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Bursary recipient feedback

To support ongoing professional development for Queensland public library staff, QPLA offered eight bursaries to Queensland public library staff to participate in the 2019 QPLA Conference. The value of each bursary was $2,200.00 for expenditure on a full registration, travel and accommodation costs.

Following is the feedback provided by the successful bursary recipients after attending the conference:


Northern Region

Lois Huston – Mount Isa City Council

The library tour of the Dudley Denny City Library was a great introduction to the Metamorphosis QPLA Conference in Mackay. I yearned for the interactive floor projector and the laptop dispenser, and the new membership categories gave me food for thought.

Suzie Lightfoot’s presentation on building a personal brand was empowering, both personally and on a library level.  Libraries take leadership roles by connecting with the community. Our responsibility as a public library is: to be SEEN, HEARD, and NOTICED.  We should not put ourselves in a box.  Others should not brand us.

Dr Amantha Imber’s statement stuck in my brain. Innovation = a change that adds value.  This aligned with Ton Van Vlimmeren’s words, that libraries create value in society, through activities and programs.  I am very interested to see that the library in Utrecht is changing from a circulation-based library to a programming-based library.

In Stephen Harris’s talk on virtual reality, I was excited by the possibilities that can be explored by this new technology.

Overall, the Metamorphosis conference was inspiring, the friendliness of the other delegates welcoming, and I appreciated the networking opportunities to meet other library professionals in Queensland.


Andrea Crooks – Mareeba Shire Council

I recently attended the Metamorphis QPLA Conference in Mackay.  It was definitely a beg, borrow and steal kind of Conference, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I learnt, laughed, cried and danced.  It was great to meet such a diverse range of library professionals in one place.  Friends were made and discussions were flowing on how to give the best possible Library services to our communities.

A highlight on the first day was the Dudley Denny Library Tour with the amazing lantern skylight in the centre.  The Mareeba Library is moving to bigger premises and implementing RFID at the end of next year.  I gained useful tips on space lay outs and the benefits of mobile shelving. It was enlightening to see how successful the RFID self-checking system works and to be able to stocktake in under 2 hours is exciting. The afternoon brain storming Advocacy Libraries session covered a wide range of challenges facing public libraries.

I was inspired by all the speakers at the Conference. Amantha Imber gave great advice “To find your frustrations, crush assumptions and never make big decisions after lunch!” Suzie Lightfoot was a standout for me. “Get pitch perfect, be more than a title or an organisation and never put yourself in a box.” Edward Luca Library Design Thinking. Ask your community what services they would like, value library spaces, users shouldn’t have to become mini librarians to use the library. 

International Year of Indigenous Languages.  Our local native language is Ngadjan and Mareeba means “Meeting of the waters.” The very hungry caterpillar story time kit will be a useful tool for our next Naidoc week program.

All the Libraries that shared their programs made me realise just how much the needs and behaviours of library customers has changed.  Helping families with autism Backstage Pass program and what a way to bring your community together with the 10 seats, 10 stories and 10 parks project.

I would like to thank Queensland Public Libraries Association for allowing me to be a Far North Queensland Representative it was very rewarding.


Central Region

Fran Shanks – Rockhampton Regional Council

It all started at Dudley Denny City Library.  I just keep seeing in my mind the open workspace/public space of this library – being able to see above the shelves and through glass walls was so refreshing and calming.  Great design ideas to bring back for any refurbishments we might have in the future.

There were some big names with big messages, done in an interesting and engaging manner.  Suzie Lightfoot dazzled us into making the best of ourselves.  The big message from Amantha Imber – Innovation. Change that adds value.  Her practical tools based on scientific evidence brought innovation away from its cappuccino flavoured ivory tower and into the real world.  Amantha was also very funny in her delivery.  None of us will be making decisions in the afternoon again.

Edward Luca emphasised the importance of surveying library users and fixed a major client frustration by changing the signage using design thinking.  Both Amantha and Edward state the key to innovation is customer driven.  We need to survey our customers as a priority on a regular basis.  The very hungry caterpillar, got even better with Yuwibara translation.  The intricacies of the translation process was fascinating. 

Backstage Pass at Moreton Bay Region Libraries showed us what tailoring specialised services can do to improve lives for our sensory overload customers.  I have had discussions and idea sharing with our First5Forever librarian since my return.

The Go Go Dance Academy was a brilliant interlude to get up, move and laugh.  Julie Cross – she made us laugh, she made us cry, and subtly told us to be resilient and responsible.  She gave us back our sparkle. 


Ruth Thompson – Banana Shire Council

Where to begin? As a ‘newbie’ to QPLA conference I wasn’t sure what to expect.  As an applicant applying for the generous QPLA bursary, I was required to answer two very pertinent questions, 1) how will attendance benefit you professionally, and 2) How your attendance will benefit your library service.  My expectations were met and some exceeded.

