Voice of Exchange
Sheffield Hallam University
An exchange between the UK and Australia
My Australian exchange took place as the result of a chance conversation with a colleague, and with the full support of my campus and University librarians. I was awarded the Jackie MacAleer Fellowship from the Association of Commonwealth Universities and as a member of Cilip I received funding through the International Office to enable me to participate.
I saw an exchange as a way of broadening my work experience and to learn something of the culture of another country. Both these aims were achieved. Being an information assistant seeking an exchange was unusual as almost every exchange request I looked at on the LIBEX listing was for LIS professionals. Undeterred after a false start, when an almost arranged exchange to University of South Australia fell through, I set about finding someone else. My University Librarian sent an appeal through CAUL, which was successful. Several interested parties responded and gradually eliminated themselves, leaving just one guy from Southern Cross University in Lismore, Australia.
It took several months to organise domestic arrangements and official documentation (the ALA IRRT website was very useful for this) although departure day seemed to come round very quickly.
I arrived in Lismore mid-September and had a week to recover before starting work. As arranged, half my day was spent on the Loans desk. The rest of my day I expected to be doing my exchange partners job, but on his departure that had been given to someone else. At my request, I assisted a colleague with certain aspects of her work. Over the Christmas vacation I assisted in both Serials and Reserve Room tasks. I also visited their two other campuses at Tweed Heads and Coffs Harbour, and Bond University Library at the invitation of their Loans Desk Supervisor.
At the Staff Development Day I gave a presentation entitled 'Same but Different', then on my return wrote reports for both universities, for the ACU and for Cilip. The report for Cilip is on their website ( http://www.cilip.org.uk/jobscareers/libex/mmorton.htm). I also wrote articles which were published in Impact, Frontline and Focus (magazines of Cilip groups) and gave a presentation at an ILIG Informals meeting at Cilip HQ.
It takes a great deal of determination to organise such a massive undertaking and there will be setbacks, different for everyone, but the experience of living and working in a different culture made it all worthwhile. My organisational, IT and communication skills were enhanced by the experience. I met people and did things I wouldn't have done although the essence of what a library service does remains the same, just different methods are employed. Students still need access to, and training in, using written and electronic materials in order to submit assignments, sit exams and gain qualifications, it's the ethos behind delivery that is different.
I spent a wonderful six months there and was sorry to leave my new friends and colleagues, but I was also glad to get home.
I'd love to do another exchange - any offers?