Author Archives: raypun

ChatGPT and Library Instruction: An Interview with Rebecca Hastie, Academic Librarian, American University of Sharjah by Ray Pun, CPDWL Advisor

Rebecca Hastie

At a recent trip to the Sharjah International Library Conference in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, I had an opportunity to connect with Rebecca Hastie, and learned more about her work as an academic librarian incorporating generative artificial intelligence tools in library instruction. In this blog post, we focus on Rebecca’s work and how she engages with her learners in this new area! Our work in CPDWL Section focuses on professional development in the workplace, and we bring the professional development ideas to you!

Rebecca Hastie is an academic librarian currently based at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Specializing in information literacy, Rebecca is driven by her commitment to developing information literacy skills in students that will assist them not only in their academic lives but their personal lives as well. Her interests extend to exploring the influence of filter bubbles and algorithmic bias on information seeking behavior, and the potential of information evaluation methods to counter misinformation ‘rabbit holes’.

Can you tell us about you and your work in American University of Sharjah? 

Rebecca: I’m the Information Literacy Librarian at the American University of Sharjah, an American-style liberal arts education university in the United Arab Emirates. A major component of this role is creating and running information literacy (IL) workshops taught in three core writing courses in the General Education program. These IL workshops are scaffolded so that in their first year students will learn about the online information landscape and basic library database skills, followed by more advanced search and information evaluation skills in their second year. 

The high workload of teaching these workshops (last Spring semester saw 60 workshops delivered to 715 students) is managed by myself, my teaching assistant, and another full-time librarian. It’s crucial that the content not only resonates with all students across the courses but is also consistently deliverable by any one of us. To ensure that these sessions are as impactful as possible, I regularly update both the content and the exercises in these workshops. In addition to the General Education workshops I also run extra curricular IL-themed workshops and organize our student-focused events such as orientation, first year experience program, and activities to ‘de-stress’ over exam periods. Over this semester I’ve been incorporating AI into my work activities and learning as much as I can about AI to ensure that I can guide students in responsibly using these tools without neglecting traditional academic research methods.

What are your thoughts on generative artificial intelligence tools being used in libraries?

Rebecca: I think soon the ability to use generative AI for simple tasks will be as necessary as the ability to use email. Now that AI has entered the mainstream, as librarians it’s essential that we equip our patrons, and ourselves, with the ability to use these tools effectively and understand their capabilities and limitations. I find generative AI tools very helpful at speeding up tasks such as drafting content, creating presentations, and structuring lesson plans.

With AI-generated information increasing across the information landscape, I believe it is vital for libraries to expand information literacy objectives to include AI literacy. We must support our communities in having the skills to critically identify and evaluate AI-generated information, and understand how AI content is generated. AI literacy instruction needs to go beyond fact-checking and emphasize how historical and societal biases in AI training datasets can lead AI to reinforce and perpetuate inequality and oppressive perspectives. I also believe it to be more important now than ever for libraries to amplify underrepresented voices, original thought, and diverse perspectives, helping them to not be overshadowed by a flood of AI-produced content regurgitating old ideas. 

How have you taught generative AI tools in your workshops? What were the responses like?

Rebecca: In my General Education IL workshops, I’ve introduced prompts to use in ChatGPT to brainstorm keywords and search strategies for library databases. I’ve also overlaid a text box labeled “ChatGPT” onto a graphic I use to show the three layers of the internet, showing how both Google’s indexing and AI datasets consist of surface web data, emphasizing the importance of knowing how to use our library catalog and academic databases to access scholarly information. 

Additionally, I’ve recently finished running a four-part workshop series titled ‘AI Amplified’. The workshops were: Enhancing Research Skills with AI, Evaluating AI-Generated Content & Editing with AI, Creating Presentations using AI, and Using AI to Job Hunt. The series went beyond chatbots and also covered various generative AI tools including image generators, presentation creation tools, and AI-based recruitment scanners. The feedback to these workshops was really positive and I look forward to offering the series again in the upcoming Spring semester. 

One exercise that went really well was asking participants to critique the answers provided by ChatGPT and Google Bard to the same query about an historic event. I was impressed by the insights made without my prompting, with participants identifying issues such as a poor writing flow and structure, repetition, uneven weighting of influential factors, and noticing the dominant narrative. 

Due to how fast generative AI technology is moving I think it’s important to focus on teaching overarching AI skills rather than just techniques for using particular tools and I will revise this workshop series with this in mind to ensure longevity of the content. 

Anything else you like to share with us that we didn’t get to talk about?

Rebecca: As we all learn on the job and try to keep ahead of all the rapid advancements in AI, it’s impossible for anyone to keep up with everything single-handedly! I know that teamwork will be crucial for our shared success as information specialists so I would love to hear from other librarians working in this space and I would be very happy to share any of my materials with anyone who may be interested. 

Generative Artificial Intelligence Tools for Primary and Secondary School Educators? By Ray Pun, CPDWL Advisor

Children in a Classroom. In the back of a classroom, are children about 11 years old with a female teacher talking about the subject – If Someone in Your Family Has Cancer. Photographer Michael Anderson

With the rise of ChatGPT, Bard, and Bing, we are seeing many other tools emerging that serve different needs for specific audiences. In a previous CPDWL blog post, we discussed ChatGPT in academic libraries and higher education, and shared how other CPDWL members are thinking about this tool in their libraries. Most recently, a colleague shared with me some tools may be available for educators in primary and secondary education levels. This post will briefly cover these four tools and their potential impact.

