Chantalle has graciously answered a couple of our burning questions about her new position and what being the research librarian is all about. Thank you Chantalle for taking the time to answer our Q&A!
I have lived in several places all over New Zealand, but Blenheim is where I think of as home. I currently reside in Wellington with my partner and three-year-old. This photo is of me and my son when we visited Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. We are standing beside the portrait of our first ancestors to New Zealand, James and Margaret Cowan. I have a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in History and English from the University of Waikato, as well as the Diploma in Information and Library Studies (Level 6) from the Open Polytechnic. Growing up I always thought I was going to be a teacher, but after completing my BA my graduate advisor convinced me that being a librarian would be better, and I thank him for that! After a few years working in retail, I got my first library job as a library assistant in the Collection Delivery team at the National Library.
I am a research librarian within the Research Enquiries team at the Alexander Turnbull Library. I provide advice and assistance for people wanting to do research with the Alexander Turnbull Library and National Library. Our team helps people when they visit the Reading Rooms, write to the library, or phone us up.
Why did this role interest you?
I have been part of the Research Enquiries team for a few years and this was a next step up. When I first went for roles within this team in 2014, it was because I really wanted to get back into doing research. Even though I normally don’t get to pick what I am researching, I have learnt some fascinating information over the years.
I also love that every day is different in this role. You never know what someone is going to ask each day. In one day, I can be answering people’s family history questions, providing a list of resources to a high school student, finding information about a house, telling people how to order copies of items, finding photographs of a person and so much more.
I also love to help people. It is extremely satisfying in this role when you find an answer for someone. Although it is also frustrating when you can’t find an answer for them.
What exciting projects will you be working on within your role?
There are some questions that we receive a lot and often these are operational questions. They are questions like, how do I register with the library, or how do I request material to view. One project that I am looking forward to working on is creating a range of instructional videos that should hopefully help people with questions like these. Other ideas for videos that the team have had, that I hope to work on too, are around searching the online catalogues and databases.
I also hope that I get a chance to work on research guides The library has produced a number of research guides which help with locating resources on a variety of topics. Our team is always thinking of other topics to write guides on.
In the future, what do you hope to achieve in this role?
My personal goal as a librarian has always been about educating others on how libraries can help everyone, and that we aren’t just about the books. In this role I will continue to help people feel comfortable with using the National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library.
What does a fun working day in your new role include?
A fun day for me is when a group visits to learn more about the library. I love showing people the interesting things we have at the Library. It normally involves walking around the Reading Room pointing out the different resources they can use for their specific research topic, doing a live demonstration on how to search any online resources that would be of use, and occasionally we will get collection items out to show people.
My favourite groups to show around are high school students. Normally they are a group that have never thought about using the National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library for their assignments, and I love opening their eyes to what we have that can help them. It is satisfying when I see students coming back into the library after their class has visited. One thing that nearly always happens is that the students become fascinated with the microfilm machines. Although for a lot of them, the novelty of using them can wear off quickly when they realise how long it can take to find articles of interest!
What advice do you have for someone aiming to progress their career in libraries?
Talk with other people in the library profession. When you get the opportunities, you should attend talks, conferences and seminars. This will give you ideas on what different careers there are in libraries, but it also gives you ideas on what you can focus on for your professional development. A lot of the advice I have been given by other library professionals has helped me in learning new skills, which in turn has given me things to talk about in interviews!