Celebrating a decade with NSLA

Photos of Aimee with NSLA colleagues Kate Irvine, Barbara Lemon, Emma Reilly and Lesley Acres

August 2021 marks a decade since Aimee Said joined NSLA, so she sat down and asked herself a few pertinent questions about what she’s been doing for the last 10 years.

How’d you get this awesome job?
I grew up in Sydney and fell into arts administration after completing a Communications degree majoring in writing and political theory (very interesting, not very vocational). After stints working on the Miles Franklin Award, at the Australia Council, Penguin Books Australia and the Museum of Contemporary Art, in 1999 I discovered the wonderful world of HTML and online content and became a web manager, which is what I was doing when my partner David and I moved to Melbourne in 2006. I took a brief break from writing for the web to write a novel for young adults and applied to be NSLA’s part-time Web Coordinator as a distraction from writer’s block. I started on 23 August 2011 and Barb joined as Program Coordinator a week later.

Fast forward seven years to late-2018 and the opportunity arose to act as Program Coordinator when Emma Reilly took a secondment within SLV. It was serendipitous timing that I was both looking for a new challenge and ready to brave working full-time again, but it was really the lure of working with Barb again that made me apply. After a year acting in the role I applied for the position and was lucky enough to be successful.

So, what does the Program Coordinator do?
A lot of my time is focused on supporting our seven professional networks in whatever ways I can, from coordinating their quarterly online meetings to sharing information and research and, in pre-Covid times, face-to-face meetings. Being involved with the networks has given me a fascinating insight into a diverse range of library expertise and I learn something new every time we meet, from the best file format to record oral histories, to the use of exotic seaweeds in paper preservation and what to look for in a top-notch rostering app.

The beauty of having been with NSLA for so long is that I was able to hang onto the bits of my old role that I really liked, so I still look after the website, Twitter account and Youtube channel, and put together our newsletters for the public and for staff in NSLA libraries. I also provide admin support to the Culturally Safe Libraries Program (CSLP) steering group and have worked closely with our Project Officer, Lesley Acres, and with each of the libraries to prepare for the CSLP Indigenous collections workshops and the associated online resources. And I’m responsible for collating statistics for a range of annual reports, including the Australian public libraries stats.

Of course, every job has its less-glamourous side. For me, that’s making everyone’s travel bookings and completing the associated paperwork (and – for the last year or so – cancelling it, too).

What do you love most about working for NSLA?
It’s the people you work with who make a job something you’re happy to keep doing day after day, and I’m phenomenally lucky to have worked with an amazing group of people over the past 10 years.

The NSLA team has always been small but mighty, thanks to having first Kate Irvine and now Barb at the helm; their leadership has made NSLA a great place to work. And beyond Barb and Janice in the office itself (although those rare days when we’re all in the same place together are a definite highlight), I get to work with colleagues all over Australia and now in New Zealand, too.

Also, NSLA is based in the beauteous State Library Victoria, which is a glorious place to work (when we’re not in lockdown), and I’ve been able to visit the other NSLA libraries occasionally for face-to-face meetings or project work. I’ve just got Library & Archives NT and the National Library of New Zealand to go and I’ll have collected the whole set.

What piece of work for NSLA are you most proud of?
The Culturally Safe Libraries Program has definitely been the most satisfying, personally and professionally, because it’s been a truly collaborative effort to make the first steps together towards genuine cultural change. It’s been hugely challenging to roll out a complex, multi-year program – particularly during a pandemic – but we have an amazing steering group of representatives from all NSLA libraries and I’ve learned a lot from all of them. And, even though our plans to run collections workshops in each library have been derailed multiple times by lockdowns and travel restrictions, working with Lesley is always an absolute pleasure. Hopefully we’ll be back on the road together soon.

What’s your favourite item in a NSLA collection?
That would be the miniature Olympic Doughnut Van. Not only do I live near Footscray Station, where the van was a fixture for many, many years, but it was made by my partner, David!

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