ASSOCIATES (2009, November, v. 16, no. 2)


Celebrating 25 years

Gaynor Lovett
Northern Territory Library

16 April 1984, “You’ve got the temporary AO3 position”, Yahoo! (Not the search engine) It can’t be that easy was my initial thought – but after 12 years of not being employed, having never written a resume before, let alone going for the interview, which by the way I thought I had blown – gave what I thought were all the wrong answers – but there I was starting my new career as a Administrative Assistant (Library Technician) in the Department of the Chief Minister’s Library. I had only commenced the Library Technicians course in the January.

My job was to type those slippery, pesky little shelf list cards – they hated being put into the typewriter and would always want to slide out before you were finished and those even more pesky spine labels.

I barely knew at that stage what a catalogue was – if it hadn’t been for a very supportive Teacher Librarian who had convinced me the previous year that I could do this, I would not have known. I had always been an avid reader, but not a great library user.

Into my first month of working, my husband was told he was off to the bush to work. We had 2 sons, both under 12, I was studying and making up the hours at work that I had had for study. Those first years were tough.

After 6 months my permanency was approved, I had added the checking in of newspapers, journals and government publications and of course shelving these, to my skills. I must say when I look back this was a very small library compared to the one I am in now.

By 1986, we had moved the library to a different building, the Librarian left soon after. I was told she was not going to be replaced until we moved again to join with the Legislative Assembly Library. At this stage I was not yet qualified, ABN cataloguing was my favourite job. I thrived on Government publications, but I still had one work placement to finish the Library Technician’s course and I was asked to run the library until after the move. I did the placement reluctantly, worked the additional hours to organise the next move to the Legislative Assembly and graduated from Darwin Community College with a Certificate in Library Practice. This was upgraded a few years later with the Associate Diploma in Library Practice.

By 1987, the Library was called the Parliamentary Library, serving the Department of the Chief Minister, the Administrator and not least of all the Members of Parliament, their staff and the Department of the Legislative Assembly. I had two other Library Technicians, who both completed their Associate Diplomas whilst working in the Library.

This great team continued to provide services to the above staff until 1995, with brief periods of support from temporary visiting librarians from New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria Parliamentary Libraries between 1990 and 1993. The librarians worked with the Librarians from the State Library for the amalgamation and move into the new Parliament House in 1995.

My job was done, 8 years of playing the role of Officer in Charge of the Parliamentary Library was over – I was a Library Technician again – I was so relieved to not have that management role and I could get back to doing what Library Technicians do so well, the technical work.

It was 1995, a new prestigious building, computers appeared on everyones desk, they were not stand alones, these were networked and could talk to each other – what an innovation!

We had CDRom databases (Proquest) to find journal articles. Journals were still being checked in on the file cards but within 18 months they too were on the catalogue. Now you knew when you didn’t get a title, but you still had to check, the computers weren’t that smart yet!

1998, new management – they say a new broom sweeps clean – in this instance this statement was so true, especially at the upper levels. I was reassigned from the Parliamentary Service to the Reference Team, and later to Manager of Collections.

Technology, in particular computers, has advanced forward in leaps and bounds since1995 and continues its ever changing way on a daily basis. Who can keep up with it all? In libraries it is imperative for us to do so – to continue to be the specialists in the field of information.

I recall getting the Internet access in the library. They were exciting times. Because we worked for government we had to justify why staff needed to have access to the Internet – to do our job! Library staff that did not embrace the technology were left behind doing the more menial tasks.

Many reference enquiries moved from using the hard copy reference tool to using online reference tools to provide the answers.

Now we do not think twice before using the Internet as a first resource. Where do you go for Who’s Who in Australia? Online, is the first point. Want to read an old newspaper, forget the microfilm, go to to find out what happened way back when.

Up until 2007 my role was collections – maintenance, cataloguing, checking, cross checking, supervising again, until the next broom came though and I was back again to the Reference team, this time with an added bonus.

The library was to set up a digitisation unit. The new innovation of the technology explosion – more things have to be scanned. Clients needed more information digitised.

The library had been scanning photos at a low resolution for many years and Territory Images held around 50,000 photos.

The National Library of Australia formulated new processes and procedures and we decided to run with these guidelines.

I was asked if I would be interested in getting this unit to the operational point, setting procedures and processes in place. I took the opportunity to further expand my horizons beyond the reference team. No experience (except for my first year in the library technicians course, photography 101, 1985), no training and very little support for using the software available except for what I did at home.

In 2007 during the 65th celebrations of the Bombing of Darwin, many veterans returned to Darwin with photos and albums in hand. We had set up scanners in the library and I set about scanning these photos whilst we chatted about the good old days of Darwin. This blossomed into more donations to the library of albums from the war years. What a treasure trove we discovered.

In 2008, I was fortunate to be involved with the digitisation of the Goyder Collection of stereoscopic photographs from the 1869 Expedition to the Northern Territory.

Along with the Department of Lands, the surveyors transformed these photographs into the 3D photos on the online display. Using the new technology with the old – what a great time we live in.

Again in 2008 and 2009 those veterans returned with more photos for us. We digitised books from the period of the war years and their much loved photos of those brave soldiers and nurses.

This year I had the privilege of being responsible for digitising the Parliamentary Visit to the Northern Territory, 1912. Thank heavens this album could be dismantled and each individual page laid nearly flat to scan each photo of the collection as well as the album in total.

These particular photos show how the party was dressed – this was in May, still one of the hottest months in the Territory – my sympathy went out to the women in there corseted under garments in the heat of the tropics.

These were just two of the more memorable collections to have been done in the past two years. We have been retrospectively rescanning all photo collections as well as new collections as they come to hand.

We now have to consider the preserving of the digital image of today and this brings new challenges – did the photographer take it at the highest resolution possible, has it been altered in any way? These are the next questions for the heritage team to address.

I would like to think I will continue combining digitisation, 2 days a week, and reference, 3 days, until my time is out.

Who knows where the next challenges are in libraries.

I have not dealt with my involvement with ALIA for Committees, Treasurer for about 6 years (this is how I learnt Excel), Technician Conference Committee and ALIA Conference Committee member and worker for the better part of the 25 years having joined the organisation in 1985. I now attend Technician Conferences and leave the organising to others.

Thank you for the opportunity to tell my tale of the changes I have experienced in the past 25 years in the library.