This month we speak to the School Services Librarian at the City of Onkaparinga, Karla Pickett, and she shares her varied background and ideas with us.
Hi Karla - what's your current role, and how long have you been in that role?
I am currently the School Services Librarian at the City of Onkaparinga. I am located at the Seaford Library, which is a joint use library between the City of Onkaparinga and DECD and my role is to ensure that the Seaford 6-12 School’s needs are met. I have been here for almost 3 years now.
What did you do prior to that?
Funnily enough, I was a secondary PE, Outdoor Ed and Science teacher, and I spent 7 years as an Officer in the Army Reserve, reaching the rank of Captain.
Why did you make the change and what were the challenges you faced when you started in the current role?
I think after teaching for 5 years, I started to realise that there was life outside of the classroom. I went straight from school to uni, and then from uni back into a school, and eventually decided that it was time to get out and see the world from a different perspective. I have always had a lot of interests, and been a bit of a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’, so I completed some studies externally while still teaching, to become a librarian. Although it was odd for others to see me change direction completely, it was just another area I had been interested in and so when I saw this job advertised I took the plunge and was lucky enough to get it. I was faced with the challenge of getting to know how local government worked, but the hardest part was going from 12 weeks of holidays a year to 4 weeks!
How did you overcome those challenges?
In terms of learning about local government, I tried to go to conferences and networking events to meet others from council in order to feel more connected and to get a better understanding of the sector as a whole. Having only been here for 3 years, I am still learning a lot of this, but this year I was a part of the City of Onkaparinga’s LGMA Management Challenge team, and this was a great experience for me in learning more about local government as well as our organisation. As for not getting 12 weeks of holidays a year, I just have to deal with that….
What do you enjoy most about working in your current role, and in local government generally?
What I love about my current role is the diversity it brings. I also love the opportunities that local government provides, in terms of training, networking and development. I have a fair bit of independence in my role so I have been able to implement a lot of new ideas and have tried to make the library a more enjoyable space for students, and as easy to access as possible for school staff and students.
What's the future hold?
Who knows! Perhaps a leadership role, or even a different role within the organisation one day. I am happy where I am right now, but I am definitely open to different opportunities. I really enjoy working with young people, so I can’t imagine moving too far away from that kind of role.
Describe a typical day for us....
Hmm… a typical day. It could be a combination of many things. It might start with opening the library, letting the students in before they start school so that they can return items, and having a chat with them.
Then, on most days, I would spend half the day out in the library carrying out customer service duties. This can be doing anything from helping people find books, to helping them use the photocopier or computers. At the moment it would also include changing over every book in our library to be compatible with our new RFID system which is a very long process.
When I’m not doing that, I use my time to help teachers find or purchase resources for their curriculum, I choose and order new books for the library often using ideas given to me by students through a suggestion box (and then respond to student suggestions and put these responses on a display board), I go to classrooms to teach students about effective online researching and that there is life outside of Google.
I also go to a weekly school leadership meeting, other school curriculum meetings, promote the Premier’s Reading Challenge, set up competitions for students, spend time talking to students, and run a student book group.
I might also update the blog I have set up for the teachers which keeps them informed of any changes they need to know about, or new resources available to them. In addition to this, I carry out any organisational duties to assist my Team Leader.
Do your staff/colleagues have a nickname for you? if so, what is it and why?
If they do, then it is not one I am aware of! I can tell you myself though, that unfortunately I would probably be the loudest librarian on earth.
What sayings or expressions are you known for?
I really like ‘If you are not prepared to be a part of the solution, then you forfeit your right to complain’. It says all it needs to say.
What advice would you have for people wanting to obtain a similar role in local government?
I don’t think there are many jobs specifically like mine available, however, I think the combination of my teaching background and my librarian qualification really helped me. There would be no point in doing this job if you didn’t enjoy working with teenagers in particular, as it is a huge part of my role.