A couple of weeks ago I flew down to Canberra to participate in #NLS8 – otherwise known as the New Librarians’ Symposium.  This was my first NLS and I was a bit nervous about sticking out like a sore thumb as a bit of a slow learner given my age.  I need not have worried…there were plenty of other newbie librarians there who were my age.

I bought my flights in January so they would be halfway reasonable.  In the end they cost about $600 return from Brisbane as I changed my flight going down to give me an extra night in Canberra.  My accommodation costs were nil as I stayed 3 nights with an old dear friend from school.  She kindly picked me up from the airport and drove me to the venue every day so that saved me heaps in fares or hire car.  I registered early for the symposium so the cost was $395.45 and I registered for two tours – one walking and one bus tour which cost about $45 all up – a grand total of $485 including GST.  Parking at Budget Airport Parking cost $34.50.  All of this will of course be claimable on tax.

Friday 23 June 2017



I was pleased to have packed and worn my long johns, spencer, fleecy jacket, stockings, socks, gloves, scarves and hat!  I didn’t pack much else mind but they were highly valued items.  I was also pleased to have flown down the night before as other delegates from Brisbane circled a bit that morning waiting for the fog to clear.

The walking tour was of the National Library, the National Archives and the High Court of Australia led by the genial Rob Thomson of Illawarra TAFE Institute.  I got very excited about the robots called Isaac at the NLA. You can see them in action on my Instagram account – I’m alexandradaw.  I understand from the tour that NLA might be doing away with the Dewey Decimal system and cataloguing by accession date.  I look forward to hearing more about how this will work.


We then headed on over to the National Archives of Australia where we talked all things Constitution in the Federation Gallery and viewed the Royal Commission of Assent.  This sparked a discussion about how important it was to see the “real” thing or whether a copy was sufficient (to preserve the original). You can get a great sense of the Memory of a Nation exhibition here.

Finally we headed to the High Court , after a little break at the National Portrait Gallery cafe and shop where I looked in vain for a copy of The Little Red School book  being inspired by discussion of the Banned exhibit at NAA.  I was interested how much international material the High Court Library had in their collection from all sorts of places as far flung as Barbados and Ireland. The High Court is undergoing maintenance at the moment so much of it is closed and there is heavy reliance on their other branches in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. There’s a great page of legal links on their site here.


After a quick lunch with a new friend in the Bookplate Cafe we headed off on the bus tour.  We went to see the Geoscience Australia Library, the Telopea Park School Library and the ANU Chifley Library.

By the end of the tour we were all quite tired.  On reflection, next time I would only do one tour and probably I enjoyed the afternoon tour more than the morning tour – not because of the guides but because of the variety of institutions.  I had been to NLA and NAA before so there were no real surprises there.  But I know very little about school libraries and I was completely ignorant of the Geoscience Library so I found the afternoon tour more interesting.  I liked how the Geoscience Library had such a sense of fun about its design and I was interested to see how the Chifley Library was trying all sorts of furniture options and installations to deal with noise issues/different types of student work.  I also loved their feedback form.

Telopea Park School was so impressive on so many levels.  It is a bi-lingual school (French/English), both primary and secondary and the library supports, I think, at least three curricula as the school also offers the International Bacculaureate.  What a job! Oh and they run a radio station too in their spare time.  Fantastique!

Saturday 24 June 2017

On Saturday morning I picked up my delegate badge thingy and bag full of stuff including a Guide to writing a great resume and cover letter for library job success.  Boy do I need this!  I raced downstairs to register for as many workshops as I could.  In hindsight maybe I missed a lot of different speakers as a result but I tend to learn by doing so that is why I chose practical stuff.

Clare McKenzie, Kate Byrne and Alyson Dalby spoke about putting together the International Librarians Network.  Their key message was DO SOMETHING!  It was a great presentation and aided greatly by the showing off of pussy cats on camera from Germany by Alyson Dalby when the inevitable technical glitches occurred – most amusing.

The first workshop I attended was called Getting all Technical with Research Data Support led by Karen Visser, Program Leader Skills Resources and Policy at Australian National Data Service.  I was so intimidated at first by the discussion that I almost slunk out of the room with embarrassment.  Why is it that whenever anything smacks remotely of SCIENCE I feel way out of my depth.? I sat next to a very nice Senior Geoscientist, Anitra Ross who gave me the confidence to stay and I remembered what my very old friend had said to me the night before about ATTITUDE  I changed my thinking to a CAN DO set and persevered.  We were set a very practical exercise by Karen getting us to think about how we might set up a research project data file for a marine biologist.  I kept thinking that in real life I would just ring the husband of another good friend and ask him for advice.  Turns out that would have been a really good idea.  Why re-invent the wheel? Don’t discount personal contacts and the wealth of knowledge they possess. A great tip I picked up at this session was in thing 6 – PRONOM registry at NAAGB to unlock old proprietary files. Note to self schedule time to do all the 23 research data things.

