Regional and rural librarians

Following my announcement on Twitter that I was running for the ALIA Board of DirectorsGemma Siemensma asked me ‘How will you support those who are in a regional/rural area?’

I’ve been thinking good and hard about this. Then I think some more, then I think some more. Because I just don’t think I’m coming up with the right answers. The fact is, I’m a city girl, born and bred. I really don’t know what it’s like to try and serve a client base and build a professional career in an environment other than a big city.

The best answer I’ve come up with is that I will continue ALIA’s support of the National Broadband Network, because everything I came up with to help rural and regional librarians relied on a fast, strong internet connection.

I thought about advocacy – I asked myself how ALIA (in this case I mean members of the Board and senior staff members) advocate on behalf of rural and regional librarians. In most cases they can’t be there – the distances are too far to visit frequently. But they can advocate by phone and, increasingly, through digital channels.

I thought about professional development. I know that when people think about professional development they often think conferences, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. What about professional reading, writing, conversations? What about attending online events, taking part in Blog Every Day of June? What about joining a mentoring program that doesn’t rely on face to face interaction (blatant plug here for the International Librarians Network, set up by myself, Kate Byrne and Clare McKenzie)? I’d like to encourage ALIA groups to broadcast their events online, either live or recorded, to share across the country.

But, you guessed it, so many of these things are reliant on a fast and reliable internet service. I keep returning to the NBN.

So I’m turning the sportlight back on you (collectively) – am I on the right track? Is this what rural and regional librarians need most,  or is it something else? Perhaps the thing that I can do that would be of most benefit is to actually ask rural and regional librarians what they need to support their work and their communities? In which case, I’m asking you. Tell me about your world, and what support would make a difference to you. How can I help you?

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3 responses to “Regional and rural librarians”

  1. Sharon Uthmann says :

    I think coming from a regional library service, PD has to be affordable – yes we should make it a priority and be personally responsible but often the wages we are on are a lot less then our city counterparts – we often have to pay more for things like food and fuel so don’t have much left at the end of the day.

    It has to be accessible – you mention the NBN but excuse me for being a bit cynical but our area is not expecting NBN until 2015-16 – I won’t go to much into this but the research I’ve done on this and how they have determined who to provide NBN to does not make sense with metropolitan places being serviced prior to areas who are yet to receive reliable ADSL – I only have access to ADSL1.

    Offering PD in larger regional centres occasionally would be nice – it would also draw our city counterparts out to our areas.

    The reading of articles, blogs etc are great ways of keeping up to date without worrying about distance. I love that ALIA provides ebooks and journal’s – keep that up!!

    Maybe we could have some discounts for online bookshops for leisure reading as an incentive 😎

    That’s all I can think of at the moment but I will keep thinking and post any other ideas I have up here.

    • alysondalby says :

      Thanks for your reply Sharon. Personally I’d love to see some ALIA groups focused on the needs of rural and regional members – the framework is there, but it requires someone (or a few someones) to get in there and do it. In the same way that most Sydney PD events are run by volunteers through groups, it would be great to see, as you suggest, PD events in larger regional centres.

      All it takes is two people to form a group, but as I’ve said elsewhere, ALIA could improve the way it supports its groups. Appreciating them as the main way in which members interact with the Association would be a good first step.

  2. Gemma Siemensma says :

    I agree with most of what Sharon said. Another huge cost is accommodation. Not only do you have to get to the city but generally you also have to stay 1-2 nights. This all adds up. I suppose what I’d like from ALIA is more awards/funding for face to face attendances directed at Regional and Rural members. ALIA don’t even have to pay the registration but a few hundreds dollars towards something would be immensely helpful. And obviously this can’t be offered to all but a few of these throughout the year for major events would be beneficial.

    And the NBN! Way too pricey. Don’t get me started!

    And of course there is lots of PD we can do ourselves but not all library staff do that. Many only go to events when their work tells them to and when it’s all paid for.

    I just sometimes feel such a vast divide between city and country and I feel like I’m missing out. It would be great for more local groups to do podcasts/videostream events etc. but again most are volunteers and are time poor themselves. As you said Alyson maybe if the Groups were more supported this would flow through to the rest of the country…

    Thanks for a great post 🙂

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