Jean Newall & Heather Fisher

Comments (1) Interviews

From NEGS, both Jean Newall (OAM) and Heather Fisher are now listed in the ‘Who’s Who of Australian Women’. Jean was initially listed in the 2007 edition and continues to be included, while Heather is listed in the latest 2009 edition.

This represents a unique situation, where two people from the current staff of the same organisation are simultaneously listed. Jean is the Archivist and Museum Curator at NEGS, while Heather is the Head of Library Services – both of them actively developing services to the student body, staff, old girls and beyond.

They join a number of NEGS associates who are also featured for their contributions to their workplaces and the community. Mrs Anna Abbott (past Principal of NEGS) is listed, as well as Old Girls Dame Bridget Ogilvie (Scientist) and Shane Gould (Olympic Swimmer) – among others.

Entries in the ‘Who’s Who’ are by invitation only and represent a wide cross-section of achievements in Australia.

> What personal achievements were highlighted in the ‘Who’s Who’ ?

Heather:  I have a passion for children’s and young adults’ literacy and literature, which has translated into some very fortunate experiences.

While working as the Children’s and Young Adult Librarian at Gosford City Library, I was invited to present a seminar on ‘Public Library Community Outreach through Family Literacy Programs’ at the Conference of the International Federation of Library Associations, Amsterdam.

As well, I was awarded the inaugural Marjorie Cotton Award for Children’s Librarianship (a national award), which was followed by a travel grant for research in Canada and the USA, awarded by the Australian Library and Information Association.

The return to Australia saw the publication of my book titled  ‘I Can Do That: Programs for Children and Teenagers in Public Libraries’, which sold out through Australia and overseas.

Other writing has included articles for professional journals and conferences and two chapters in an edited book on librarianship.

More recently I was elected the NSW Judge for the Children’s Book Council of Australia for the two year tenure: to read, review and judge the 350 or so Australian children’s fiction titles published each year, to arrive at an annual short list in four categories and ultimately the ‘Books of the Year’.

I have also delivered the Nancy Booker Honour Lecture at the State Library of NSW, and for many years I have been a regular reviewer of professional publications for the Australian Library Journal.

Jean: I established the Archive Centre at NEGS, now called the Jean Newall Archives Centre, in a heritage listed building on the Campus. Aside from collecting and organising realia and records, I have for many years conducted an active program of school history for students and served as an archivist for Old Girls and the wider community.

Some time ago, I also established and curated a museum of church history in the Tower Room within St Peter’s Cathedral, Armidale, and I continue this work with the assistance of Shirley Dawson.

I have contributed to the Armidale Historical Society for many years and am honoured to be a life member. Following my passion for NEGS, the Historical Society and the church, I have researched and written books and many articles relating to educational and church history in Armidale.

In 2006 I was awarded an OAM for services to education and local history.

> What is your current role at NEGS ?

Heather: As Head of Library Services, I am responsible for the provision of many support services at NEGS and the nurturing of staff and students from Transition to Year 12. The management of the school library involves a small team of dedicated professionals, and services no longer just involve books, though they are very important – it also involves selecting databases, the lending of laptop computers, DVDs and CD ROMs, video and digital still cameras, data projectors, the monitoring of copying, the organisation of the school’s textbook collection and financial management, as well as teaching classes in literature and information skills.

It involves contributing to the management of the whole school and participating in all whole school events and programs, publications and marketing.

Jean: In my role as NEGS Archivist and Museum Curator, I deal with enquiries from Old Girls, historians, relatives of Old Girls, members of the community and others.

I research archival material, liaise with fellow archivists and historians, conduct tours of the collections and provide historical articles for publications.

From time to time I conduct classes in the Archives Centre and other heritage buildings on the NEGS Campus – team teaching with class teachers to

The New England Girls School Library Centre

The New England Girls School Library Centre

share an appreciation of the history around us.

As a life member of the NEGS Old Girls’ Union, I am a link between the school’s past and the current administration of the school.

> What is your vision for the future of your professional role?

Heather: The role of the school library is an ever-expanding one. Resources and the means to access resources are the business of a library, and the permutations of these two variables are endless!

Keeping current in knowledge provision and knowledge management is a serious imperative, ensuring that the library contributes to a contemporary and relevant educational environment, and the future will involve continuous adjustment to these needs.

It is my job to be aware of the school’s needs now and in the future and to act to support them.

Jean: The way forward is clear – at both NEGS and St Peter’s Cathedral there is a need to continue, to extend and to update archival material, to maintain and improve the conservation of historical items and other memorabilia.

I will continue writing articles to contribute to relevant publications, to update the books and other works on the history of NEGS, and I have a dream to produce a worthy history of St Peter’s Cathedral and its contribution to the community some time in the future.

> How do you see your role as contributing to the well being of a wider community?

Heather: Every staff member at NEGS deserves to be supported by the library service to create an environment of best teaching practice.

Every student at NEGS is also the concern of the library staff, and we support them in their academic and personal lives in the belief that this contributes to their achievement and well-being within the NEGS community – and to their growth and development.

Familiarity with literature and acquisition of information searching skills will significantly contribute to their post-school lives, as they move to career experiences and enter the wider community.

An informed person is a better community member, and in this way I regard their experiences in the library as part of their life-long learning.

Jean: Both NEGS and St Peter’s Parish have made significant contributions to the social, educational and commercial development of Armidale.

As Anglican institutions they have been part of the spiritual life of the city, and both have strong connections with the architectural and cultural heritage of Armidale.

The Historical Society and the NEGS and St Peter’s networks, of which I am a part, are the foci of my work for the community. With the mentoring of Dr Lionel Gilbert OAM, this labour of love contributes to the capture of local history, traditions and cultural past for future generations.

> Thank you Heather and Jean.

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One Response to Jean Newall & Heather Fisher

  1. Claudia Backus says:

    Wonderful article. Trying to contact my librarian colleague Heather who visited me in Milwaukee, Wisconsin many years ago. Please send current email address if you see this! Thanks!

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