Dr Amantha Imber’s presentation Innovation Survivor really resonated with me.  It was punchy, concise, she was quirky, and I experienced a number of ‘light bulb’ moments.  I realized, that even though my vision for the Banana Shire Libraries has much on the ‘to do’ list yet, that in my time as a senior staff member there (2.5 yrs), our team really has made some innovative changes that have improved processes for them and assisted to improve the user experience.  Little steps…slowly….but there have been innovations!  Yay Team!

I am in awe of the wonderful work larger Libraries team are doing!  Loved the work done with indigenous language, improving the user experience (home library service), family research and the digital projects facilitated by the Mackay libraries.  Moreton Bay’s Backstage Passhas me thinking!  Sunshine Coast’s Digital Authors and 10 seats, 10 stores, 10 Parks…great too!  Bundaberg’s VR and games based learning had me (most of the time)….would like to have better knowledge of how to use VR equipment.

Hearing the message that ‘libraries are not just about books’ from an international perspective was reaffirming.  I am striving to encourage more community engagement in our branches, and to take the library team on the journey with me.

So thankful to have been inspired, refreshed and motivated by Julie Cross, Anna Go-Ga and Suzie Lightfoot!  Trying desperately to SPARKLE in my world…LOL.

Conference has inspired me to:

  • keep on with the challenge of changing team culture to encourage more programs less cataloguing!
  • review how current devices can be repurposed and used – not just stored in a cupboard, eg iPads for occasion technology lessons used to store ebooks for the Home Library Service, library experience feedback collation, etc.
  • share Amantha’s Innovative presentation with my team
  • try harder to engage the local indigenous groups in library NAIDOC activities
  • remind my team that we are ‘open for business to all’ – to be inclusive and less judgmental of users
  • to name a few!

Thank you to QPLA for the opportunity to not only learn, be captivated and inspired, learn some new dance moves, but also for the opportunity to network with colleagues.   Again, thank you for the bursary, without it I would not have been able to attend.  Thank you!


South West Region

Tammy Hickey – Paroo Shire Council

My name is Tammy Hickey, Library Services Team Leader from Paroo Shire Council, was very excited to receive a QPLA bursary to attend the Metamorphosis Conference in Mackay. Paroo Shire has been in a severe drought for over 7 years so all grants, bursaries etc. are a huge help to the shire during these difficult and challenging times.

I found the conference very motivating and inspirational. So much so that immediately upon my arrival back at our library, I began to implement some of the learnings, such as;  doing up a survey asking my customers what their frustrations are, as well as some other survey questions. I have also taken on board decision fatigue, (which prior to the Metamorphosis conference I was unaware of) and have been really trying to make any decisions in the mornings. I found this presentation by Dr Amantha Imba very enlightening.

Just as enlightening was Suzie Lightfoot’s “Be seen. Be heard. Be noticed” presentation.  There were certainly some great ideas for branding in her presentation. The Masterclass; Advocacy for Public Libraries presented by Louise and Kate from State Library was very informative. I found it particularly helpful when we could move to a table that was tabling a particular problem/discussion/solution to discuss this process moving forward.

Julie Cross was the most inspirational motivational speaker I have ever had the pleasure of listening to! I believe she would be a great help in our community and have passed on her information  to our local health organisation.

Who could forget the fun loving Annie Go Go. She certainly made you want to get up and “go go”!  I have her in mind for dance lessons for our community children/young people during the school holidays.

I have been to a few QPLA Conferences, but Metamorphosis has surpassed all the others, due to the vast content the conference covered.


Amee Hetherington – Toowoomba Regional Council

This year’s QPLA conference in Mackay was wonderful in many ways, the theme of Metamorphosis – Overcoming challenges and exploring possibilities certainly delivered, from developing your own personal brand with Susie Lightfoot, to a Master Class in Library advocacy, to the extremely important and very real issue of understanding the impacts of the broader social issues such as mental illness, homelessness and drug use on library staff, to Julie Cross who shared her personal story with us, delivering an inspiring and emotional presentation which had the room in both laughter and tears and underpinned the theme of personal responsibility and the importance of people in the bigger picture not just more data, skills or knowledge sharing (which are important) but Julie reinforced what appeared to be two reoccurring themes throughout the conference ‘Resilience and Authenticity’ and finally to the highly unexpected antics of Anna Gogo with her tales of growing up as a librarians daughter, running the circulation desk from age 6 and leaving her executive role in the public sector to pursue her passion for dance…it’s a pretty amazing feat to get a group of library professionals up and out of their seats, swaying, bopping, stepping and discoing for 30mins…

I’d like to thank QPLA for this professional development opportunity, over the course of two deeply moving and thought-provoking days, I have returned to my home library inspired and motivated to do more! It’s been a great opportunity to hear about the innovative achievements of public libraries across the state. The removing barriers and enhancing user experience lightning talk from Nicole @ Mackay provided some key take homes on how we achieve this. I am delighted to be a part of such an amazingly dedicated team of professionals who are out there every day, positively impacting people’s lives – it was summed up nicely in the Masterclass, Libraries hold opportunities to build capacity and connect communities.

