As Director of LINC Tasmania Liz Jack is responsible for a statewide network of library services and online access centres, community learning, adult literacy and, the state’s archives and heritage services. We talked to her about her career path from the Olympics to libraries, with a few interesting stops along the way.
Tell us about your career path.
Libraries and research were a big part of my life as a student, both growing up in Launceston, Tasmania, and later when I was completing my degree in Modern Languages at McGill University in Montreal. My early career, however, was very much focused on sport.
After competing in the diving events at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, I gradually became more and more involved in coaching, to the point where I changed my original plans to become an interpreter and commenced a ten-year career as a national coach for the Canadian diving team. That included lots of travel to a huge number of very interesting countries (where I was able to use my language skills at least!) and gave me the opportunity to coach at some incredible events, including the 1984 LA Olympics.
Coaching eventually led me into sports administration, and in 1990 I had the opportunity to return to Tasmania to take charge of the Tasmanian Institute of Sport. I was in that job for 14 years—interrupted by three years running the diving events at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games—before I moved on to another sports-related role, as Director Sport and Recreation Tasmania.
I was eventually able to take my sport hat off when I took on a Deputy Secretary role within the Tasmanian Department of Economic Development, first having responsibility for small business and regional economic development, and later overseeing a number of the State Government’s cultural, arts and sport and recreation entities (but not the State Library unfortunately). That eventually led me to another different role, where—as inaugural CEO—I was responsible for establishing and overseeing the Macquarie Point Development Corporation; a State Government land development agency.
When the opportunity came up to apply for the position of Director LINC Tasmania I didn’t hesitate.
What attracted you to LINC Tasmania?
A driving motivator for me is to make a real difference to the lives of Tasmanians. What better way to do that than through the wonderful world of books, reading, online exploration, information exchange, and research and learning? I was already aware of some of the great work LINC Tasmania was doing around the state, but now that I’m part of the organisation I am truly blown away by the incredible breadth of services, programs and experiences LINC Tasmania staff provide to people in our local communities and globally through our online resources.
What is the most challenging thing about leading a library in the digital age?
Keeping up with all the changes in that space! I’m still trying to get my head around all the incredible opportunities the digital world offers and I think we’re only beginning to scratch the surface of what our online services might look like ten years from now. Globally, technological advances are happening at a remarkable rate. Our challenge will be to keep up with them so that we can make the best use of what is offered to improve access and provide our communities with a valuable and seamless service wherever they might be.
Where do you see your library in five years?
In 2022, the State Library building will be 60 years old. My vision is that by then an innovative redevelopment will have turned that building inside out – opening it up to the public and creating more contemporary, safe and welcoming spaces for the community and far more ‘work friendly’ areas for staff.
And in five years, LINC Tasmania (which is actually made up of libraries, archives, literacy services, online access centres and a whole lot more) will be even more accessible and welcoming than it currently is, where all members of the community feel a sense of ownership and belonging, whether they are visiting one of our many physical locations or accessing our services online.
What is your favourite item in the collection?
That’s a really tough question. We have so many wonderful items within the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, the State Library and the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts—from rare books, paintings, works of art and convict records, to manuscripts, films, photographs, glass and silverware. I love poring over the convict records (especially since I’m a family history tragic with my share of convict ancestors). But a personal favourite is Lily Allport’s Portrait of a young woman [ca. 1910], which is housed in the Allport. The young woman looks so wistful, maybe even sad, that it makes me want to tell her everything really will be alright.