Volunteering with the National Library of Australia: interview with Margaret Goode

This post is part of our short series of interviews with people who volunteer in the GLAMR industry (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums, Records). The series began with our participation in #blogjune, but there are too many remarkable volunteers, places and stories to restrict them to just one month!

These stories will highlight the profusion of volunteering opportunities across Canberra, and showcase our local volunteer heroes. You can also find out how to volunteer!

Our sixteenth interviewee is Margaret Goode, who volunteers for the National Library of Australia.

Moore sculpture at the Library (photo by Damian McDonald)
Moore sculpture outside the Library (photo by Damian McDonald)

Tell us about you and your National Library of Australia volunteer role…

I began volunteering at the National Library several years ago when I was phasing down my consulting business. I began by doing Treasures Gallery and Behind-the-Scenes tours and by undertaking weekend shifts on the foyer information desk.

As I reduced paid work it seems I increased projects at the National Library, commencing the practice of forming small research teams to prepare guides for the library’s exhibitions. We also set up small teams to make a big hit in a short time on projects that library staff will never get to. Currently small teams are working on the Australian theatre programs, rehousing and listing them and entering holdings information on to a shared national database called AusStage.

What are the benefits of volunteering with the National Library?

The public benefit is that the volunteers get a lot of work done for the Library that wouldn’t otherwise be done.

The benefit to me is the satisfaction of doing something productive and the social contact in a very pleasant millieu, providing the contact with the world outside home that working used to give me.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your volunteer role?

The volunteer work is absorbing, and educative in that I learn a lot of things that I mightn’t otherwise explore.

A big difference from the working life is that while you are responsible for doing work properly when you’re at the Library, there is no management responsibility staying with you when you walk out the door to go home. That is very, very nice.

And the volunteers in the Library staff are really delightful, varied, interesting and good spirited to people, in other words lovely people to be with. The library staff are wonderful to the volunteers, and vice versa, and no harm comes from people being nice to each other.

Volunteers at the National Library can choose to provide exhibition tours, behind-the-scenes tours or assist the public at the Foyer Information Desk (FID). How did you choose your tour specialisations and projects?

I guess it is a combination of what my background would make me suited to and what the Library needs at any particular time.

Do you have a favourite insight into the library or a library secret that you could share?

The National Library is a place where the starting point for interaction is goodwill. On the front desk, for example, when you tell people that exhibitions, tours and kids activities are free they are amazed and delighted. Some people don’t expect a free good, and do value them when they receive one.

How do people express interest to volunteer with the National Library?

The National Library offers a range of volunteer roles – assisting the public at the Foyer Information Desk, welcoming visitors, providing guided tours or behind-the-scenes doing dedicated project work.

You can find out more about how to apply for the Volunteer Program on the National Library’s Become a volunteer webpage.

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Volunteering with Canberra Archaeological Society: interview with Steve Skitmore

This post is part of our short series of interviews with people who volunteer in the GLAMR industry (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums, Records). The series began with our participation in #blogjune, but there are too many magnificent volunteers, places and stories to restrict them to just one month!

These stories will highlight the abundance of volunteering opportunities across Canberra, and showcase our local volunteer heroes. You can also find out how to volunteer!

Our fifteenth interviewee is Steve Skitmore, who volunteers with the Canberra Archaeological Society (CAS).

Steve Skitmore, CAS volunteer
Steve Skitmore, CAS volunteer

Tell us about you and your CAS volunteer role…

When I first volunteered for CAS last year, I actually didn’t realise it was with them! I moved to Canberra just over a year ago to study a Master of Archaeological Science at ANU, and as soon as I arrived I tried to throw myself into all the projects and opportunities that were available. I knew Lucy, the President of CAS, and she had asked if I could help out doing some ground penetrating radar surveying on Springbank Island. Springbank is in the middle of Lake Burley Griffin and we were trying to see if we could detect the remains of the old homestead there. Needless to say, by the end of the week, I knew a lot about CAS (and how to push around a radar machine)! My role in the society is pretty informal, I help out where I can with organising events and the like.

What are the benefits of volunteering with CAS?

Well, there are lots! You get to talk about exciting new developments in archaeology with the public, see kids faces light up as they help out uncover artefacts on public excavations, connect with experts who are breaking new ground in dating objects and tracing ancient DNA.

The biggest one though is that you are connecting with those people in Canberra who know the most about its history. People often think of Canberra as this place with only 100 years of history that would be great if only it was a little more like Melbourne or Sydney. Well, when you volunteer with CAS you’re working alongside Traditional Owners whose ancestors have lived on this land for over 20,000 years. That’s a mind-bogglingly huge amount of time. Working with them, you get to explore the hidden histories written in the scarred trees and grinding grooves, places that people look at every day, but don’t really see.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your volunteer role?

It’s definitely being able to get out into the field, and not being stuck in the lab all the time! In the last couple of months, I’ve helped organise a community archaeology dig where the public can come along and learn from the pros, and have run a stand at the National Science Week with replica human skulls and some stone tools for people to play with. Also, maybe I’m a bit mean, but I also love bursting people’s bubbles about what archaeologists actually do. Everyone wanted to be an archaeologist when they were young right? Follow Indiana Jones and Lara Croft on their treasure hunts, or find dinosaurs? Sad to say guys, but we don’t find treasure and don’t look for dinosaurs!

What’s the next thing you’re organising?

Apart from the monthly seminars that we hold at the ANU, we’ve got a field trip on tomorrow (17th October) to learn how to locate and record Aboriginal grinding grooves in Gungahlin. Everyone is welcome to come along, registration information is on CAS’ facebook page.

Do you have a favourite moment from site excavations or the CAS/CAR (Centre for Archaeology) evening lecture series?

The community open day for the Springbank Island project has got to be my favourite so far. We had a couple of hundred people come out to the island on a lovely Saturday morning and we got them down in the trenches to get their hands dirty. My favourite moment was teaching a young girl to scrape back mud and dirt with a trowel to uncover artefacts, whilst she was decked out in bright pink fairy dress and wings! She loved it, but I’m not sure her parents were that impressed.

How do people express interest to volunteer with CAS?

We welcome anyone from the Canberra region who has an interest in archaeology, no experience required! The best thing to do it head along to the CAS website or Facebook page to find out about our upcoming events.

Rapunzel at Government House

Remember our charity performance of Rapunzel from 11 February? The star of the play, Nicolette Suttor, raised more than $10,000 for the Leukaemia Foundation by shaving off her almost ankle-length hair.

We are a little late in sharing the news, but we wanted to let you know about Rapunzel’s (Nicolette’s) attendance at a very special event. To celebrate her success in raising money for blood cancer research, she was feted at an award ceremony at Government House (Sydney, 21 July).

Look at the difference in her hair now! (fantastic comparisons on the National Library’s facebook post). She is with the Governor of NSW (David Hurley AC), and her cousin Denise.

Nicolette Suttor, Governor of NSW, David Hurley AC, and Denise Thyer at Government House in Sydney.
Nicolette Suttor, Governor of NSW, David Hurley AC, and Denise Thyer at Government House in Sydney.

Nicolette (Rapunzel) was one of the high-ranking fundraisers and her Greatest Shave campaign had the largest outreach (family, friends, ABC radio, Canberra Times, twitter, facebook). We mentioned some of the media coverage in a previous post. She received a special mention at the award ceremony for her achievements.

Thank you to everyone for your support of the Rapunzel play, and most importantly, raising funds for this important medical research and family support.