I have left Mackay and the 2019 QPLA conference with a sparkle that is shiny and bright…


South East Region

Steve Hutton – Sunshine Coast Council

The QPLA conference provided an excellent opportunity for me to learn what others in Queensland and beyond are doing in a progressive and evolving libraries industry. I really enjoyed the Keynote sessions and many of the 15 minute Lightning Talks, as well the invaluable networking and idea-sharing with employees from other library services and trade suppliers. Particular keynote speaker highlights for me and take-aways from the conference included:

Ton van Vlimmeren presents…

  • ‘Developments in the Netherlands’
  • Director of the Public Library of Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Marketing, branding and retail focus areas;
    • Library corporate graphic identity – consistent professional graphic design approach to traditional/digital marketing collateral, ads, website and social media
    • Integrated library App trends – featuring search, catalogue/reservations/my loans/ account, events, news from the library, e-content, general info. For example, Aarhus Kommunes Biblioteker in Denmark.
    • Retail formula for presentation – the front cover facing bookshop-style approach.
  • Multifunctional buildings – The Library meets civic centre, creativity centre, music/arts/dance school, health centre, café, shared workspaces and community colleges
    • Europe trends – changes in ownership of the library à Multi-purpose Place vs Space vs Relations (partnerships, alliances, hybrid use, creative entrepreneurs).
  • Cross-training of libraries staff to learn other functions and vice versa – eg. community centre employees also learn basics of library service for job rotation and multi-skilling;
    • Result – Less staff required, different jobs, higher salary opportunities.
  • Trends in library opening hours, early/late and out-of-hours card access – security considerations

Suzie Lightfoot presents…

  • ‘Be seen. Be heard. Be noticed. Building a personal brand in today’s competitive and changing environment’
  • The best parts of this presentation for me was not necessarily the personal brand or self-promotion aspects but more specifically;
    • 3 keys to a successful brand – Authentic + Alignment + Consistency
    • It is essential your online and offline presences must match – people and businesses
    • Customers relate to ‘real people’ they know/like/trust (relevant to the trusted library service, librarians and staff)
    • When online, people make their first impressions much faster than in-person
    • Think of your job title not as it is on face value, but what you are passionate about in the workplace or outcomes focused – eg. Programs & Marketing = Content Creator
    • LinkedIn is now extremely important in the progressive corporate world for customer and industry credibility
    • Mistakes – when you make them, “kill them with kindness” and turn the negative into a resounding positive
    • Find your space to communicate successfully – not everyone is bubbly and outgoing in-person or on camera, but you can promote your passions through online channels, social media, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, etc.

Bonus result: An added highlight for our Sunshine Coast Libraries team was being the first prize recipient of the 2019 Poster Session with the retro-inspired Preservation Station A1 design. Our Libraries team did a great job in explaining to delegates the details behind the catchy graphic design concept related to grant funding, programming, tech equipment and customer booking process.

A big congratulations goes to the Mackay Libraries and QPLA teams for delivering an exceptional and professional event.


Jane Harding – Noosa Shire Council

Two-and-a-half days of inspiration, ideas and insights; of catching up with old friends and making new ones; of networking and discovering.  Dudley Denny Library – it looked great on Facebook; it’s even better in ‘real life’.  Advocacy Masterclass – what would I say to the Mayor in the elevator? And, note to self, memorize some library statistics. Suzie Lightfoot, I will be my own brand and go forth and be seen, be heard, and be noticed. Dr Amantha Imber, I will find frustrations, crush assumptions, run experiments and resist after-lunch decision-making. And I will keep asking ‘How might we….’ – thanks Edward Luca. Mackay, Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast, Bundaberg, Townsville, Gympie and Logan City – love your work!  From story seats and hungry caterpillars to backstage passes and barriers removed – so many innovations and projects bringing amazing outcomes to Queensland communities.  A packed agenda of high quality presentations from polished speakers.  A conference room full of knowledge and passion.  If the conference delegates and presenters were a representative cross-section of the library profession and its supporters, I can confidently say: public libraries are in safe hands and well-equipped to continue metamorphosing strongly into the future to continue serving their communities.   The sparkle is alive!