When Vicki McDonald took up the role of CEO and State Librarian at the State Library of Queensland (SLQ) in September this year, it rekindled a relationship that started in 2001.
Initially seconded from Brisbane City Council to SLQ as Acting Director of Policy Development, Vicki remained at the library as Director Client Services and Collections from 2002 to 2009 before accepting a role at the State Library of New South Wales, where she was most recently the Executive Director Library and Information Services & Dixson Librarian. She is currently the Chair of the IFLA Academic & Research Libraries Standing Committee and ALIA’s Vice President.
Tell us briefly about your career path.
My entire career has been libraries: public, university and state. My first job was as a library assistant at the public library in my home town, Dalby. Since then I qualified firstly as a library technician and then as a librarian. Consequently I have experience in working in a range of roles: circulation, reference, cataloguing, asset management, and policy. I believe this breadth of experience has positively influenced my leadership.
What is the most challenging thing about leading a library in the digital age?
The digital age offers both challenges and opportunities. One of our challenges is working across both print and digital at the same time and into the foreseeable future. We need to address the usual issues, such as storage and preservation, but also building staff and client capability and capacity. On the flipside there are opportunities: the digital age makes it so much easier to make our collections accessible to broader audiences.
What has been the most difficult or rewarding moment of the past 12 months?
The most difficult decision was leaving the State Library of New South Wales. It was an immense privilege to work at Australia’s first library and I learnt so much in my three-and-a-half years there. I developed great respect for the staff expertise and knowledge and, of course, the collections are amazing!
Where do you see your library in five years?
A core role of libraries will always be about ensuring freedom of information and expression, equity of access and the need to ensure our policies and practices support these ideals. I see opportunities for the State Library of Queensland to enhance its role in supporting social and digital inclusion – for all Queenslanders. To do this effectively we will be partnering across government and with our community.
You’ve been involved in a number of NSLA projects in the past. Has there been a piece of work that has particularly resonated with you?
I was very fortunate to be involved in the workshops that preceded the development of Re-imagining Libraries as a five-year strategic plan. Re-imagining Libraries was successful in bringing together the NSLA member libraries with a common purpose and identifying critical projects that could achieve results.
You are active in both ALIA and IFLA – why?
As a new graduate I joined ALIA for the networking opportunities and because I felt it was important to be active in the profession. Through my participation I have increased my awareness and knowledge of issues facing the profession and the sector. It has been very rewarding personally and professionally.
I first became involved with IFLA through the Metropolitan Libraries section. At that time, it was fantastic to share experiences with colleagues from across the world. I learnt so much! Since then I have become an office bearer and again it has been rewarding to understand the international context of local /national issues. And, through both organisations I have developed some great friendships!