2020 vision: What just happened?

Barbara Lemon in her home office
Barbara Lemon in her home office

Barbara Lemon, NSLA’s Executive Officer, reflects on the year that was.

In a year that will forever be marked with an asterisk – and that has forever marked our lives in ways much more profound – something unexpected happened at NSLA.

Our collaboration thrived.

Members of the Visitor Experience Network met by web conference every week to help each other manage the frequent changes in onsite visitation and programs, sanitisation and social distancing requirements. Heads of Collections responded rapidly to document and ‘collect’ Covid-19 for the nation, each library according to its own strengths. A network in Community Engagement was established to grapple with the swathe of new online programs and new audiences for NSLA libraries.

Teams working with the National edeposit service (NED) presided over the uninterrupted collection of electronic legal deposit materials, their efforts recognised by NED’s nomination as a finalist in the international DPC Digital Preservation Awards. We reached 1800 staff enrolments in cultural competency training. A remarkable set of online resources on working with Indigenous collections was launched by the Culturally Safe Libraries Program team and received 6000 page views within five months.

CEOs of all nine member libraries reached out to one another regularly. The NSLA strategic plan for 2020-2023 was developed and launched. Heads of Corporate Services contributed to a comprehensive report on the response of NSLA libraries to the pandemic.

We produced position statements and guidelines, research proposals, submissions to government, journal articles and presentations. We were represented at two Senate hearings. We piloted a new set of annual measures for public libraries that will better tell their story.

In total, over 180 staff worked together across 25 NLSA groups and six external committees with over 100 meetings between them.

This difficult year has absolutely vindicated the value and purpose of the NSLA collaboration. We are already accustomed to working remotely, using online communication channels, sharing tools and information, and trusting one another to get things done – and that’s exactly what happened.

We are so proud to work with people who can find room for kindness and generosity in the face of fatigue and anxiety. But I think we’re not alone in saying that the time to meet again in person, to nut out the tricky questions with actual bodies in a room, and without the infernal mute button? That time can’t come soon enough.

Wishing everybody a long and refreshing break over the new year, and we look forward to seeing many of your faces – both on and off screen – in 2021.