Student Robert Riley Attends Australian Library Conference

Community Profile

Student Robert Riley flew more than 7,000 miles to attend the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) Conference in September 2010, where he explored information literacy and networked with international library professionals.

“There’s a part of me that’s always wanted to go off to other countries,” said Riley, who currently resides in California. He has also lived in Minnesota and New York, and spent a year teaching in China. “I went to the Canadian Library Association Conference a couple of years ago to see what librarianship in Canada was like, and then I started thinking about Australia.” Riley also hoped to learn about professional employment opportunities in the country.

The 2010 ALIA Conference took place at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre in Queensland from September 1-3. It included five concurrent full-day programs on a variety of library issues, including information literacy and global resources, and offered live web-streaming at selected sessions.

The sold-out event attracted participants from around the world, but Riley believes he was the only American LIS student who attended.

“As soon as I opened my mouth it was obvious to everyone that I wasn’t from Australia,” he said. “Actually the fact that I wasn’t from the country made it easy to talk to people, because it prompted conversations about what librarianship is like in the United States.”

Riley was introduced to fellow LIS professionals through common interests and participation in the conference’s social events. He toured several academic libraries, including the University of Queensland Libraries, with a group of other attendees.

Riley was also able to meet with a LIS student from the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, Neda Zdravkovic. “Neda had taken Michelle Simmons’ INFO 287 Information Literacy seminar the semester before I did, as part of the Web-based Information Science Education Consortium,” Riley said. WISE gives San José State University School of Information students the opportunity to take online elective courses from 14 different LIS graduate schools, while opening up some iSchool electives to graduate students from other LIS schools.

“When I told my instructor about my interest in going to Australia, she connected me with Neda via email and we were able to meet at the conference,” said Riley.

One of the full-day conference sessions focused on information literacy and web 2.0, which appealed to Riley. He holds a master’s degree from the Columbia Teachers College in New York and sees information literacy and instructional librarianship as a way to bring his teaching expertise into a new career.

“With information literacy, you’re essentially teaching people how to use the library, which brings a rewarding kind of interaction,” Riley explained.

Riley also took the opportunity to learn more about life in Australia and the job market for prospective librarians. “There’s an ethos in Australia not just of work but of friendliness as well,” Riley said. “Australia and New Zealand were not hit by the recession in the same way as the United States and many other countries, so the job market looks pretty good and librarians are more in demand.”

Riley enrolled at the MLIS program during fall 2007 after hearing positive recommendations from other students. He completed a reference internship in Spring 2010 at the California Institute of Integral Studies Library in San Francisco and is interning at SJSU’s King Library during the spring 2011 semester. Riley expects to graduate from iSchool in August 2011.