During lunch I shamelessly crash tackled people asking for business cards so I could up my score in THE GAME!

Laura Cyagil.jpg

I was so fortunate to meet Laura Caygill and Morgan Borthwick from Auckland Council in NZ who were to give us an excellent presentation the next day but more of that in a moment.

THE GAME was a great way to improve networking skills and social networking skills.  I tweeted @luvviealex and instagrammed fit to burst and handed out my new contact cards.  I took my book up to the Breakout Space on Level 4 and oohed and aahed over the books others had brought to swap.



I gave the poor Trove person a big hug on behalf of all genealogists and got a great library book bag for my trouble. I sat in on a storytime and suddenly transformed into a storytime reader for a few minutes.  Afterwards I read quietly to myself a great story called Goblinheart by Brett Axel. A great transgender story methinks.

In the afternoon I attended another workshop – Reviewing and Writing Papers for Publication run by Dr Bhuva Narayan and Dr Mary Anne Kennan aided by Edward Luca. I had met (crash tackled) Edward earlier at lunch briefly (for a business card) and was pleased to hear he worked at my Alma Mater Sydney Uni Fisher Library.  He was extraordinarily generous at the workshop sharing with participants the process of writing a paper and its many iterations.  Dr Mary Anne Kennan is the co-editor of JALA and they are looking for peer reviewers.  You have been told.  There was a good discussion of what research is. Leedy and Ormrod were quoted as saying that it is :

a systematic process of collecting, analyzing and interpreting information – data – in order to increase our understanding of a phenomenon

ARC in 2013 also defined it as the creation of new knowledge.  I like that.

Why would we do it in the workplace? Evidence to support decision making, enhance reputation and build relationships. Handy tip?  If writing a paper and submitting for review, remove your name from properties in Word to ensure anonymity. Also, who are you citing?  Contact those journals where the papers are published to see if they want to publish your paper. Last but not least 65-75% of writing the paper is the LITERATURE REVIEW!!!

That night I continued to voraciously pursue a higher score in THE GAME – I had a ways to go to climb up from number 8. I learned to create a meme using imgflip.  This is my take on what librarians are like…and yes, for the record, I am obsessed with James Spader.

james spader meme

Sunday 25 June 2017

R David Lankes keynote address live from Chicago was most entertaining and thought provoking.  He threw out the challenge that our job was not to inform our community but improve it.  It’s not about access but impact.  Interesting stuff.  You can watch the presentation here.

Next up I got to see the lovely Laura and Morgan in action talking about the success of their initiative Reading Between the Wines.   What a great new twist on the conventional book club idea.  My takeaway from that session was that to give a new program proposal a chance of success it is best to tell a personal story to convey your passion for the idea.  I liked that they promoted it through Meetup which I had not heard of up until this point, such is the sheltered life I lead.

After the break I sat in on Guerilla #Research: How to DIY Research led by Anne Redacliff and Kate Masters, Manager Academic Services, University Library at University of Sydney.  Of all the sessions, this was the one that I least enjoyed.  Nothing wrong with the presenters or the subject matter I think I just hadn’t stretched outside my comfort zone enough.  Having said that, my takeaways were the importance of file naming and metadata. My new friend asked the question I was too afraid to ask when she couldn’t understand what the speaker was saying….Figshare. New to me data sharing tool….sheltered life again.

After the break I attended my last workshop – Oral History Projects – making it simple with Sharee Cordes.   I learned about two new apps Twisted Wave if you have an Apple Device and Wave Pad if you have Android. This was a very practical workshop and I enjoyed meeting and interviewing Tracy Poynter from the Steel Construction Library.

The day closed with what my father would call a “firecracker” of a keynote closing address You Are Fine Just the Way You Are by Jane Caro.  I have been following Jane’s observations with keen interest lately and heartily concur with all that she said, although she wasn’t too everyone’s taste.

The weekend concluded with many hearty thanks to the #NLS8 team who brought it altogether so seamlessly.  Thank you Amy Walduck, the team and sponsors for all that you did it.  It was so worth it. And thank you to dear Judith and Peter my hosts with the most who put up with me for 3 nights.

PS I didn’t win the game but I got a certificate!