Keynote presentation at the ALIA New Librarians’ Symposium #NLS8 in Canberra, Australia June 2017
Say “YES” applying a growth mindset to your library career
Mylee Joseph, Public Library Services Consultant at State Library of New South Wales @myleejoseph
It is a priviledge to meet today on Ngunawal country and I would like to acknowledge the Ngunawal people who are the traditional custodians of the land here. I would like to pay respects to the Elders of the Ngunawal Nation both past and present, and extend this respect to other Aboriginal people here today. I acknowledge their living culture and their continued role in the community today.
This image is a map from the Rediscovering Indigenous Languages project which aims to make accessible the rich archival collections of the State Library of New South Wales. The site features historic word lists, records and other documents relating to Indigenous Australian languages and makes them available for transcription and translation.
My involvement with New Librarians and the New Librarians’ symposium goes back a long way, to the time when I was a new librarian.
In 2002 ALIA established a Next Generation Policy Advisory Group ... At the time the board of ALIA were worried about some familiar concerns: will librarians become extinct? 70% of librarians are over 40 ... what about a new generation?
In 2002 for the first time an event was held … it was the brainchild of Sue Hutley, who many of you will know from her time at QUT and as ALIA CEO. Her idea was to hold an event for students and recent graduates and they called it the New Librarians Symposium – the event focussed on themes of challenging the stereotype, thinking about librarians of the future, career planning, technology, advocacy, relationships … that must sound pretty familiar for the NLS8 organising committee.
It was the first time I self funded to attend an industry conference – I recognised that although in my career I will work for many different organisations and team leaders ... I am the CEO of my own career and like any business ... I can invest a % of my resources (income / time / energy) into professional development. I can also watch for trends in the industry and identify my skills gaps and look for ways to plug the gaps.
Two years later, in 2004, I also attended NLS2 in Adelaide.
Just last week I was in Aarhus, a city in Denmark that holds a biennial conference on the future of public libraries. Again, self funding to expand my skills, knowledge and experience … and to have fun mixing with library colleagues from around the world.
The concept of a growth mindset was developed by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck and popularized in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Fixed mindset: The person constantly tries to prove himself, and is highly sensitive to being wrong or making a mistake. So, failure brings him doubt, demeans his character, and destroys his confidence. As a result, a person with a fixed-mindset, always feels anxious and is vulnerable to setbacks or criticisms.
Growth mindset: personal qualities can be learned, developed or cultivated - the power of our beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, and how changing even the simplest of them can have profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives.
Sometimes in our industry you will come across what I call a “culture of perfect” where we wait until something (a service or program) is perfect before launching it to the public … but this can be the enemy of timeliness and co-creation. We need to be willing to launch the beta version of services and programs and keep developing them iteratively in collaboration with our communities.
If you asked me what skills you would need to have a successful career over the next five years, I would focus on hard skills like coding / linked data / managing research data and soft skills like event management and coaching people to develop their digital literacy skills. BUT if we're talking about a whole career ... I think a growth mindset and some different skills are important.
curiosity = life long learning, enthusiasm for new technology / trends / social changes
listening skills = library people are often very good at communication … but I think we need to work on our listening skills because I think they are the key to successful partnerships and being a change agent; too often we build collections and services and wait for people to come … we need to begin with listening to their needs – what problems do they want to solve and what opportunities do they want to have > position the library as part of the solutions your community is looking for.
creativity = learning to use new tools (eg. social media, Canva, etc.) and exploring new ideas for services and meeting new needs for your community; being playful and experimental
collaboration and co-creation = a key to future success for all of us I think is the ability to work with communities, partners and stakeholders; being effective change agents and community connectors (M. Stephens, 2017) being comfortable working on projects together where our partners may have different aims and objectives to ours and aspects of the project may be outside the span of our control (eg. the staff or volunteers come from another organisation).
For me these red shoes will always remind me of the opportunity to collaborate for the first time with colleagues I hadn’t met until the day before we made a presentation to a library conference (in a time before Skype, Facetime, Google hangouts and video conferencing we only had email and telephone calls to communicate).
There are other examples of collaboration that I could mention eg. ALIA CYS committee, GLAM-WIKI program committee, Wikipedia editing] and it is something that really expands your comfort zones – and it did for me (eg. presenting at conferences, collaborating on writing journal articles, joining the program committee for EBLIP8, joining other committees, exploring new areas within the discipline).
