Career Strategies for Librarians
The Challenges of a Newly Created Library Position
by Nora Martin
I started in a newly created position as Library Manager at AUSTRAC (Australian Transaction Reports
and Analysis Centre) in May 2007. AUSTRAC is Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism
regulator and specialist financial intelligence unit. Originally established to administer the Financial
Transaction Reports Act 1998, today it operates simultaneously under that act and the recently
implemented Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) Act 2006.
Currently the corporate library consists of a small collection of books, journals, legislation, government
publications, and audio-visual material, categorized with a basic file system on FileMaker Pro.
Unfortunately this system is incapable of effectively carrying out the essential workflows and procedures
that a special library needs to undertake to manage a collection and serve its client base. The library has
also been managed inconsistently in the past, without any suitable tools, funding, standard library
management system (LMS), or designated information professional to manage it.
It became clear to me in a short space of time that in order to support the information requirements of
our agency and meet staff information needs, it was imperative that the library service be developed to a
A word of warning to all of you out there thinking of taking on a newly created position: many challenges
await you! It can be difficult establishing your role when you are in the uncharted territory of a new
position, as expectations may not be entirely clear—after all, you are the inaugural librarian!
I think it is imperative to approach things with an open mind, including opportunities that may seem to be
outside the immediate focus of the library. These requests for help can provide valuable networking
opportunities within the organization that often result in large payoffs for the library.
To illustrate this point, here is recent situation that I faced. It was determined that there was a need to
create an agency-wide current awareness service as no such facility currently exists. The benefits of
such a service would be improved decision-making, operational performance, and efficiency through
provision of and access to accurate, high-quality, and current library and information services. As a
result, I have worked in conjunction with the corporate communications team and we have
recommended that a media monitoring portal be created, to be housed on the corporate intranet. This
will provide staff with timely access to media coverage relating to our agency and core business
I have also been presented with the challenge of having to market the information rather than the library
itself. Nearly six months down the track I still don’t have a library catalog! I now realize how much I took
for granted having access to a library catalog at my previous jobs.
My advice is to seriously weigh the pros and cons of taking on a new position. It has been a steep
learning curve for me, coming from a predominantly public library background. On a positive note, over
the last six months I have learnt so much, and grown professionally as a result.
Keep up with developments in the field
To gauge current trends in library management systems, I had in-house demonstrations with three LMS
vendors. In addition, I had discussions with senior library staff from other government department
libraries, including our partner agencies. Many had recently installed new library systems themselves,
and I thought their input would be vital in my decision-making process.
I strongly recommend that you seek out opinions and advice from your peers, and make use of any
professional organizations you are part of. In my case, I went to AGLIN (Australian Government Libraries
and Information Network) for opinions and advice time and time again. Their support and
encouragement has really helped me along the way, and made me see how important my contribution
has been to our organization thus far.
You’ll need plenty of patience and perseverance. I had to revisit my business case at least six or seven
times, rewriting sections and adding new information as required. Whilst at the time this seemed
tedious, once my business case proposing implementation of an LMS was finally approved, it made all
the effort worthwhile.
Marketing and networking are invaluable
Marketing and networking are essential activities for all special librarians, especially those of us who are
solo! I have had numerous meetings with business units throughout our agency to discuss their
information needs and see how I can tailor my services to suit them.
I also formulated a library information audit, which I sent to all employees to gain an understanding of
staff information use habits, preferences, and perceptions, based on their direct feedback. A side benefit
of this process was that it also helped educate staff regarding the services that I was already providing.
Finally, I wanted information that would assist me in gauging the information products and services staff
might expect when the new LMS becomes operational in the not-too-distant future.
My advice is to hunt around and try to find a template you can adapt if you are undertaking an information
audit. I utilized one published by the Dow Jones InfoPro Resource Center.
Responding to information audit results
The information audit was emailed to all staff in our offices throughout the country, and promoted via the
weekly current awareness bulletin and monthly staff newsletter. Feedback on the design of the audit was
positive, although some staff did think that it was too long. Over one-third of staff responded; among the
findings were that the library’s presence on the corporate intranet needed to be improved and that staff
wanted easier access to electronic resources. Also it is essential to address any verbatim comments
you receive, as these provide qualitative data to get support for the library in your organization.
Lessons learnt and tips for success
Think big! Innovate, collaborate, and share your ideas with your colleagues. Don’t be afraid to implement
new services to your clients. My mission is to apply a dynamic, client-oriented, and business-focused
approach to service delivery, reflecting an increased emphasis on electronic information delivery to
My innovations have included successfully negotiating a contract with Meltwater News, a global
specialist in online media monitoring. We have signed up for twelve months of access to the Meltwater
Platform, which is a streamlined news aggregation service. I successfully negotiated this contract; my
proposal for a free trial subscription of their statistics package was accepted, which resulted in
significant cost savings for our agency.
My other tips are:
Be flexible—build skills, develop yourself professionally, and look beyond the confines of your job
Be curious—question everything
Be open to new ways—change is not easy
Be kind to yourself—have a good work/life balance
Take every opportunity (especially regarding career and professional development opportunities)—don’t
be afraid to take a risk!
About the Author:
After working in a public library as a paraprofessional for over twenty years, Nora Martin completed her
degree in 2005 and is now Library Manager at AUSTRAC, Australia's anti-money laundering regulator
and specialist financial intelligence unit. She previously worked as a Research Librarian at Fairfax
Media, providing high-quality research and information services to journalists at Fairfax, working on local
print publications, and helping journalists from various interstate and overseas bureaus.
Article published Feb 2008
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