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Five minutes with… Constance Wiebrands

Constance Wiebrands has witnessed the rapid shift of libraries from monuments that once housed tomes of print and paper to suppliers of the expansive online collections of today. ECU's University Librarian speaks to Kylie Davies.

ECU University Librarian Constance Wiebrands.

Q. Why did you choose to become a librarian?

I kind of fell into it. I was a chef, but I kept getting tendonitis, so I decided to go back to study and do something completely different. It's never been about a love of books. I've always wanted to do something that supports the academic endeavour. I'm a romantic like that!

Q. So how many books do you read?

I read around 100 books a year.

Q. How have libraries changed over the past decade?

Australian university libraries have moved from being very print‑focused to being almost all online. Ironically, for library staff it's harder to manage, but from the student and academic staff point of view, it's much easier. People have access wherever they are, whenever they want. This becomes increasingly important, as we're reaching more students both interstate and internationally.

Q. Is there still a need for a physical library building?

There are still some services only humans can provide that remain really important. For example, if you're completely new to study, you're not sure who to talk to or even where to start, so library staff can guide you and support you to find the information you need. There's also the physical aspect – university libraries are a place for everyone on campus, no matter what you're studying. I've heard many people say that the library is the heart of the university – where we bring together all the support services in one place.

Q. The ECU Library was the first in Australia to introduce sleep pods. Why?

We can thank our facilities team for our sleep pods. They're always looking for ways to improve the student experience. Libraries of the past were very much designed for you to get in, get what you need and get out. We recognise now that there's a range of things that go into a student being successful, and having spaces for different activities is certainly part of that. Collaborative learning spaces are very much about preparing students for their future careers – the modern workplace expects people to work as part of a team, so it's important to provide opportunities for our students to develop the skills they'll need for the future.

Q. Are you a hard copy or e-book fan?

I prefer e-reader to paper, but for non-fiction I listen to audiobooks. The convenience of the electronic format outweighs the sentiment. We sometimes get queries from students who can't find the download link for a particular book in our online catalogue, and when we tell them it's only available in print, they say, 'Oh, I’ll look for something else'. There's a technical term for that – it's called 'satisficing' – the next best thing will do. Convenience trumps everything – that's the environment we're in.

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