Greetings! It’s my pleasure to welcome Stephen Harris, writing from Bundaberg Regional Libraries in Queensland, Australia. Enjoy! ~Laura
Please introduce yourself! Tell us your name, title, and how you got to your current position.
My name is Stephen Harris and I am the Information Services Librarian at Bundaberg Regional Libraries. I used to work in Information Management within the health sector in Brisbane when I saw an advertisement for an Information Services Librarian in Bundaberg. Bundaberg is where I did the majority of my childhood education. So I interviewed for the position by Skype; was successful and packed my bags and cat and headed off to regional Queensland.
Tell us a bit about your approach to community engagement.
My approach to community engagement is to recognize elements within the community that I would like to see move from a suspended position. One of my first programs was an outreach shared reading experience that engaged dementia patients at the Gracie Dixon Respite Centre. As it has grown and developed I have gained volunteers who are discovering what dementia is and how shared reading can bring about social inclusion and a reduction in symptoms. I am currently working towards a digital health literacy program for seniors.
How does that philosophy play out in your day-to-day work?
The philosophy keeps me focussed on the community and its people. I always listen attentively to members of the public and their interests and concerns. Local history is popular in Bundaberg so I am engaging with the community to see what parts of their history they would like programs to be centred on.
How has the transition from an internal focus to an external one unfolded at your library?
An external focus has unfolded by simply expressing new ideas and seeing where they lead. Our library has a real “let’s see what happens” attitude so ideas are always vibrant and experimental.
What’s a challenge or speed bump you’ve encountered in this work?
One of the biggest challenges is getting the community out of their comfort zone. So getting seniors interested in the benefits of technology is always an interesting effort.
What do you think makes librarians in particular suited to this work?
Librarians are very good listeners and we are active in the community. It’s so important to be involved and keep up with professional development. Sometimes I have achieved more attending an art exhibition or community event and networking than I ever could by writing a proposal.
What are your long-term goals for the work that you do?
My long term goal is to actually make a difference. With an aging population in Bundaberg it’s important to me that they are as informed as they can possibly be. The creation of a sustainable digital health literacy program would be a good place to start. I believe that libraries as information centres have a responsibility to inform the public for the greater good.
Who else is doing interesting work in this area (not necessarily in libraries)? Can be an individual or an institution.
Tennille Jacobsen, the Central Queensland eHealth and Practice Support Officer is doing absolutely brilliant work in health communication and health promotions. She helps build digital engagement as well as education and access to electronic health records. Tennille puts massive effort into ensuring the community has strong literacy and information skills.
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