Staff member, Stuart Anderson, shares his story.
I am a Visitor Services Officer and I am here to help. That is my personal motto and a good overview of what I do at the State Library of Queensland.
How I came to be a Visitor Services Officer is a long story, as my path was fairly indirect. In a former career I worked as an engineer in the field of water treatment plus research and development. Ironically, when Australia’s drought ended the water industry jobs all dried up.
My involvement with the State Library began as a volunteer, guiding people through exhibitions and administering exit surveys. Then, and now, one of the main draw cards of the library environment compared to engineering product development was the way much fewer things here could explode. The opportunity to volunteer here helped me discover that I have a knack for front of house work, something our expert volunteer coordinator spotted long before I did.
After a brief foray into the fascinating world of optical corrective lenses (because it was paid work) a position opened up here, and I was lucky enough to be selected out of over 80 applicants and I came running back to the State Library as soon as possible to become a member of staff.
State Library of Queensland is located in the Cultural Precinct of Brisbane, nestled between the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art, and near to the Queensland Museum and Queensland Performing Art Centre. We have visitors from near and far, new and regular visitors, as well as visitors looking for nearby venues.
A typical library day begins before our doors open. Helping these visitors find the parts of the Cultural Precinct that they are looking for, or the parts of the library that can best meet their needs, is an ongoing duty whether the library is open yet or not. There is always something going on in the Cultural Precinct, and keeping track of all the events and exhibitions and attractions is a challenge that I look forward to each day. There are also things going on at the library, including a wide selection of events and services on every day, as well as the current exhibitions hosted at the library and special events for the day.
As Visitor Services Officers, my team and I answer the main library number and staff the first floor information desks. This means we are the first people that members of the public will encounter when they come to the library. It is an important responsibility to make this first impression as part of the public face of the library.
The first doors to open are the Infozone doors at nine in the morning. As I happily tell clients, this is where all the noisy parts of the library are. The first of three parts of the Infozone is the public access computers, an area set up so that people including many travellers can come and check their email and social media, and access the printing system too. Having done some international travel recently I became keenly aware of the lack of things locals take for granted like internet and computer access, wifi access, somewhere to charge portable devices, and a way to print and scan. “Enabling Access” to information is one of the State Library’s core objectives and in the Infozone we do that for all.
Beside the public access computers we also have the children’s activity area, The Corner. It definitely fits the ‘noisy’ theme most days, being full of kids having fun. I am very impressed by the staff of The Corner and yet very glad it is them not me entertaining the library’s littlest visitors.
The Infozone trinity is rounded out by the Indigenous Knowledge Centre, kuril dhagun. One thing that I’ve learned from kuril dhagun is that the kuril is an Australian water rat native to the area and the reason behind the name Kurilpa Point. kuril dhagun also hosts exhibitions to do with first peoples culture, history and art. These exhibitions are also a good way for visitors to productively spend the time before the main doors open.
The main doors open at ten in the morning. There is always a crowd of regular and new visitors who eagerly await the library opening. From the Welcome Desk at the main entrance we operate a cloaking service, manage lost property, and put clients in contact with staff for appointments.
The Visitor Services team help clients to access the physical and digital collections, and the services available on the website. We assist visitors to register for membership of the library and with the return of the items they borrow from the library. Other than welcoming visitors, dispensing information is our main duty at the Welcome Desk. Often this is about other venues and events about the cultural precinct but the library has a lot to offer too.
State Library of Queensland hosts special exhibitions in the SLQ Gallery (Level 2) and the Phillip Bacon Gallery (Level 4), as well as the exhibition in kuril dhagun. There are also big and small special events, and major community events hosted here like the annual Brisbane Writer’s Festival. Not to mention everyday events and services like our helpful research librarians, family history experts, creative kids activities in The Corner, workshops in The Edge, and support for small and start-up businesses in the Business Studio. We also have Justices of the Peace available (myself included) to help visitors. Oh, and the library also has books and the digital collection in many areas of interest.
I am not sure what I expected when I first became involved with State Library but have since discovered that a library is a community hub not just a place with books to share. We have something for everyone here, because that is exactly who visits the library. This is what completes my day as a Visitor Services Officer, the visitors. A diverse cross section of society visit each day, with different needs and their own stories to tell. Working at the State Library of Queensland is never dull and never boring.
Visitor Services Officer, Visitor Experience