DiFfit: – From the Netherlands, this website states that “teachers use Diffit to instantly get “just right” resources for any lesson, saving tons of time and helping all students to access grade level content.” There are features here that are free immediately to use. You can create a topic of interest such as something in history or sciences, or you can upload a document like a PDF text, or video and it can generate a summary of the topic/text, and create multiple choice questions, short questions and open ended prompts, etc for you to adapt. It can generate lessons to support a teacher’s work. Here’s a video review that you can see on YouTube.

Ethiqly: -From the United States, Ethiqly is “designed to inspire deeper learning. From assignment to assessment, Ethiqly supports students throughout the writing process to boost engagement.” For those struggling with writing, this website generates prompts for users to consider. A user can write or paste a draft of their work, and the tool will evaluate and assess the writing and provide thorough feedback, which can save time for a teacher who may be busy grading other assignments. Here is additional feedback on Ethiqly that you can read more on.

Khanmigo: – From Khan Academy in the United States, “Khanmigo mimics a writing coach by giving prompts and suggestions to move students forward as they write, debate, and collaborate in exciting new ways.” For teachers and students, there are many activities built into this AI tool such as chatting with a personal AI tutor, creating lesson plans and summaries, or rubric/learning out or activity. As a teacher, you can see students’ learning progress through the app if assigned for them to use it. Similar to other chatbots, Khanmigo offers responses for lesson plans or activities based on a prompt. It can offer potentially useful responses for teachers as they are planning for their lessons. Here’s a video review that you can see on YouTube.

TeachFX: – From the United States, “TeachFX is an app for teachers that uses voice AI to measure the student engagement, the equity of voice, and the discourse patterns in a teacher’s virtual or in-person classroom. Like an instructional coach, the app provides teachers with targeted pedagogical feedback on their teaching practice.” You can use this tool on the phone, tablet, or laptop, this tool draws on the voice content in your classroom which can indicate how long you spoke in the classroom, how long your students spoke in the classroom, the silence in between, questions that were raised, common words coming out in the conversations, gaps in the learning opportunities, and the tool can suggest ways and examples to build student contributions based on the recorded data. Here’s a video review on how a teacher is using TeachFX that you can see on YouTube..

Most of these tools have some kind of subscription rate and you need to create an account for full access. You can request a trial or try the free version before committing. Using these tools will require practice, patience, and ethical considerations. Although the technologies will continue to evolve and enter in our professional and private lives, we need to remain vigilant on how it is impacting learning and our realities in different ways. It is inevitable to completely ban or ignore generative artificial tools but thinking about and piloting with these tools may offer us ways to complement our work or even help us understand how they shape teaching and learning in the classroom. 

If you have used any of these tools above, please share with us what your experiences have been like. If there are also other ones that you are seeing being used in primary and secondary education, please share with us in the chat box. 

An Interview with Veronda J. Pitchford, Assistant Director of Califa Group


In this blog series, we speak with LIS professional development trainers and providers in the field. In this post, we interview Veronda J. Pitchford, the Assistant Director of Califa Group, a nonprofit consortium committed to unleashing the impact of libraries.

As part of her role, Veronda serves as strategic partner for national grant projects, and manages Infopeople, Califa’s national online library training arm for library people.  She is an active member of the American Library Association (ALA) and currently serves on the Advisory boards for the ALA Business Advisory group, the Public Library Association Board of Directors, and the Center for the Future of Libraries.  She consults and presents on the how and why libraries are the rockstars for the communities they serve.   In her spare time, she is a member of PBS POV Documentaries Library Advisory Group and the Reading Between the Lines executive board, a non-profit committed to supporting the justice-impacted community with facilitated discussion-based programming that inspires conversation, connections, and critical thinking. Above all, she is, and will always be a die-hard library chick.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Can you briefly tell us about your work and professional development interests?

Lucky for me, a good part of my work IS professional development.  I am the Assistant Director of Califa, a non-profit US based library consortium. I manage Infopeople, an online training program for library people.  I also serve as strategic partner for grant projects and do training and consulting for libraries on Califa’s behalf.

My professional development interests include anything and everything that ensures libraries are rockstars in the communities they serve;  this includes learning more about strategies that cultivate resilience to ready communities to thrive in these rapidly changing times.

For my own professional development, I have completed a design thinking certification and am now exploring more about participatory design including community led co-creation practices.

Next I want to learn more about futures work, specifically the strategic foresight framework training from the Connecticut State Library Futures School.

I always try to be on the lookout for what’s next in other disciplines and how libraries can be at the table for those conversations.


What do you think are the challenges in engaging library staff in professional development activities?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge for library staff is time and burnout. This is what I have been hearing from library staff everywhere.   They are doing so much more with less resources, staff and time that it is creating a culture of burnout for so many.

Frankly I think this burnout and lack of time is has been an issue all along and not solely a pandemic specific phenomenon.

At Infopeople we are working on more just-in-time training resources  through our Infopeople on Demand resource.  Here we provide recorded trainings for library staff that are available at the time of need.

I also think professional development organizations such as mine need to provide more training that features opportunities to learn from lived experience and leading practices from other industries such as The Poverty Truth Network which includes people who have struggled with poverty and people from organizations working together to address this critical issue.


What are some trends or areas in the LIS field for you?  


Like most things, the self-care movement includes has good, capitalist and toxic sides.

My favorite self-care resources include the Nap Ministry, which comes in the form of a manifesto, book, movement, and playlist.

I would love to see library people work together to create an international movement to address and mitigate library staff trauma through policies, funding, and identifying ways we can create and maintain cultures of care for library workers.

