Last month Macquarie welcomed Dr Belinda Tiffen as our new University Librarian. We caught up with her (quietly, so as not to disturb the library patrons!) to see how she’s settling in, and to hear about her plans for supporting student success.
What attracted you to the role of University Librarian at Macquarie, Belinda?
I’ve been a part-time student here for several years, studying in the Arts undergraduate program, so I was already very familiar with the University and knew that it was very student-focused.
The academic library community in Australia is quite small, so I’ve been aware of the great work happening at Macquarie University Library in terms of supporting student success and research – the mission and values of the University really resonate with my own personal and professional beliefs. When the University Librarian position was advertised, I didn’t hesitate to apply.
What drew you to librarianship as a career?
I entered through a fairly circuitous route. While undertaking a research degree I found myself interested in how the information I was using – often material that was several hundred years old – was preserved, organised and made discoverable. That led me to undertaking a graduate diploma in information science and falling almost accidentally into this career.
I’ve stayed because I believe strongly in the core purpose of libraries to make information freely available to everyone. Equitable access to information and education is both a basic human right and a cornerstone of healthy societies. I find it satisfying to feel that I can play a small part in that important purpose.
What role do libraries play in driving student success?
I think libraries are more crucial than ever to student success. Information often seems ubiquitous today – in a way we take it for granted. We can find anything on Google and be updated instantaneously through social media. This type of access to information is amazing, but also fraught. In a world where anyone can create and share information, as consumers we need to be incredibly savvy in understanding the who, how and why behind what we read.
It also requires a level of technical proficiency to be part of this information economy: to know how to find, share, create, post, and use information safely and ethically. That ability – the capacity to be literate in digital information – is vital to students being successful; not just in terms of successfully completing their academic studies, but beyond that into the workplace. I see the library as playing a vital role in helping students acquire those types of transferrable skills that will equip them for university and work.
How do you plan to encourage ‘student-centred design thinking’ in your team?
One of the great things about working in a library is that people are naturally client-focussed – they gravitate to this career because they have a sense of service. Librarians have also been long-term adopters of user-centred design thinking.
In the short time I’ve been here at the Library, I’ve already been made aware of a number of projects and service improvements based on working with our clients to understand their needs. So that student-centred ethos and design thinking methodologies are already well embedded.
I see my role as ensuring our efforts in this space are coordinated, both across the Library and across other student support areas, so students don’t see pockets of great service and support, but have a truly seamless experience.
What is something that not many people know about you?
I studied architecture for two years before realising my talents lay in quite different directions. I still have a keen amateur interest, however, and one of the items at the top of my bucket list is to visit my favourite building, Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye.
What do you like to do for fun outside work?
My family all live in the beautiful Lake Macquarie region, so I’m up there fairly frequently for my fix of amazing beaches.
As an unrepentant nerd, I’m making my way slowly through a degree in Ancient History here at Macquarie so study also usually takes up a lot of my non-work time – and yes, I do consider that fun!