A network for new and aspiring library professionals
Kathryn Oxborrow is a Senior Tutor at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. Kathryn is an active member of the Library and Information Association of New Zealand (LIANZA) and recently gave a talk to Information students at The University of Sheffield on careers, the presentation slides have been published on this blog.
In this interview we asked Kathryn to share some tips on moving abroad and working in the Information sector:
1. Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you first become involved in the library and information profession?
I discovered libraries by accident. After my first degree I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and did a variety of different jobs. In 2006 I found myself working as a Library Assistant at the University of Reading. I loved it and wanted to go further with libraries so I moved to Sheffield to do MA Librarianship in 2008. I moved to New Zealand in October 2010 after working in my first professional post at the Department of Health Library in Leeds for a little less than a year.
2. How did you find the transition when moving from the UK to the New Zealand Information sector?
To be honest, it was just a part of the huge learning curve of moving to a new country. One good tip I was given before I moved out was that it is much easier to move between sub-sectors of librarianship here than in the UK. I took that to heart and so far I have worked at the National Library, a Public Library, and my current role is in Professional Education.
3. Can you tell us about your current role as Senior Tutor in Information Studies at Victoria University of Wellington?
My role is interesting in a way because I’m not working in a library! I provide technical, administrative, teaching, pastoral and any other support that is required by students and staff of the postgraduate Information Studies programmes. I had really good support when I was at Sheffield and that motivates me to do the same for my own students. Tasks can vary from organising new student orientations, training students and staff in the use of new technology, helping students with any problems they may be facing and loads of other things.
4. You have gained previous experience at the National Library of New Zealand, what made you decide to pursue a role in academia?
I have always been the type of person to take opportunities as they come up rather than having a firm plan about what I’m going to do next. This is what happened in this case. I love the academic environment and it’s a great place to be working while I’m studying for my PhD.
5. What advice would you give to new professionals looking for their first professional post?
Look beyond the job title. There are lots of great information jobs out there that are masquerading under different titles. I was offered a role as ‘Broadcast Media Coordinator’ which was actually a cataloguing role, so taking some time to look beyond the job title can be a worthwhile activity.
6. What advice would you give to library professionals looking for an international job in the library and information sector? And what were the challenges you faced when you started to consider a career abroad?
In a way things just fell into place for me in terms of practicalities, in the year I started looking into moving to New Zealand the Silver Fern Visa was introduced, which was just what I needed. I was expecting to move first and then find a job but I started applying for jobs as soon as my visa was finalised (mainly for practice) and ended up being offered a temporary role at the National Library of New Zealand. I was in a unique position because I only had to give one week’s notice at my job, and I was living with family so I was able to take up the role four weeks after receiving the offer, which is extremely unusual.
For me I was always quite specific about wanting to work in New Zealand. I joined local list-servs to try and get an idea of discussions happening in the profession here. This was also really helpful when it came to finding out about jobs. When I got here I found the important things were to get involved in the wider profession and take an interest in the local culture.
7. You are a member of the Library and Information Association of New Zealand (LIANZA). What do you consider to be the benefits of being actively involved in a network/professional body?
For me, being actively involved in LIANZA was a fantastic way to establish myself within the profession in New Zealand in a relatively short time. I had the opportunity to join the Wellington regional committee as soon as I moved here, and that led to opportunities including two years as Regional Chair. It is hugely beneficial to make connections beyond your own workplace and there are also some good opportunities for low-cost professional development.