There is some great work being done in this area including the Urban Libraries Unite Urban Trauma Study,  which used emancipatory and participatory action research frameworks to explore how public library workers in urban centers experience trauma while providing library services and create a path forward for exploring institutional and individual solutions that will enable library workers and their institutions to continue providing vital library services to communities in need while still caring for the well-being of staff.

Infopeople also did a webinar on the topic of library staff trauma called, “We are not okay”  and developed a resource page for staff and library leaders on the topic.



Moving beyond the binary in its many forms including thinking; by learning to become comfortable with embracing uncertainty, affirming human beings right to fully express their whole selves regardless of assigned gender or our outdated perceptions of it and the many other forms of limiting ourselves to two alternative conditions or choices.

I found this article an especially inspiring reason to work on expanding my own thinking beyond the binary. How Dismantling the Gender Binary Can Help Eradicate Inequality

What resources or opportunities would you like to share to highlight the professional development activities for the LIS community?

As a former reference librarian, I leap at the opportunity to share my favorite resources.  In fact, I always tell people that sharing links is one of my love languages.

Here is what is on my radar these days:

Libraries and empathy

I am becoming very interested in Radical Empathy thanks to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funded Building Radical Empathy in Archives and Special Collections: Highlighting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (BRE), which my organization supports is designed to recruit HBCU undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) programs around the US, and early career archives and special collections professional for internships and additional training in radical empathy and other skills to ready them to make much needed change in the profession.

The grant is based on Terri Givens’ radical empathy work and book and research in the archives field including this seminal article co-authored by Dr. Cooke, entitled, “It Starts at Home: Infusing Radical Empathy into Graduate Education.”


The Empathetic museum The Empathetic Museum is a group of colleagues who propose institutional empathy (Words in bold italic at their first use can be found in glossary following the references at the end of this paper.) as a transforming force for museums. The article offers a  philosophy and a set of standards and tools that provide practical and iterative steps for resonance and relevance in the 21st century.


Link (and most recent work):

Many design thinking methods are based on gaining empathy.  The Beyond Sticky notes book and website is one of my favorites and I am dying to get into a course from them. Their work is steeped in respect, cultural care and authenticity.  I am a huge fan of them and Greater Good Studio, an awesome design firm which focuses on design thinking for social impact, from which I first heard about Beyond Sticky Notes.



Anything else you’d like to share that we didn’t get to talk about?

Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this conversation on professional development.  Feel free to reach out to me with comments, feedback and resources that reflect what is keeping you at night and want to learn more about as a library worker.

And thanks, and library love to every library person reading this! It is such an honor to support your learning needs! I  am so proud of everything libraries to support the education, information, and lifelong learning needs of their communities.

An Interview with Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, a Researcher, Leader, Consultant and Coach

IFLA #WLIC2023 attended not long ago. There’s been a lot of discussions regarding artificial intelligence in libraries but what else should LIS students, trainers, educators, workers, and associations focused on professional development think about? We spotlight professional development trainers and experts in librarianship to talk about their work. In this blog post, we interview Kaetrena Davis Kendrick.

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, MSLS is a Researcher, Leader, Consultant and Coach. She earned her M.S.L.S. from the historic Clark Atlanta University School of Library and Information Studies. While known for her work on ethics, equity, diversity and inclusion, and communities of practice in libraries, Kendrick’s research on low-morale experiences in library workplaces is recognized as groundbreaking and validating for library employees at all levels. In her daily and long-term work, Kendrick has transformed library programs, services, and culture via creativity, leadership, and advocacy. She is committed to centering well-being, creativity, and empathy in the workplace and promoting career clarity and rejuvenation to workers. In 2019, Kendrick was named the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Academic/Research Librarian of the Year. Learn more about her work.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Can you briefly tell us about your work and professional development interests?

Kaetrena: My pleasure! I’m a researcher, leader, consultant and coach focused on helping people and groups – library workers or library organizations particularly – recognize, reconcile, and recover from their low-morale experiences. My coaching and consulting services are research- and praxis-based and driven by my mission to inspire authentic collegiality, and to promote well-being, share the gifts of creativity, and cultivate empathetic, engaged leadership in the workplace. My professional development interests include assertive/interpersonal communication, leadership awareness/improvement, and employee engagement. My practicing career centers academic librarianship, so I’m also interested in communities of practice and student engagement and outreach.

What do you think are the challenges in engaging library staff in professional development activities?

Kaetrena: Library workers who experience low morale – which my research defines as repeated, protracted exposure to workplace abuse and neglect  – generally note decreased interest in pursuing professional development, and they also indicate not being as motivated to connect with colleagues. Reduced funding, understaffing, decreased opportunities for stable and full-time employment, and burnout connected to (or exacerbated by) the global pandemic all have also increased these tenuous intersections of access to/ energy for continuing education and employee engagement.

What are some trends or areas in the LIS field for you? 

Kaetrena: Awareness and research surrounding the deep emotional labor of library work continues to increase, and that’s very important, because for too long, the realities of our daily work – in all kinds of libraries – has been hidden by nostalgia of our users, as well by our own efforts to not disappoint our users or disturb that sense of nostalgia. The recognition and understanding of that emotional labor, in turn, is driving more conversations about how to advocate for library employees – not just collections, building, and technology. Additionally, I’m seeing trends in coaching as a methodology of support and professional development for library workers – I was happy to see IFLA’s session on coaching at this year’s WLIC.

What resources or opportunities would you like to share to highlight the professional development activities for the LIS community?

