It is a truth universally acknowledged that you can’t get a job without experience in the workplace and you can’t get experience in the workplace until someone gives you a job.
With this in mind, the clever people at UniSA insist that students of the Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Management undertake work placement in a library. I had previously volunteered for the Tea Tree Gully Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tagging volunteer program where I helped put new RFID tags into library items. This technology is what enables the easy scanning in the new self-checkout machines. I had enjoyed this volunteer program, so I used my volunteer contacts to organise my placement at Tea Tree Gully.
I was very excited. I showed up on my first day keen to do some serious library-ing, but I quickly discovered the other reason the clever people at UniSA want their students to get real word experience.
I didn’t know anything. At all.
And so began my journey.
Some tasks were simple once you knew the library layout and the codes for different sections. For example, the code for Adult Fiction is AF, Adult Non-Fiction is ANF and Adult Fiction Large Print is … AG. Completely logical.
Returns has recently become simpler by the introduction of RFID tags. Instead of precision-scanning each bar-code, the items simply have to be placed over the sensor pad just like the self-service borrowing machines.
Nevertheless, I met with challenges and overcame them with grace and dignity.
Other tasks might have taken time to learn, but my Gen Y status gave me an advantage.
The most difficult task was working on the Customer Service Desk (CSD). People would come up and ask me questions, but I didn’t know any of the answers yet. At first, I had to have help with every question, but before long I could answer the more frequent questions on my own. By the end of my placement I only had to use my apologetic “I’m just a work experience student” disclaimer for one in three enquires, and usually I managed to answer those enquiries anyway.
But it was also the best task, because I liked talking with the customers. I tracked down books for people who only knew the name of the main character in them, not the title or the author. I helped photocopy university homework, information from books, and Australian citizenship applications. I registered new library patrons. I met people and talked to them about their pets, their degree, their families.
Everyone in the library was incredibly nice and welcoming and helped me out whenever I asked (which was often). I had a great time and learned a lot.