Introducing NSLA’s new Executive Director: Dr Simon Polson

Dr Simon Polsen

We are delighted to introduce Dr Simon Polson, who has recently stepped into the role of Executive Director at NSLA.

We took the opportunity to learn about Simon’s career path, what attracted him to this role, and the hobbies and passions he enjoys outside of work.

Can you tell us briefly about your career path?

I am coming to libraries from the university sector but it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when universities became a part of my ‘career path.’ The shift from full-time study to lecturing happened gradually and over two hemispheres: I taught music history and theory at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (University of Sydney) while doing my Masters, then I taught at the University of Maryland (USA) while writing my doctorate. I moved back to Australia in 2019 and taught at USYD and The University of New England, and in 2021 I moved from teaching into strategy roles. At USYD I worked in two different faculties and across the university to design and implement research strategies, and contribute to a culture of research excellence; most recently, at The University of New South Wales, I’ve been a senior research strategist and the lead architect of the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects scheme, enhancing the university’s success and enabling life-changing research to get off the ground.

What attracted you to the role of Executive Director at NSLA?

The best part about any of the work that I’ve done has been connecting and collaborating with other people. Universities are colossal, complex institutions — I remember a Vice Chancellor once saying that his job was like being the mayor of a mid-size city! Colleagues who are facing similar challenges to one another don’t always find each other or benefit from working together. I founded and co-founded communities-of-practice to encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration across the university to solve those challenges together. That word, “together”, is in the title of NSLA’s 2023-26 strategy and its mission statement begins “We share…”, which describes exactly how I like, and want, to work. And the opportunity to lead collaborations across the library sector was too perfect to pass up. Libraries have been fundamental to everything I’m proud of having achieved and, in one way or another, I’ve been working in and around libraries for my adult life (over coffee, ask me about the documentary I appeared in at the SLNSW, or the articles and book chapters I’ve written about rare books and manuscripts in Australian collections, or the work that I did cataloguing medieval music in reference and university libraries in Washington DC and Baltimore). I’m committed to NSLA’s strategic vision and the importance of working together, and I believe in the value of libraries to communities and to society. I’m looking forward to working with passionate people towards collective purposes that change experiences and lives for the better.

Could you share some insights into your personal hobbies or passions that inspire you outside of work?

I try to read and to play the piano every day. One of the most inspiring parts of my day is when I read my book with a cup of tea as the sun rises; I read a lot of fiction and try to fill my reading list with as many different writers as I can so that I experience stories from different places and times. I also have a deep appreciation for opera, which combines my love for music and powerful storytelling. Additionally, I love history, and with a friend authored coffee table books about our houses and neighbourhood (the product of many happy hours trawling through Trove and the SNLSW and City of Sydney archives) and we’re about to start on a new project together. I love going on walks around our neighbourhood and travelling around the world. And I love learning new things: in the past year I’ve learned that I’m not a bad gardener, and this year I’m hoping to find the time to learn to speak another language.


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