Kaetrena: Library associations like the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) continue to offer excellent continuing education webinars, and CORE is also a great resource. E-learning platforms like WebJunction and Library Juice Academy are also places to browse  – I’ll be leading or moderating sessions on navigating low morale later this month and next year, respectively.  Don’t forget to mine other specialties, too!  For instance, you don’t have to be an archivist or curator to benefit from the great offerings that archival and/or museum associations have. And be sure to attend the annual Conference on Academic Library Management – it’s free, virtual, and a great opportunity to learn from and connect with formal and informal library leaders focused on surfacing dignity and humaneness in college and university library workplaces. Books I often return to include:

  • Critical Hope by Kari Grain
  • Fostering Wellness in the Workplace: A Handbook for Libraries by Bobbi L. Newman
  • Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey

Anything else you’d like to share that we didn’t get to talk about?

Kaetrena: If readers are experiencing low morale, professional development and continuing education are established countermeasures. Engaging in these activities will help you maintain a realistic perspective of your skillset, keep you connected outside of your immediate unhealthy workplace, and ensure you’re prepared for your next move to a better, more healthy organization. Also: keep in mind that professional development doesn’t just mean a class or a certificate – it can be coaching (considering and reflecting on, and taking action as a result of impactful questions aren’t just for our users – they’re for you, too!)

Fighting Against Book Bans in Libraries: Select Resources to Explore, Raise Awareness, and Take Action


Banned Book Week

Unfortunately, many libraries, bookstores, and schools around the world are seeing an increasing wave of book banning and challenges. Book banning and challenges impacts our readers’ rights to access books. Book banning and challenges creates censorship culture in our communities which is against IFLA’s values. “Because censorship prevents the enjoyment of several generally recognized human rights, as expressed most fundamentally in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, IFLA emphatically argues for principles of freedom of expression and freedom of access to information” (see IFLA Statement on Censorship). 

In the United States, book banning and challenges have been increasing over time, specific right wing extremist groups have been targeting books by and about people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and people who belong to religious minorities, and claiming that there are “inappropriate” content that children are reading or being taught. Their outrage and allegations are amplified on social media where they are actually determining the school curriculum or library collection and deciding who gets to read what and disregarding the expertise of teachers and librarians. According to Kelly Jensen from Book Riot, “Since the start of the 2022-2023 school year — July 1 through December 30, 2023 — PEN America recorded 1,477 separate instances of book bans across the country. This includes 874 unique titles in 182 school districts and 37 states.” Furthermore, an Iowa School District used ChatGPT, the generative artificial intelligence tool, to ban books because such books may contain discussions on sexuality and gender identity that may be viewed as inappropriate for the school curriculum (see Wired).

This is not only a United States issue but a global one. Intellectual freedom is being threatened and overturned as a right, and many libraries are facing this issue. In Australia, the graphic memoir, Gender Queer by non-binary author and artist Maia Kobabe, is being considered to be censored by the Australian Classification Board. Conservative groups have pushed for this title to be banned either for certain age groups or completely banned from access in schools or libraries. In Hungary, the government has ordered bookshops to seal and wrap books that promote or contain gender identities and transition, and sexualities before sale for people under 18 according to a Reuters report and Book Riot. 

Individuals should be trusted to make their own decisions about what to read.

What should we consider in addressing these waves of book bans and challenges and censorship in our libraries, bookstores, and schools? Here are some resources to think about these issues and ways to counter it collectively: 

IFLA FAIFE – Advisory Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression – stay involved and informed on what IFLA FAIFE will promote or need support on. This IFLA advisory group may share helpful information or statements regarding the topic of censorship and intellectual freedom. Reach out to the committee members for more information or advice. 

Banned Books Week will occur on October 1-7, 2023. “It is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries.” More than celebrating books that are banned, there are tools to come together as a community for virtual read out loud events and social media promotions and to share with your communities, and school or library boards to raise awareness.  

Unite Against Book Bans – this campaign is organized by the American Library Association and offers resources for those seeking coalition building against book banning that is occurring in the United States. However, Unite Against Book Bans is still a useful resource, particularly for those outside of the United States who are looking for ways to build partnerships against book censorship and banning. The toolkits, pledges, and statements from this page might offer guidance for the work you are doing. 

Regardless of your position or job role in the library community, book banning, book challenges, censorship, and threats to intellectual freedom impacts all of us. As the IFLA Statement on Censorship states, “All persons, governments and other institutions of society—including library and information services, their associations and their workers—are therefore called to defend and promote freedom of expression and freedom of access to information.”

An Interview with Elaina Norlin from ASERL

Getting ready for #WLIC2023? We are spotlighting professional development trainers and experts in librarianship to talk about their work. In this blog post, we interview Elaine Norlin, Professional Development DEI Coordinator for the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL).

Elaina Norlin is the Professional Development DEI Coordinator for the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries. She is an accomplished teacher, technology and leadership development trainer, and writer with extensive leadership experience and a flair for public relations, organizational development, marketing and persuasion and communications. Author of three books, she has delivered over 100 workshops, training sessions, presentations, and institutes both nationally and internationally on marketing, web usability design, facilitation, strategic influence, and conflict management. Self-motivated and results oriented, she is well known for her ability to juggle many projects at once.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Can you briefly tell us about your work and professional development interests?

Norlin: That’s an excellent question, my Professional Development role at the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) keeps me busy and constantly engaged in current trends. As part of my job, I actively seek captivating and enriching content across all cultural heritage spectrum, placing a distinct focus on amplifying diverse and marginalized perspectives. Presently, my primary interest lies in creating and hosting content concerning future and exciting trends within higher education. I am particularly immersed in exploring themes such as enrollment patterns and their convergence with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), projected budget allocations and potential inequities, talent management and employee engagement strategies, educational neuroscience advancements, and the realm of extended reality.

