13 Questions With: Lauren Buchanan
May 25, 2020
To mark Library and Information Week (LIW) in Australia, Librarianship.ca is profiling members of the Australian librarianship community.
Senior Metadata Librarian, University of South Australia
Who inspires you in your career?
Is it lame to say Giles from Buffy The Vampire Slayer? He worked with rare books, he mentored Vampire Slayers AND he had a great accent! What isn’t inspiring about Giles? On a more serious note, there’s so many great librarians and educators who inspire me, including colleagues I’ve been lucky enough to work with as well as those I only admire from afar. I especially love the social justice missions of groups like Librarians for Refugees and the folks involved in the documentary, Change the Subject. I’m a huge advocate for open access so the team behind Paywall the Movie are also inspirational. Humans who advocate for and work towards social, political and economic change to make our society more just and equitable for its citizens all inspire me.
The first job you ever held and at what age and your first position in the library and/or information services field?
My first real job was at a beach cafe when I was 17 and had just started university. Today, I’d be known as a barista but back then we were just called waitresses and food attendants!
My first library role was in the Barr Smith Library at the University of Adelaide. I started as a student assistant during Honours and then went full-time to save up to travel overseas. My very first role was in InterLibrary Loans, which consisted largely of retrieving and photocopying journals and books while listening to the radio … it was pretty sweet!
Why a career in librarianship?
I have to admit – it wasn’t my original life plan, although my grandmother always thought I should be a librarian because of my voracious love of reading. I even played ‘Library’ as a kid, where I would stamp books, make catalogue cards, and hand out due date slips!
Many years later, I found myself at a crossroads in my life. I had quit my PhD, moved back to Australia from the US, and wasn’t really sure what to do next. I thought about what motivated me, what I enjoyed, and how I could turn that into a meaningful career. Throughout my personal and academic life, it was always the reading and research process that interested and inspired me. Writing all the papers and the dissertation? Not so much!
I knew I wanted to remain close to academic life and since I’d enjoyed my time working in academic libraries in Australia and the US, academic librarianship was something that appealed to me. I love that I get to work closely with students and academics and help them with their research without having to write my own assignments! Ensuring access to information and teaching people how to navigate and evaluate that information is a really important part of being a librarian for me. I’ve always loved the idea that “an informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy,” and being a small part of that process is fulfilling.
Coolest thing in your cubicle or office?
We’re right in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic at the moment so I am working from home after just moving into a new house. There’s random boxes aplenty in my new study, which I can’t help but rifle through whilst I take mini-breaks from work. I just came across a postcard sent to me by a friend in 2002 when I was living and studying in the US, which I thought was pretty damn cool! At the office, it’s probably my dragon tail plant, which is doing really well
What is your guilty pleasure?
Watching terrible reality TV … it is horrific and awful and low-brow but I just love it! And Neighbours, the cult Australian TV show! I’m very Gen-X … I just love TV.
Career advice – what’s your top tip?
Be open, flexible, and adaptable. Sometimes a job might look perfect and amazing on paper but the reality of it is a living nightmare. If a work situation is probably not going to improve because of the personalities or the structures involved, regroup, look around, and see what else is out there! Talk to your trusted colleagues and friends to see if there might be other roles on the horizon that might be interesting and go for it! Be prepared to adapt yourself to roles that you didn’t think would suit you – you might surprise yourself. Get used to managing up with tact and diplomacy where possible. At the same time, try not to burn any bridges with former bosses or colleagues. The GLAM industry is a small one, especially in Australia.
What useless skill(s) do you possess?
I’m quite good at guessing the time without looking at a clock which, in an age of smartphones, smartwatches, and actual watches, doesn’t come in too handy!
Proudest moment in your professional life?
I really love when I have been able to help someone and feel like I’ve made a difference. Watching a student gain confidence in their own research skills or convincing a researcher of the benefits of publishing open access is a great feeling and makes me feel proud of my small contribution.
If you had 24 hours all to yourself, how would you best like to spend it
I’d love to lay on the beach under a shade-cloth with a good book, listening to the ocean and sipping a pina colada! Afterwards, I’d go out for chilled-out drinks and dinner at a good restaurant overlooking the water and watch the sunset with some friends.
If you didn’t work in the information industry, what would you be doing?
The plan was a career in academia, teaching political and moral philosophy at a small liberal arts college somewhere in North America. Even though that didn’t happen, I love that I am still part of the higher education research community. Dream job in the future? Running a doggy daycare centre somewhere on the coast.
Finish this sentence: “In high school, I would have been voted the person most likely to … “
When I asked one of my old high school friends this question, she replied with, “finish the assigned readings first” so I guess that fits!
How do you stay current in your field?
I keep in touch with friends and colleagues in the GLAM industry and try to attend any conferences or networking events I can. However, since funding for this isn’t always possible, I have joined groups like New Cardigan and ALIA New Graduates to try and keep my finger on the pulse. I use social media to follow discussions and articles about higher education and the GLAM sector and try to read blogs like The Feral Librarian and Musings about Librarianship. Free webinars are also great!
What would you like your headstone to read?
I quite like the idea of a Spike Milligan-esque, “I told you I was sick” headstone. To be honest though, I’ve always wanted to be buried at sea, à la Prospero in The Tempest, or in some kind of Bios Urn-type thing which will turn me into a tree after I die, so there’s probably no headstone for me.