:: Dialogue with a Librarian Series ::

“How do we ensure equitable access?”

Helen Thomas, Associate University Librarian at the University of Canterbury. Her main focuses are the delivery of research services and leadership in the acquisition and discovery of digital and print content.

Hailing all the way from the Land of the Kiwi, Helen Thomas is the Associate University Librarian at the University of Canterbury since 2015. Her role focuses on the delivery of research services and leadership in the acquisition and discovery of digital and print content. She was a chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and is currently a member of Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA). Her current interests include developments in the Higher Education library sector, Library Management Systems, and Open Source Software.

What made you choose being a librarian as your career?

I visited the Careers Centre after completing my university degree to see what options were available. After which, I did a year’s training in an academic library to see if the work suited me.

What continues to drive you to be a librarian today?

A fascination with the dissemination of information, especially on how do we ensure equitable access?

What do you find most challenging about being a librarian?

One of the challenging things about being a librarian is keeping up with the rate of change. Thankfully there are lots of great Twitter accounts and friendly people both at my work and in other libraries who’re willing to share.

What’s the most memorable thing you had being a librarian?

Being able to see behind the scenes… how does that database work? What is behind that locked door?

What is a common misconception of a librarian that you want to change and how do you feel about it?

The common assumption that being a librarian means we love books. I do love books but this doesn’t in any way help me do my job. I often find myself explaining to non-librarians and others how print retains importance but that the vast majority of my work is now focused on digital.

What do you want to see in the future managing libraries?

Creativity – libraries are necessarily quite slow-moving. Hence, creating the space and support necessary to let new ideas flourish is something which always needs work.

What skills do you think librarians/aspiring librarians need to have to continue in this profession?

See above! Creativity and flexibility are two skills which I think are helpful in many library roles. For specific technical skills, it depends on your area of work but for research data, an understanding of computer programming is becoming increasingly important, e.g. R or Python.

If you can go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?

I’m personally not great at self-reflection so learning that skill and leaning into it earlier would have been very handy for my younger self.

If you have a magic wand, and you can change anything you want, what would you want to change in the library?

I would want to give every Library in the world the funding that 1 major tech company uses in 1 year.

What are 3 words that your colleagues will use to describe you?

Hmmmm, I’m not sure I could promise these would be their words but these are the ones I hope they would use… enthusiastic, helpful, considerate.

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