What do you think are the challenges in engaging library staff in professional development activities

Norlin: The majority of librarians I engage with are grappling either with burnout or the frustrations stemming from the pervasive “do more with less” scarcity mindset that occasionally afflicts our profession. This persistent frustration of being unable to match the demands of the workload often leads individuals not have both the time and the energy required for their professional growth. Moreover, the strain of a demanding work environment complicates the task of maintaining a harmonious workplace atmosphere and a well-adjusted work-life balance, posing considerable challenges to prioritizing ongoing professional development.

Another distinct trend I’ve observed is the undeniable prevalence of virtual fatigue. As a consequence of most work interactions transpiring within the virtual space, many individuals encounter difficulties when attempting to engage in online learning, especially as there are an endless number of distractions.  Recent post-pandemic research reveals that the online attention span for passive learning is approximately seven seconds—a remarkably brief span. This condensed attention span underscores the essentiality of incorporating more interactive learning methodologies to captivate individuals’ attention and facilitate the absorption of information.

What are some trends or areas in the LIS field for you? 

Norlin: This year, the most requested professional development is artificial intelligence, burnout mitigation within the workplace, data science advancements, neurodiversity integration, and the formulation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategies within the backdrop of political backlash. One recent standout was a higher education webinar focused on extended reality—an intriguing topic that resonates with the ever-evolving world of online learning. The discussion centered on the pivotal role of active engagement in inspiring the next generation of students.

Another burgeoning area of concern centers around marketing and advocacy strategies, particularly pertinent in light of the prevailing challenges like book bans, threats, and terminations stemming from the current political climate. While marketing and advocacy have always held importance in the domain of librarianship, the current environment requires an enhanced focus on crisis communication and strategic approaches to swiftly address unforeseen challenges. The need for agile problem-solving has become more evident, as librarians grapple with unexpected scenarios requiring quick but persuasive responses to combat current and future attacks on intellectual freedom.

What resources or opportunities would you like to share to highlight the professional development activities for the LIS community?

Norlin: My advice to librarians is to stay well-versed in the realm of library literature, but concurrently read and watch content that is outside our profession. It’s all too simple to become inward-focused and engrossed solely in resolving immediate library related issues and crises. But with today’s ever changing higher education landscape, it’s very beneficial to allocate time to observe prospective and future trends.

For example, ongoing research consistently shows the fluctuations in higher education enrollment across institutions, with an overall trend of decline in overall numbers. While elite institutions seem to be maintaining a favorable financial outlook, many regional colleges, whether public or private, have grappled with meeting their enrollment targets in recent years. As highlighted by Inside Higher Ed, the pandemic impacted transfer and international enrollment, and this is the second year in terms of the decline.  On the other hand, smaller colleges that have refocused their strategy providing more positive student experiences and incorporating innovative and creative learning models are witnessing modest growth in enrollment. As we look more about what’s going on, librarians can become more proactive in terms of reactive when it comes to pivoting and realigning our strategic focus.

Anything else you’d like to share that we didn’t get to talk about?

Norlin: Present Employee Engagement research serves as a clear reminder that a growing number of individuals are becoming disengaged or are quietly stepping back from their responsibilities due to burnout and toxic work environments. In a recent study by the Workforce Institute at UKG, 74% of employees shared that they feel more engaged and happier when they believe their voices matter at their workplaces. However, most employees feel undervalued, leading to a significant increase in the number of people disengaging from their work, which now accounts for over 69% of the workforce.

So, my advice that I tell library organizations who want to actively work on morale is to observe workplace trends, but also to consistently seek solutions that can truly transform the work environment. There are actionable steps we can take to improve our work settings. The first step involves looking beyond our own profession to identify what’s effective elsewhere and how we can apply those practices. This empowerment leads to a workforce that feels confident in making decisions that positively influence their work, thus setting in motion a positive cycle of engagement and innovation.

CPDWL Podcast Project Season 5, Episode 1: Vicki McDonald, IFLA President-elect 2022–2023

Colleagues, we are excited to announce the our newest episode (season 5) of the CPDWL Podcast Project where we feature library and information professionals who support and participate in professional development work.

Our guest host for this episode is Dr. Gill Hallam, CPDWL Standing Committee Member. This episode’s guest is Vicki McDonald, IFLA President-elect 2022–2023.

Special thanks to Leif for coordinating the recording, from Digital Media, State Library of Queensland.

See here for the podcast episode.

Vicki McDonald is a recognised leader in the library and information sector. Spanning four decades, her career has included leadership roles in public, academic and state libraries.

Her professional interests include a client-centred approach to designing services and spaces, digital inclusion, services to First Nations people, and a commitment to delivering lifelong learning opportunities for the community and profession.

In 2016, her national and international experience led to her appointment as State Librarian and Chief Executive Officer of State Library of Queensland. She understands the need for a strong, relevant and innovative library service and this is reflected in State Library’s achievements under her leadership.

In her current role, Vicki provides strategic leadership for a significant program to transform State Library’s services, collections and spaces through State Library’s Digital Strategy: Digital by Design. State Library is recognised for its services to First Nations communities, and for documenting and making accessible content related to Queensland’s First Nations peoples. To ensure that State Library retains its world-class status, she is championing the development of a strategy to renew spaces within the nationally recognised building.

Her reappointment at State Library of Queensland in 2016 renewed a long association that started in 2001. As an Executive Director at State Library, she was involved in policy, client services and collections before taking on the role of Associate Director Library Services (Client Services and Learning Support) at Queensland University of Technology from 2009 to 2013.

