Mike has graciously answered a couple of our burning questions about his new position and what being the University Librarian is all about. Thank you Mike for taking the time to answer our Q&A!
Tell us a little bit about the job!
I am responsible for leading the library service contributions to the learning and research of the University and external engagement through five libraries and the Hocken Collections in Dunedin, plus libraries in Invercargill and later this year the University’s health libraries in Wellington and Christchurch. The digital services support students, staff and others in the wider university community wherever they are based, including distance learning students who can be based anywhere in the world.
A large part of my role is as an enabler for my 110 colleagues, to ensure they have the support to excel in their roles. One aspect that is particularly important is making connections across the University and beyond to ensure that the library’s contributions meet the needs of students, staff and wider communities.
Having been a Deputy University Librarian at two UK Universities , at Bristol and Durham, I wanted to further my career as a University Librarian. The Otago role was advertised less than a year after a spent 5 weeks in NZ Aotearoa on holiday and visiting my eldest son and his fiancé. Otago University was exactly the type of institution I was looking for, having a strong research and education profile, and located in a small city.
What exciting projects will you be working on within your role?
I am looking forward to further developing the digital capability of our services and our digital infrastructure, particularly so that we have digital content discoverable and useable for all and to ensure the digital content will be preserved for the long term (where this is needed).
I am preparing a long term development plan for the physical library spaces to ensure they meet the needs of students and researchers over the next 20 years.
In the future, what do you hope to achieve in this role?
I want to increase the proportion of Maori staff across all roles through recruitment as vacancies arise. This will be especially important, not just within the library, but across the university as part of our Maori Strategic Framework. By doing this we can move more quickly to aligning our services with the needs of our Maori student, staff and external communities.
I am keen to help my colleagues in the Hocken Collections to extend the reach of the physical and digital collections to even more people, including making supporting schools as NZ history curriculum changes.
What does a fun working day in your new role include?
Meeting colleagues from outside the library and making connections for future collaborative work especially when this feels like this is a first connection for them. Helping them see the relevance of the library to their work and the contribution it makes to the university.
Supporting a colleague with a problem and seeing them reach the solution themselves.
I’m meeting all library staff for 1:1’s at the moment, with over 100 colleagues this is taking a while. It is hugely enjoyable as I am getting to understand the varied life and career journey’s – there are so many talented colleagues who bring such a breadth of experience to their roles.
What advice do you have for someone aiming to progress their career in libraries?
- Be open to trying different work opportunities, such as projects, contributing to professional organizations or different roles.
- Challenging yourself to do things that you don’t find easy, whilst ensuring you have support to ensure you thrive even if you don’t fully succeed.
- Be self-reflective and understand how others view you. Be willing to help others, but don’t be afraid to ask others for help too.