from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) project. As my Master thesis looked at the skills and knowledge required to work in a digital library, this was a particularly interesting session for me. It provided an opportunity for the LIS profession – including practitioner, educators, employers and students – to discuss and provide feedback to the project team about the current state and future needs of LIS education in Australia. It was a lively discussion indeed, which could have continued for many hours had we not needed to vacate the Exhibition Centre!
Overall, ALIA Access had a very positive vibe about it. It was extremely well organised with so many high-quality speakers and interesting papers. The only complaint I have – the usual one I have, and certainly not unique to this conference! – is that it was not possible to hear every presentation.
Katherine Howard graduated with a Post Graduate Diploma from the University of South Australia in 2006. She then worked for two special libraries – the Sound Library at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Disability Information Resource Centre (DIRC). In 2007 she was awarded an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship which allowed her to undertake the International Masters in Digital Library Learning (DILL) program. She graduated from this program in 2009 and until recently managed the Digital Audio Book Library for the Royal Society for the Blind in South Australia. She is now Associate Lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).