As Executive Director Library and Information Services and Dixson Librarian at the State Library of New South Wales from 2013 to 2016, Vicki was responsible managing the library’s collections valued at AUD$3B and for leading a significant organisational change program.

Vicki is currently serving a two year term (2022-2023) as the Chair of National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA) – the peak body representing the national, state and territory libraries of Australia.

Throughout her career, Vicki has been very active in professional associations. She has held leadership positions with the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) since 2000, and served as its President from 2017 to 2018. Vicki is currently chair of the ALIA International Relations Advisory Committee, which advises the ALIA Board of Directors on the development and delivery of ALIA’s strategic action program for international engagement. She has a strong commitment to professional development and chaired ALIA’s National Biennial Conference and Information Online Conference committees for a number of years.  Under her leadership these conferences have been very successful and this has made a vital contribution to the economic sustainability of ALIA.

Vicki is very active in the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). As the Chair of the Professional Committee (2019–2021) she was an ex-officio member of the IFLA Governing Board and Chair of the Congress Advisory Committee. During 2017-2019, Vicki was elected Chair Division I (Library types) and was a member of the Governing Board. She also deputised for Professional Committee Chair. Vicki has also been a member of IFLA’s Asia Oceania Section Standing Committee and is currently a member of the IFLA Academic and Research Libraries Standing Committee. This strong commitment to IFLA builds on her previous officer roles in Metropolitan Libraries, and on Academic and Research Libraries Standing Committees.


Transcript reviewed by Gill Hallam

Gill Hallam   0:01

Hello everyone. This is Gill Hallam and I’m a member of the CPDWL Standing Committee. Welcome to the IFLA CPD WL podcast project. In this program we talk to library and information professionals who support and participate in professional development work.

Today’s guest is Vicki McDonald, incoming President, and welcome to Vicki. Let me just introduce Vicki with a few more details.

Vicki is a recognised leader in the library and information sector. Spanning four decades, her career has included leadership roles in public, academic and state libraries here in Australia. Her professional interests include a client-centred approach to designing services and spaces, digital inclusion services to First Nations people, and a commitment to delivering lifelong learning opportunities for the community and for the profession.

In 2016, her national and international experience led her to her appointment as State Librarian and Chief Executive Officer of the State Library of Queensland. She understands the need for a strong, relevant and innovative library service, and this is reflected in State Library’s achievements under her guidance. In her current role, Vicki provides strategic leadership for a significant program to transform State Library Services, collections and spaces through State Library’s digital strategy, Digital by Design.

State Library is recognised for its services to First Nations communities, and for documenting and making accessible content related to Queensland’s First Nations peoples. To ensure that the State Library retains its world class status, she is championing the development of a strategy to renew spaces within the nationally recognised building.

That’s quite a portfolio of activities to take care of! So let’s look at you personally to start with…
If you had to describe yourself in only one word, what word would it be?


Vicki McDonald  2:13

Well, firstly, Gill, thanks for the opportunity to have a chat today. And, that certainly is an interesting question:  one word. If you ask ChatGPT to describe me in one word, it would say ‘inspiring’, but I think perhaps that’s influenced by the fact that State Library’s vision has ‘inspiring’ in it, and my name is often associated with the State Library’s vision. But personally, I would say ‘resilient’.

As a CEO, I’ve had to respond to a lot of unexpected challenges across the last three to five years. Like everyone, we’ve been particularly impacted by COVID, the lockdown pivoting to online delivery, phased reopening of our and our service delivery, but also navigating legislation around vaccination and how it applied to both our clients and our staff. So and, of course, underlying all of that was supporting staff through a fairly significant change in their lives. And just after we came out of COVID, and things were starting to look, you know, like they were going to improve, we were hit by the 2022 floods. And our building, as you know, is on the river, right on the river. And so we were closed for several months, and it took over 12 months to restore access to some of our spaces. So it’s been a pretty challenging time over the last three to five years and I had to call on lots of inner strength, I think in that particular time. So ‘resilient’ is the word that comes to mind for me,

Gill Hallam  3:45

Thank you, Vicki, and I’m sure ChatGPT wouldn’t have come up with quite such a response is that in terms of understanding what goes on behind the scenes, and not on the actual front side, so I thank you.

And so what compelled you to become a librarian? How did you actually get started?

Vicki McDonald   4:09

Well, I think like many colleagues who work in this profession, it was accidental. I grew up in a small regional town called Dalby and many of my friends were leaving school and taking jobs, and I saw an advertisement in the paper at the Dalby Wambo Public Library for a library assistant. And I thought ‘that sounds like a good job’. So I applied and I got it. And then I moved to Brisbane, I did a library technician’s course. And then I did my Bachelor of Arts in librarianship, which at the time was offered externally. So I did that as a corresponding student for six years. So that was a real test of resilience, I think, in a way, certainly set me up and then after I’d finished my BA I then done some further study but certainly have really enjoyed working in this sector. And I think it’s a sector that you get so much out of and it has been very professionally rewarding,

Gill Hallam  5:03

Great… I’m sure many of our people in our audience will understand that sort of pattern of a career development of stepping stones as you go through. But having come from a small regional town like Dalby, what does ‘global librarianship’ mean to you? There’s quite a quantum leap between a small country town, and, you know, the world of libraries.

Vicki McDonald     5:27

There sure is, yes. And I think whenever, you know, think about global librarianship, you know, I reflect on IFLA’s vision and our mission as well. Our vision is to be a strong and united global library field, you know, powering literate informed and participatory societies and, and similarly, we have global mentioned in our mission to inspire, engage, enable, and connect the global library field.

