06 June 2016

Remembering my MLIS class of 2001

In 2001 I moved to New Zealand from Scotland and started my Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) at Victoria University of Wellington. I'd decided after working in a university archive that I'd found my vocation and had been looking into moving back to my hometown Brisbane to do postgrad study at QUT. Wellington came up as an option later, after I'd met my then partner (who was into ice climbing and so needless to say did not really think Queensland would be ideal).

I quickly made friends with a small group of wonderful fellow students. Most of us were career changers in our late twenties / early thirties who were trying with some degree of success to complete the qualification as quickly as possible through full-time face-to-face study. We studied hard and socialised together a lot. A regular big night out involved an 80s music club night called Atomic (coincidentally run by another librarian that I would work with later at the National Library of New Zealand).

It was a pretty intense year but we all made it out the other end and embarked on our various career pathways as information professionals.

Sally was already working in corporate libraries while she was studying. She moved to London and has continued working at high-powered finance and management consulting companies in research and knowledge management roles. I saw her in London a few years ago. We don't really keep up with each other's day-to-day news but we are connected via Goodreads and have very similar taste in books. It's a slender thread stretched by time and distance, but it's still there.

Fiona livened up the library tours we did during the course by asking staff "So how's your job satisfaction?" I can't remember any of the exact answers but they were surprisingly candid! Fiona's moved several times to support her partner in her career as a journalist and they and their two boys recently moved from Auckland to Melbourne. Fiona started work in records management in a Melbourne hospital a couple of months ago, which she really loves. I saw them about six months ago and hope to see more of them now they are on this side of the Tasman.

John went on to work in the library at VUW for a few years and then went to the NZ Institute for Chartered Accountants, where he has moved through library management into a range of other managerial roles. I missed seeing John and his family last time I was in Wellington as they were away for a holiday, but I know I'll see them there sometime for a brunch at one of the cafes along Cuba St.

Tash, I have lost touch with. She got pregnant towards the end of the course and moved back to Auckland. I hope that she is doing OK.

Sadly, two of our classmates have died, both suddenly and both far too young.

Karina was the youngest in our class (straight out of her undergraduate degree, I think) but knew exactly what she wanted to do with her qualification. She wanted to be an archivist and in her short career and life achieved so much not just in NZ but in the entire Pacific region. She died in May 2013. Her friends and family still post to her Facebook page, particularly around her birthday and the anniversary of the day that she died.  I have no doubt that of the class of 2001, she would have been the shining star in the years to come.

Brendan collapsed and died at the gym in October 2010. By that time he was a well-respected member of NZ's government agency recordkeeping community. He was also a pedantic bastard so I can imagine how he would react to finding that the link to his obituary on the ARANZ website is now a 404. (Because why on earth would you expect a professional organisation for archivists to be able to appropriately archive their own content? And in a nice touch, ARANZ have also set up a robots.txt blocker on their own website to ensure that other agencies like the Internet Archive can't preserve their content either. Sigh.)

Long after others had left Wellington or were staying home with their kids, Brendan remained my stalwart dancing buddy for Atomic. I suggested a couple of songs for his funeral. Nena's 99 Luftballons, to which Brendan knew all the words in German, made an appearance as did The Smiths' There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.

I wanted to write this post because somehow it's been fifteen years since 2001 and because I'm grateful to have found the friends I did in that year. The MLIS was a springboard from which we have bounced in different directions, but I'll never forget them.