Profile: Kate Torney, State Library Victoria

Kate Torney stands in Queen's Hall, State Library Victoria

Kate Torney took over as State Library Victoria's Chief Executive Officer in November 2015. She talked to us about her vision for SLV and why she left a highly successful career at ABC News to lead a library.

Tell us briefly about your career path.
I studied Communications at RMIT before working as a journalist, first for commercial broadcasters and then for the ABC where I stayed for more than 20 years. At the ABC I was a reporter, producer, executive producer and editor and then Director of News and Current Affairs.

What is the most challenging thing about leading a library in the digital age?
Making sure that we make the most of the opportunity we now have to share our collection, services and programs with more people than ever before. It’s a great time to be working in this sector.  

Where do you see your library in five years?
In five years we will have successfully completed an $83 million redevelopment and in addition to our core services, we will be running new spaces for children and young people, the library’s first reading room – Queens Hall – will be reopened as a spectacular space for the public, we will have a Treasures Gallery and new offerings around digital and entrepreneurship. Building on the role the library already plays, we will be a vibrant hub for ideas, education and creativity and we will continue to be a major contributor to the state’s knowledge economy.

What attracted you to SLV?
It’s a dream job, SLV is one of Australia’s great cultural institutions and this is an important moment in its 160 year history.

Why leave a successful career in news to lead a library?
My role in news over the past decade involved leading change in a time of digital disruption. I enjoyed the challenge of thinking through how a highly valued institution with a rich heritage could continue to thrive in a rapidly changing world. I like to think that my ABC colleagues and I had some success in charting a strong future for ABC News. So when the SLV role came up, it felt like the perfect next step for me.  

How are libraries like newsrooms, and vice versa?
Story-telling and the desire to empower the public by providing access to information and knowledge is at the heart of both professions. And I’m drawn to teams and organisations where work is a vocation, not just a job and that’s certainly the case at the ABC and SLV.

What is your favourite item in the collection?
That’s like asking me to name my favourite child! I have no favourites and I am still in the discovery phase - every week I come across a new treasure to fall in love with.