And, to me, global librarianship is all about collaboration. It’s the working together, sharing our expertise, and working together to resolve our common challenges. And over the years, one of the things I’ve come to realise, as I’ve worked in many different organisations, and worked with many other professions, is that this willingness to collaborate and share is somewhat unique to our profession. And I know in working with other professions within my own organisation, they’re often surprised that I can say, oh, I’ll just ring so and so. And I’m sure they’ll share their document with us. And I think that collegiality is somewhat unique. But it’s also a great strength of our profession. And I think I see that at a local level within my own library and the work that I do, but I also see at a global level, that ability to be able to reach out to anyone across the world to get advice and reflect on their experiences and skills and things like that.

Gill Hallam   6:50

Yes, that’s right. And that those people can contribute too, it is that collaborative activity that builds the strength of the profession, I think, as well.

But your next role: you’re coming into the role of IFLA President! And that’s exciting, but I’m sure also challenging. But let’s take a step back. How did you first get involved with IFLA,

Vicki McDonald    7:13

I first became involved when I was invited to go to the MetLib meeting, which was in Singapore in 2004. So Christine Mackenzie, who you would know as a previous IFLA President as well, suggested that I come along to that meeting. And I just found it so exciting and interesting. And for many of the things that we’ve just talked about in relation to global librarianship: having that opportunity to meet with colleagues from the UK, the US and Singapore itself. Singapore was pretty amazing looking at their public libraries. And that really got me hooked. And I went on to go to MetLib meetings every year for many years. But my first World Library & Information Congress was in Quebec, in 2008. And that was a fantastic Congress. And it coincided with the 400th anniversary of Quebec as well. And I remember I took holidays to go. And my partner, I said to my partner, ‘Look, I’ll just go to a few sessions’. But I got there – and I went, you know, from first session to late at night, every day, and it was just, you know, I really got hooked into it as well, and then continued to go to Congress as ever after, and then got involved in committees as well. So, it’s been a really interesting time.

Gill Hallam   8:33

Indeed. Right. So, thinking back, are there any specific memorable moments for you within the IFLA environment? Anything that stands out as being a really memorable experience for you?

Vicki McDonald    8:52

I, you know, certainly I’m sure like you, I’ve had lots of great memories from congresses around the world. But one of the sessions that really stays in my mind is a session that I attended. It was one of the academic and research libraries sessions, it was a Hot Topics session, which they continue to offer each year. And it was at the 2010 Congress in Gothenburg in Sweden, and the theme of that session was ‘radical collaboration’. And there were three speakers on that particular session, Debora Shorley, from London, and who talked about the issues involved in walking away from the big deals; Andrew Inman from the University of New South Wales, who talked about research impact, and I think that is one of the funny things – I often go to a congress across the world to meet Australians and certainly that was what happened. But the third speaker on that session was Jim Neal from Columbia University at the time, and he talked about an initiative which he was leading called ‘Too Cool’, which was an initiative between Columbia and Cornell Universities where they were working to integrate and share and manage their library processes. And that that particular session stayed with me for a long time. And I still reflect on it. And Jim’s presentation really resonated me with me. And the whole idea around radical collaboration and these two big universities working together to share a problem.

But after Jim had presented his session, and I think each speaker only had five to six minutes, he actually moved around the tables and discussed his topic with each of us at our tables. And, you know, the opportunity to talk directly with Jim Neal, who was, you know, heading up Columbia University, I thought, wow, you know, this is what it was about is his opportunity to have these one-on-one discussions with people who have so much experience to share. And over the years, I’ve reached out to Jim, on different topics, and every time he’s responded, and to me, that’s really what IFLA’s about, and the global librarianship is that willingness to collaborate and share, and just sharing your expertise and how you respond to different challenges.

Gill Hallam  11:11

That sounds really positive in terms of the engagement of sort of working in small groups as well as sort of that plenary type of environment.

Vicki McDonald     11:19

And those Hot Topic sessions are fantastic, you know, they still continue to be, I think, highlights of each Congress as well.

Gill Hallam   11:26

OK, put that on the radar for Rotterdam coming up, that will be good! But what makes you most excited about today’s profession?

Vicki McDonald    11:36

Well, I think it’s probably still the same thing as when I started in libraries: it’s that potential to make a difference. Whether it’s a difference to the organisation that you’re working in, so I’ve worked in universities, or even the broader community and being able to contribute to solving challenges that are facing the respective community that you’re working with. And I think, here at the State Library of Queensland, we’re a reference and research library, serving Queenslanders. And I think what excites me the most is the diversity of what I get involved in. And, you know, I do find State Library’s particularly rewarding. At the moment, we’re delivering a family literacy program, working with public libraries across Queensland, which is really focused on ensuring that when children start school, they already have the literacy skills to give them a good start. And of course, that links to the SDGs as well. We’ve also at the moment received funding to work with the Queensland Government, and funded by the Queensland Government, to contribute to their digital economy strategy. But also the languages program, we’re doing some unique work here at State Library in documenting, preserving and making accessible Queensland’s traditional languages. So I think that’s what particularly excites me, and you know, gets me out of bed to come to work every day, is the diversity of what we do. But also knowing that you’re making a difference, and it will have impact to the community.

Gill Hallam   13:04

I think all of those points, just highlight their diversity across the different libraries as well, where the community is at the heart of everything. And therefore every community is unique. And therefore there’s no one size fits all in terms of library services and programs. There’s some common denominators, but then lots and lots of individual applications across the world, which is really important to understand.

