Everyone notices the quad-commandeering groundsmen; or the science lab technicians which prompt sudden tab-switching. We see these people virtually every day, but for the five years we’re around them, we as students have no idea who they are.

That’s why we‘re starting a new series at The Collegian which focuses solely on them. Our aim is to pin a name to a face and recognise the Unsung Heroes who are around us everyday.

How many years have you been in this library?

I’ve been at Macleans College for five years.

What training have you done for this job?

I’ve done a library diploma — six papers varying from understanding information and researching skills. There’s also one focusing on children and young adults literature, which was quite interesting. 

I started out in a primary school library and over the past few years, I’ve worked in a few different libraries. 

What does your daily work include as the head librarian?

There’s a huge variety of things. I tend to focus more on interaction with students — helping them find resources for study topics, books for reading log and any technical issue as printing and logging in. 

I’m also creating digital resources for students. Teachers will give me topics they’re doing in the classes and I will find related encyclopedia, newspaper articles, websites and videos, get them all together on the library’s Macleans Sites page for students to use.

Acquisition is also a large part of running the library. When teachers and students make book suggestions, I find those books from suppliers. 

I also spend a bit of time understanding the market — what books are available, which ones are any good — because we can’t afford to buy every single book. Newsletters from publishers and Facebook groups are good sources of information about books worthy to purchase.

When we get books and resources, I organise the payment with the accounts people. We also do stocktake once a year, where we count all the books to ensure they haven’t been lost. 

That’s indeed a lot to do! What do you consider as the biggest challenge encountered in the work?

There’s nothing I do that is terribly difficult. It’s a great job and has all sorts of variety.

But there are two biggest challenges for me: one is that in such a big school, it’s really hard to get to know people very well. Within a week, over ⅗ of the 2500 students are coming through the library. 

There are students that are regular library visitors who I get to know, for instance student librarians and Book Club members. But there are other students who come and go and you never really get to know them that well, because we don’t have the sorts of regular meeting as between students and teachers.

Another frustration is that in such a highly academic achieving school, particularly when students are becoming seniors, they are so busy with study and tend to drop off reading, as they think the latter is not important anymore in comparison. 

Whereas I believe — and there’s research to back it up – that reading helps your brain and with relaxation. There’s a whole lot of good reasons that you should carry on reading right through your teens and further on. 

Particularly for our international students whose first language isn’t English, reading English books is going to improve their vocabulary and academic success. 

There are some parents who don’t want their child reading as they see it a waste of time that should be used to study. It’s difficult to communicate [the benefits of reading] to parents as well. 

What does this job mean to you personally?

This means a lot to me. This is my perfect job: I love the school, I love this library and I love the students here.

I’ve worked in a primary school library, a junior college and in a special library, but my goal was to work in a secondary school library. I’ve always imagined that it would be very interesting — and it is! 

A great day is when you can find a book for a student who doesn’t like to read, afterwards they come back and say: “this was amazing, I love it, now I’m going to get another book out”. That’s just the best feeling in the world.

What is the biggest change that took place in the library since you’ve become head librarian? 

There’s a couple things I’ve implemented that made a big difference. 

One is about magazines. I broadened the range of magazines and enabled people to borrow them instead of only reading in the library. 

We also have done some ‘weeding’, where we take out the old, outdated books and brought new ones that are nicer to look at. 

In the five years I have been here, these actually increased our library borrowers by about 90%. This is done without changing the library opening hours nor the book number ultimately, but by getting fresher stocks and making the library more accessible and welcoming for people.

The best book you’ve read in 2019?

Probably ‘Dry’ by Neal Shusterman. It’s about California goes to a drought as the water pipeline of water is cut off. 

Suddenly there’s no water, situations start to get dangerous as people are killing others for water and the whole society degrades quickly over a very short period of time — I could imagine it to actually happen. That was a really good read.

Interview by Crystal Li. Header image by Selena Guo. Published on 20/08/2019.

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