A love-hate relationship with my profession - Eleanor Colla | S1E3

Eleanor is a tertiary librarian working in researcher development. We talk care, cardigans and why librarians risk becoming invisible ghosts. We also discuss how academics get lost in the system and whether curiosity has any place in the world of academic research.
A love-hate relationship with my profession - Eleanor Colla | S1E3

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🎙 About the Episode

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Key Topics

  • What would happen if librarians disappeared? Eleanor’s thoughts on library advocacy
  • How Eleanor works across boundaries to create supportive conversations in the highly siloed world of academia
  • How over-administration and the paradigms of funding and performance measurement often discourage curiosity in academia and impact people in the profession
  • How Eleanor uses care and criticism to navigate a love-hate relationship with their profession

Detours and Tangents

  • How critical cataloguing tries to undo the harms caused by the Dewey Decimal system
  • Eleanor’s love of film and their role as artistic director for Czech and Slovak Film Festival Australia (CASFFA)
  • Why Eleanor doesn’t engage with the concept of ‘heroes’ and why you don’t always have to know your mentors

Recorded 27 September 2021


🥣 Episode Digest

Eleanor's path

  • Eleanor didn’t have a great time at high school. They found there is no place for curiosity and you learn only for the sake of passing a test.
  • Things changed when Eleanor got to university and found in their arts degree they were able to pick topics apart and put context around the things they were studying.
  • They got a master’s qualification in information management and became a tertiary librarian working in research support.
  • While Eleanor’s career has been entirely in research support in the library context, they have held a variety of roles and often spend most of their time as the only librarian, talking to non-librarians.
  • Talking to academics, heads of school and university research offices highlighted to Eleanor the importance of advocating for the value of librarians, which is often poorly understood by those outside the library.
  • Realising that their cross-boundary conversations would have better outcomes if they were more formally trained in research management, Eleanor became an accredited research manager.
  • Eleanor uses their cross-boundary knowledge to inform the design of scholarly development programs that help develop researchers as whole people so they can succeed in the academic environment.

🧶 The Red Thread

  • Eleanor believes strongly in the value and importance of librarians and is concerned that the profession has an image problem (partly of its own making) that means the work librarians do risks becoming increasingly invisible.
  • Eleanor uses their experiences working across boundaries in academia to advocate for librarians as a profession. They use a critical voice and an ethic of care to pursue reflective, purposeful and community-oriented work that benefits the research community and fellow librarians.
  • Eleanor is concerned that librarians are becoming invisible as a profession, becoming ghosts. This is partly because of perceptions of the profession that people who are drawn to the profession themselves bring about, but risks missing all the important work that librarians do.

Decisive moments

  • High school took away Eleanor’s enjoyment of reading for a long time. Instead they started to engage with other media, especially film.
  • In the hierarchical and status-driven world of academia, Eleanor as a non-academic research support professional found they often had to fight for a right to a voice and a seat at the table in discussions about research. This led them to engage deeply in the literature around ‘third-space’ professionals who work across boundaries.

Synthesising for strength

  • Eleanor enjoyed learning film theory, especially analysing the broader context of films and their place in society. They apply this in their researcher development work to analyse the broader context around research and its impact.
  • They have worked to understand the broader context of the research lifecycle through the perspective of various functions and processes around the university and uses this integrated understanding to design better development programs for others who often do not have a holistic picture of research.

How Eleanor likes to learn

  • “I like to figure things out, particularly things that annoy me and why it annoys me.”
  • Eleanor sets aside time every day at the start of the day to read publications and journal articles according to their curiosity. These often turn out to be useful in their conversations with academics.
  • They like to learn through interaction, having conversations, asking questions, taking things apart and trying to put them back together.

🧩 Stuff We Mentioned

🏢 Organisations

👥 People

🎬 Film


🔊 Audio Highlights

Episode appetiser – we are developing whole people (46 sec)

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Eleanor explains researcher development to a 10yo (36 sec)

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What life-changing learning experience would Eleanor gift someone? (33 sec)

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Why Eleanor cares about library advocacy (59 sec)

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What if librarians disappeared? (57 sec)

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👤 About Eleanor Colla

Eleanor is a tertiary Librarian living, working, and learning in Melbourne/Naarm. They are interested in researcher development, integrating library services in the research lifecycle, the role of cross-boundary professionals in tertiary institutions, and library advocacy. Eleanor likes doing jigsaw puzzles and drinks a lot of tea.

🤝🏻 Connect with Eleanor

LinkedIn | Twitter


📝 Transcript

Note: This is a machine-generated transcript and may contain errors.

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Danu Poyner

Danu is the founder of Grokkist and host of the Still Curious Podcast. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand and has a career that has become more squiggly than a Norwegian fjord.

Eleanor Colla

Eleanor is a tertiary Librarian living, working, and learning in Melbourne/Naarm. They are interested in researcher development, library advocacy and the role of cross-boundary professionals.