From New Zealand to Australia and back again

New Zealand. From NASA Goddard Photo & Video via flickr CC

As the next in our occasional series of guest posts from international librarians, this week we bring you the voice of Mel Chivers. Mel is a New Zealander, who moved to Australia to study and work – then headed back to New Zealand. Here, she gives us her perspective on all that moving!

When I started studying to become a Librarian I didn’t know a single librarian in Australia, I didn’t even know anyone who worked in a library. Five years on I can barely believe that was true. I have made so many amazing friends and I had found a place in the Australian library community. I joined the ALIA New Graduates Group (NGG) as a regional coordinator (and later stepped up as the National Convener) in order to build connections and make up for my lack of experience in the library world. I expected and hoped that it would be good for my career; that it would expand my professional network wider than my library friends and workplace. It did all this and more. It allowed me to develop skills and confidence, and to cultivate relationships with people throughout the Australian library industry.

Late last year I moved back to New Zealand and once again I found myself a library loner. I knew a handful of library people, none of them well. It turns out, however, that you don’t have to leave the community when you leave the country. It turns out that community is not just about being in a place. It is about communicating and sharing, celebrating and commiserating, challenging and learning. Librarians are good at these things, and good at doing them together online.

Moving to New Zealand has been strange, in once sense it is moving home. I grew up in New Zealand and it has always been home. In another sense I am a foreigner; I have moved to a completely new city and I am an Australian librarian: all my library study and work experience is Australian based. New Zealand and Australia are similar in many ways but they are still poles apart.

Things I am learning about moving to New Zealand as a librarian:

  • It’s a different country (oh really?!): different national library, different library association (procedures, organisational structure), different ILL scheme, different copyright law and copyright agencies, different systems to learn (government websites, local indexes…), different events on the PD calendar.
  • The Librarian/Library technician debate does not exist in NZ: you are either qualified or not.
  • I need to upgrade to a Masters to be taken seriously (work in progress).
  • I need to become a registered librarian.
  • I need to learn Te Reo Māori.

Some hesitant advice for moving Librarians (I’m no expert):

  • If you are not already on Twitter, get on there and leverage contacts, follow people in your intended destination
  • Get involved in local projects, I’m on the programme committee for the upcoming LIANZA conference and this helped me meet people online before I even moved.
  • Be patient but proactive, it takes time to build a network, but it won’t build itself.

Melanie graduated from RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia) as a librarian in 2008; she has been entangled in ALIA New Graduate events and groups ever since. She recently moved back to New Zealand and is working at Waikato Institute of Technology (a polytechnic/TAFE/vocational education) as Emerging Technologies/Subject Librarian. You can contact her on twitter as @melchivers

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  1. Great post Mel – and welcome home!

    But seriously, you really need to do a Masters? are you sure?

    Or is that just because your Australian qualifications don’t allow you to get prof registration here?

    Just surprised that the Australian quals are so different from ours, we seem so close!

    🙂 Welcome home again Seonaid @genebrarian

    • Just another aspect of international librarianship we’ve learned today! Both the similarities and the differences are proving very interesting to learn about 🙂

  2. Great post Mel – very interesting to see the differences btwn Aus & NZ. It’s strange (& I imagine immensely frustrating!) to think all your knowledge & experience *still* don’t count when it comes to being seen as a professional Librarian – wondering if others who’ve moved to NZ have experienced the same issue? And what can be done about it. #ponders

  3. Thanks everyone!

    I probably should have been more clear in my post.

    It is my understanding that LIANZA will recognise my qualification (GradDip in Information Management) for professional registration because ALIA has accredited my qualification.
    ALIA has a PD scheme but not professional registration.

    My problem is that in conversation when people find out I only have a diploma they assume I am not qualified and ask if I am doing the masters. Hence my claim that I need to get my Masters to be taken seriously.
    Unfortunately, Vic Uni does not do upgrades to Masters so I am having to study by distance from Australia. Unfortunate because I would have liked to have expanded my kiwi library knowledge by taking NZ courses, and also because student loans are not available for overseas study.

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  5. Interesting to learn all that Mel. I think all countries are different in terms of qualification. I hope you adjust moving back home. Best wishes
    Paschalia nothing as important as building networks across your country and even across boarders. Creating networks helps you grow career wise and in person.Welcome to my network Paschalia we could learn something from each other. ILN is a great place to build networks form almost allover the world. you are in the right plaece.

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