:: Dialogue with a Librarian Series ::

Jayshree next to the memorial sculpture of Eddie Koiki Mabo after whom the JCU Townsville Library is named

“… journey towards meaningful reconciliation within Australia will be ongoing into the distant future”

In conjunction with National Librarian Day, for our Dialogue with a Librarian Series, we are honoured to feature Ms Jayshree Mamtora, Manager, Scholarly Communications from James Cook University (JCU), and the contribution of her employer, JCU Library, to the James Cook University Reconciliation Action Plan.

This recent article in the IFLA Journal details some of the work that has been done by the Library. Aptly titled, “Reconciliation in Australia: the role of the academic library in empowering the Indigenous community”, the article “discusses the role of the academic library in contributing to the reconciliation process in Australia through the lens of James Cook University”. The article was co-authored by Jayshree Mamtora, Claire Ovaska, and Bronwyn Mathiesen (2021).

James Cook University Reconciliation Action Plan
What is Reconciliation?

Reconciliation is an honest and critical understanding of Australia’s shared history, and how it has informed the lives of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians today.

Reconciliation involves other Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples building and preserving mutual, positive, and respectful relationships. It involves optimising these relationships and working together on closing the gap; achieving a shared sense of fairness and justice as a foundation for success; and enhancing our national well being.

James Cook University’s Commitment

JCU’s commitment to reconciliation is addressed in its Statement of Strategic Intent.

“Acknowledging the First Nation peoples of the world, their rich cultures and their knowledge of the natural environment, we pay particular respect to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the traditional custodians of the lands and waters of Australia. We are pledged to achieve genuine and sustainable reconciliation between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider community.”

To read more about the Reconciliation Action Plan, please visit the official web page for more information.

Reconciliation Artwork
© Kassandra Savage, reproduced with permission of the artist.

Artwork: Coming Together and Respecting Difference by Kassandra Savage (Acrylic on linen)
Language group: Waanyi and Walangama clan, part of the Gkuthaarn/Kukatj nations

James Cook University acquired the artwork as part of its commitment to implement the Reconciliation Action Plan. The artwork represents JCU’s story in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander way:

  • Circles in the middle depict JCU as a meeting place
  • Outer circles are JCU’s links to communities through its students, who return home to share their new knowledge and understandings
  • Different patterns within the hands and arms are the differences between and within Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, and multicultural Australia. There are also similarities in the hands and arms used to illustrate us standing together for equity and equality
  • The ripple effect in the arms and hands represents out reconciliation journey; starting small, growing bigger, and reaching out to touch more and more lives. The effect gathers momentum to develop support and understandings. The circles represent the importance of yarning circles, meeting circles, and communities, in order that we can connect with each other
About Jayshree

Jayshree Mamtora is an experienced library professional who has worked in the UK, the Pacific Islands and Australia. She is currently the Manager, Scholarly Communications at James Cook University based in Townsville, Queensland, Australia.

Jayshree is also a member of the IFLA Regional Divisional Committee for Asia and Oceania; the IFLA Academic and Research Libraries Section; and the ALIA International Relations Committee.

On the Project

Can you share with us what drives you behind the Reconciliation project?

To me, the main driver is “achieving a shared sense of fairness and justice for First Nations (Australian Indigenous) peoples, and contributing in whatever way possible, to closing the gap by:

  1. Responding to the University’s Reconciliation Action Plan: JCU – Reconciliation Action Plan 2020 – 2022; and at the same time contribute to attaining the relevant targets of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals
  2. And facilitating our First Nation’s students education journey so they gain more options in life for themselves, their family and the wider community”

Can you share with us any memorable moment while working on the project?

There are 2 points that I would like to share.

  • “Making new discoveries and better understanding reconciliation while collaborating with new colleagues”
  • “Expanding my worldview and gaining deeper appreciation of the sophistication of First Nation Australians”

Conversely, is there any point in time during the project that you feel like giving up?

“On the contrary, I felt encouraged to do more and understand more. The journey towards meaningful reconciliation within Australia will be ongoing into the distant future – it is just that complex. I understand that there will be wins and losses. I’ll just aim to keep trying, and that’s all that any one person can do.”

Any exciting future developments on the project that you can share with us now?

That would be “seeing through the recommendations of the paper, with one of them being to survey our Indigenous staff and students to gain their perspective on the services provided by the Library and identify any gaps.”

On her job

What made you choose being a librarian as your career?

“It was the next best thing to becoming a detective!”

Which aspects of being a librarian do you enjoy the most?

“Supporting academics and researchers with their research endeavours and accomplishments.”

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

“Seeing academics and researchers I have provided assistance to achieve their goals and reach the pinnacle of their career.”

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

“All librarians do is sit quietly in their library, are required to read every book in the collection and all the other stereotypes.”

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

“Professional, committed, collaborative.”

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

“Have much more fun while being serious.”

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