CREATIVITY and COLLABORATION In 2013 I visited Denmark and met a colleague in person who I previously only knew via Twitter chats. Over a cup of coffee we shared ideas and I volunteered to help on a project he initiated … and it became a career highlight for me and an international success!
COLLABORATION My previous experiences with collaboration and some work I was doing with Wikipedia editing in my workplace gave me the confidence to volunteer for an international program committee working with Wikipedia editors from around the world who are as passionate about libraries and collections as we are … maybe even more passionate because they’re all volunteers!
When I asked my colleague Jan Holmquist from Denmark what I should tell you in my talk today, he said that I should encourage you to be global librarians … so here are my thoughts on how you can do that!
This is a good example of how important it is that we develop our professional LISTENING SKILLS in order to work more effectively with our communities. This is a piece of work that is being led by the Indigenous Services team at the State Library of NSW and is designed to collaboratively build the skills and capability of our colleagues in the public library network across NSW to deliver services more effectively to the indigenous communities in their areas.
Indigenous Spaces in Library Places: Building a vibrant public library network inclusive of Indigenous peoples and communities
I asked some other industry leaders for their advice to share with you about growth mindsets and saying yes in your careers … here are some tips
Illustration d'origine (1865), par John Tenniel (28 février 1820 – 25 février 1914), du roman de Lewis Carroll, Les Aventures d'Alice au pays des merveilles.
Stefanie is a teacher librarian who led a complete redevelopment of the library at Trinity Grammar School in Sydney – the Arthur Holt Library. This is her advice.
RESILIANCE AND REAL LIFE I asked Kathryn Greenhill who is a librarian and library lecturer for her advice about growth mindsets and saying yes and she has some encouragement for those of you who find you need to take a career break for caring responsibilities.
BUT WHAT ABOUT FAILURE .... Where to we look when things go wrong?
2017 Saying "YES" applying a growth mindset to your library career - Mylee Joseph
Applying a growth mindset to your library career
ALIA New Librarians' Symposium 8 (#NLS8)
Canberra 23-25 June 2017
Rediscovering Indigenous Languages
You may work for different organisations, different team leaders and
supervisors throughout your library career, but it’s important to remember ….
You are the CEO of your own career.
• You decide how much time and money you invest in your own learning and
• You determine what skills gaps need to be filled.
• Libraries support lifelong learning, and YOU are a life long learner as a
Stephens, M. (2017, June 15) Formula for Success.
Library Journal. Retrieved from
Essential Skills + Mindset² x Support = Success
Dweck, C. (2006) Mindset: the new psychology of success
“In a growth mindset, people believe
that their most basic abilities can be
developed through dedication and
hard work—brains and talent are
just the starting point. This view
creates a love of learning and a
resilience that is essential for great
Attributes of a growth mindset in library workers ....
•collaboration and co-creation
The importance of
Hutley, Sue, Joseph, Mylee and Saunders,
Pam. (2002). Follow the e-book road: e-
books in Australian public libraries. APLIS
15(1), pp. 32-37.
The importance of
A global focus
•look for inspiration, innovation and best practice around
the world ... not just in English speaking countries
•find new partners (eg. Wikipedia editors)
•think GLAM and GLAMR
•look for ideas outside the echo chamber
Channel your inner Alice - always be curious and
don't be afraid of falling down a rabbit hole in the
All learning is good!
If you have a career break to rear children, do not stress that you will
somehow not have the correct skills when you re-join the workforce.
The profession always needs thoughtful and tactful people with
sound disciplinary knowledge about how to acquire, organise,
preserve and retrieve information and tailor services to their
Do not beat yourself up because you are not reading trade literature or
learning the latest tech while you are immersed in so much other non-
professional learning. If you were in the swing of things once, if the
profession is your passion, that will return in time.
"If you're creating things, you're doing things that have a high potential for failure, especially if
you're doing things that haven't been done before. And you learn from those things. No
matter how you cut it, you say, "Well, that didn't work," or, "Well, this didn't work," or "That was
not the best idea." And you use that information that you've gotten which is experience…
failure is another word for experience."
Beete, P. (2013, July 24). (National Medal of) Art Talk with George Lucas | National Endowment for the Arts [Web
log post]. Retrieved from https://www.arts.gov/art-works/2013/national-medal-art-talk-george-lucas
Image: By littlelostrobot from Orlando, USA (vader meets his maker) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
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