Vicki McDonald    13:30

And that’s particularly true in Queensland, you know, because we do a lot of work working with public libraries, and Brisbane has one of the largest public library services in the southern hemisphere. But if I go up to the Torres Strait, I’m, you know, on these different islands, which are just, you know, not that far from Papua New Guinea. That’s the diversity of Queensland: great regional areas, great distances to travel, but diversity in what’s in those communities, and some of our communities are only a couple of 100 people. So it’s thinking about the skills that are required to deliver services in those different areas as well.

Gill Hallam   14:07

Yes, for our listeners, the geography of Queensland is quite unusual. And it’s thousands of kilometers from North to South, and across East to West. So it is a huge area to have responsibility for, as you do with State Library here. So it’s really interesting. Our listeners, a lot of our listeners will be from CPDWL and from the community that we reach out to there. So homing in on professional development, what’s the professional development tip or some advice that you’d like to share with others, particularly as we welcome new and maybe just emerging people within our section?

Vicki McDonald    14:48

Another good question, Gill. I think I think my tip would be get involved take up the opportunities that present themselves. Early in my career. I moved around a lot. I took up lots of different opportunities. I’ve worked in public, academic and State libraries, I’ve been a cataloguer, a liaison librarian, document delivery, but I also managed buildings as an asset owner, for Brisbane City Council. But I also have been involved in my professional association, I took the opportunity really early to get involved in working with ALIA, which enables you to actually build your networks outside of where you work. And I did that, I know, I found that very rewarding as well, and had a number of positions within ALIA. So I think it’s really taking up the different opportunities and, and having different experiences. And the other thing that comes from that is you actually develop strong and enduring networks, I, you know, I still have really strong connections with people I worked with, you know, 2030 years ago. And, and again, you know, I think that’s a special part of our profession.

Gill Hallam   15:54

That resonates with me, as well: I started out as a solo librarian in the special library sector, working with accountants and lawyers, that was the community I served. So it was the professional networking through the professional association, that made all of the difference in terms of working out who I was in my own career. So yeah, that’s a good point. You mentioned earlier, the sort of outsider professionals looking into our section, our sector, sorry. But if you didn’t work in libraries, if you weren’t a librarian, what profession might you have chosen to attempt? And succeed, probably!

Vicki McDonald     16:34

I always wanted to be a school teacher, a primary school teacher. So I think if I wasn’t a librarian, and I did things again, that’s what it would be.

Gill Hallam   16:44

Yeah. And there’s a close collaboration very often between the education sector and libraries, of course. So that’s not a huge gulf in terms of … You might have become a teacher librarian, then you’d combine the two?

Vicki McDonald     16:56

True, true. Who knows? Who knows what could have been?

Gill Hallam   17:00

OK, so this is actually our final sort of topic to explore… Can you tell us about a recent project or a presentation or program that you’re going to be involved in the coming weeks or months, something that you might be presenting on and I realise that the IFLA Congress is coming up, but there might be other things external to that as well?

Vicki McDonald   17:26

Well, at the moment, I’m sort of juggling preparation of a number of presentations to Zoom in.  As you say, I am thinking about the Congress in Rotterdam and my commitments there. But I’ve also, I’m juggling preparation of our three or four presentations to Zoom in. I was invited by Delara (Begum) from Bangladesh to present at their conference, the International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management. So I’ll do that in the next few months. I’ve also received an invitation to speak at the Chinese library annual conference. And then closer to home, in I think November, I’ll be a keynote at Switch 2023, which is the New South Wales Public Libraries Association Conference here in Australia.

But the most immediate conference presentation I have to think about is an invitation I’ve received from the Iran Public Libraries Foundation. And their conference theme is around public libraries and small business, so really does relate to the work that I do. And generally, when I’m preparing my conference presentations, I link it to the work of IFLA, particularly around our vision and mission, but also take the opportunity to showcase the work of State Library of Queensland, or public libraries in Queensland as well. I’m particularly proud of the work that we do here at the State Library in the work of my colleagues. So in that conference presentation, I’ll talk about the services that we do provide to support businesses and entrepreneurs. And even it’s things like free Wi Fi meeting rooms, collections, research services, but also some of the unique services that we offer here. We have a space called The Edge, which is a makerspace, creative space. And we offer sound studios, which enable people to do podcasts, record music, that sort of thing. 3D printers that have enabled people to do jewellery making and then go on to other businesses and things like that. So I’ll try and weave in some other examples to give people, about different ideas about the sorts of things that can be offered from the library. Another particular service we’re particularly proud of here is our ‘Black and Write’ program, which we’ve been offering nationally for over 10 years, which supports First Nations writers and editors, and some of our Fellows have gone on to be nationally acclaimed writers. So really approaching the idea from a different perspective is what I’ll be thinking about in preparing that But certainly, as you say, really looking forward to catching up with colleagues in Rotterdam in just a few weeks.

Gill Hallam   19:57

Right, indeed, a month away, just about. So, yeah, indeed. That’s great. Well, thank you very much indeed, Vicki, for sharing some of your time and also all of your background experiences. You do have a lot of opportunities within the role that you play, but as you said at the very beginning, the resilience to address lots of different situations, There’s plenty for you to get out of bed for in the morning! And the fact that we actually live probably only about 10 kilometres apart, we don’t see each other that often. But as you said before, meeting Australian colleagues 17,000 kilometres away will also be very special. So we look forward to seeing you in Rotterdam as well in in a month’s time.

Vicki McDonald    20:42

Thank you. Thank you very much, Gill. Thanks for the opportunity to chat. Thank you.