Profile: Janice van de Velde

Photo of Janice van de Velde

In July, NSLA's office grew by a third when we welcomed Janice van de Velde as Senior Adviser of Research and Policy, on secondment from State Library Victoria. Janice has had a long involvement with NSLA and we are thrilled to have her (and the expertise she brings) on the team. We asked her about the library research sector and what she hopes to achieve over the next 12 months.

Tell us about your career to date
Like most people, my career path has some unexpected diversions but I’ve tried to follow my passions and interests along the way. Initially this led to the study of politics at La Trobe University, followed by employment with the university as a research assistant, tracking immigration stereotyping in the Australian print media. All good so far, and the next chapter – doing an MA in politics coupled with tutoring – was on track. Until it wasn’t.

A family relocation to the Mornington Peninsula turned this plan into a logistical impossibility. There was no Plan B. Employment on the Peninsula was difficult at the best of times, and even harder to come by during a recession. When a position working with a soft furnishings retailer/manufacturer became available, I was there. A few years later, I jumped at the offer to work as an electoral officer position for a state, and then federal politician, even though this was a temporary backfill position, it was definitely closer to my interests. 

Fast forward, and I’ve now worked in libraries for about 25 years – largely at State Library Victoria, but with short stints in a TAFE and a special library. Librarianship was a career choice that crept up on me. Urged on by librarian friends and daydreaming about the huge number of books I would be reading (no doubt you’ve heard that one before), I signed up for the MA (Librarianship) at Monash University.

My first library job, deemed ‘non-professional’ in the workplace language of the time, was with the Domed Reading Room’s barcoding team at State Library Victoria. It was great fun! The library’s architecture was (and still is) awe-inspiring. I had no idea how many secrets those books in the Dome held between their covers, everything from love letters, photographs, shopping lists and orange peel. I also took on bookkeeping for the SLV’s volunteer-led Friends of the Library, working with their treasurer, Dr Andrew Lemon who is, by strange coincidence, related to NSLA’s Executive Officer, and my new manager, Dr Barbara Lemon!

Upon completing my library qualifications, I became eligible to apply for ‘professional’ roles at the State Library. I have now clocked up more than 20 years of service at SLV, working across many different areas – acquisitions (legal deposit), reference services, technology services, the Office of the CEO, e-strategy, planning and research, policy, governance and risk, and strategy. These experiences have given me a good understanding of the diversity of library operations, enabled me to build new skills, and definitely given me an appreciation for those I will never have, like serials cataloguing. 

Overall, I think my career path owes much to serendipity and the collegiality of librarians. There have been ‘right time, right place’ moments. I have had some amazing colleagues and mentors and I am grateful that they knew just when to push me out of my comfort zone, or encourage me to try something new.

Tell us a bit about your past involvement with NSLA
While I am stepping away from State Library Victoria to work with NSLA over the next twelve months, I have actually had a long connection with NSLA.  Initially, this involved providing secretariat services to NSLA’s precursor, the Council of Australian State Librarians (CASL) following its move from the State Library of New South Wales to State Library Victoria. 

I have also participated in various CASL/NSLA working groups. My longstanding role as convenor of the Copyright Working Group, and later Advisory Group has, I think, probably set a record tenure. The Copyright convenor role has been a great professional and personal experience. Over the years, this group has formed a specialist network to share and promote information about copyright. It is also a very productive group in terms of developing position statements, procedures and guidelines to deliver consistent and standard approaches to copyright across the NSLA member libraries. The group has also contributed to a number NSLA submissions advocating reform of Australia’s copyright law. 

I have also provided research support to NSLA in the form of two commissioned reports. The first being a comparative analysis of international funding models for mass digitisation, while the second report reviewed Australia’s various legal deposit legislation, which was a critical component of the early planning for NED.

What are you hoping to achieve in the next 12 months at NSLA?
I will be undertaking some specific areas of research over the next year, including an analysis of NSLA members’ response to COVID-19. Although much has, and will continue to be written about the pandemic, this research project is intended, among other things, to identify the similarities and differences of NSLA member libraries facing the closure of library buildings, and what this might mean for future operational planning and service delivery. It is my hope that this work, and anything else that I undertake for NSLA over the next year, will support member libraries collectively, and individually. Other projects on my work plan focus on support for the Culturally Safe Libraries Program, looking at collection valuation methodologies, sector-based research, and the review and updating of existing NSLA policies.

I am also hoping that Victoria manages to get over this second lockdown sooner rather than later, so that I can have some time working with Barb and Aimee in the office over the next year!

What’s the most interesting piece of library-sector related research you’ve come across recently?
Although many people may be reaching saturation point when it comes to COVID-19, for me the pandemic is providing cross-sectoral research that is both fascinating and will be useful to the library sector. Cross-sector research, for example, that is looking at the potential for, and response options to, ubiquitous service disruptions arising from multiple causes (including pandemics, and climate change) is highly relevant.

At the sector level, library research such as the OCLC, ILMS and Battelle’s REALM project has been quick to develop practical strategies to support reopening of library buildings and safe handling of collection materials. IFLA and ALIA have also been hard at work in this space. ALIA recently published an inspiring report about a number of European libraries using their 3-D printers to provide PPE for health workers – clever and practical.

Research and application of virtual reality and augmented reality to deliver immersive experiences, alongside developments in artificial intelligence are areas of interest to the library sector which will likely see greater traction in the post-COVID-19 era.