Together we are Stronger: Forging a National Library Service for NextSense

NextSense, formerly the Royal Institute for Deaf & Blind Children, has been breaking boundaries since 1860, when Thomas Pattison opened the very first school for deaf children in Sydney. Today, NextSense delivers world-class education, cochlear implant, allied health, therapy, research and clinical services to children and adults with a hearing or vision loss and their families at 20 sites across the country.

Over the past few years, NextSense has had to change the way that we provide services due to changes in our funding model brought about by the introduction of the NDIS, as well as the need to implement a service model which blended face-to-face and online support in response to Covid-19.

Our libraries had to implement corresponding changes to our services, and we found ourselves in new territory.

  • How can we best support the increasing demands of an industry that is continually changing?
  • Are we able to future-proof?
  • What are the decisions that need to be made? 

NextSense is committed to research and innovation; harnessing the latest technologies and new ways of thinking and educating the next generation to lead the way in hearing and vision services. We, the four NextSense librarians, have come together to extend this commitment to our library service and the way in which we support all our users across Australia. Each NextSense library is a one-person library, but we are excited at the opportunities to collaborate and support each other in creating a much bigger service.

One of the challenges that we face is the wide variety of users that we serve and the resources that we hold. The material in our collections (which is in physical and online formats) is used by primary school students, allied health professionals working with people with hearing and vision loss, families who are part of our early intervention service, and academic staff undertaking research and teaching. We manage all sort of resources, from toys, games and puzzles through to large print and braille books and scholarly and professional books and journals.

How do we describe this material and make it findable?

Which systems and tools can we use to enhance access?

In addition to the changes brought about by the NDIS and Covid-19, another opportunity to overhaul the library service is being provided by a once-in-a-lifetime move of the three North Rocks libraries to a new building on the Macquarie University campus by early 2024. Working in partnership with our NextSense Victoria librarian, who has overseen an expansion in library services in response to new NextSense sites opening around Melbourne, decisions have been made to challenge the status quo and build a bigger, stronger and more responsive service.

We will build on the work of the last few years to forge a truly national library service for NextSense.

Andrew Spencer

Manager, Library and Information Services, NextSense Institute Library

Author Bio

Andrew is the Manager, Library and Information Services at the NextSense Institute Library, a special library serving staff and postgraduate students. His library career spans 20 years and includes various roles in academic and hospital libraries providing support to students, academics, and clinicians. He is an ALIA Distinguished Certified Professional and has presented papers and posters at a range of national and international library conferences.

Julie Pearce

Librarian, NextSense Victoria

Author Bio

Julie’s passion for literacy for all was instrumental in her passage to NextSense Victoria. After 30 years in corporate, industrial, public, and education libraries, Julie thought a small special library would be easy but the demands for change have been unrelenting, especially during the implementation of NDIS and during Covid lockdowns. Julie is a previous Committee Member of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (Victoria) and continues to thrust a good book into any passing hand! She loves to do Storytime with the Kindergarten children and enjoys making story props for learning. She is a strong supporter of CALD communities in education and therapy.

Karen Pentland

School Librarian, NextSense School

Author Bio

Karen is the School Librarian at NextSense School Library, with over thirty years as a Teacher Librarian in the primary and secondary education sector. Karen has also worked both as a public and private Librarian in local councils, higher education and established a private property business library. She has a lifelong love for learning and research as well as an interest and pastime as a historical researcher and published writer. Karen has presented talks based upon her historical research and library experiences.

Beth Ruschen

Therapy Resource Librarian, NextSense

Author Bio

Beth is the Therapy Resource Librarian at NextSense and manages the Shared Resource Library. With over twelve years experience, she has worked as a primary school teacher, an assistant principal, a Teacher Librarian in the primary school sector and now a Therapy Resource Librarian in the health sector. She is an Associate Member of ALIA and is currently looking forward to continuing to face the many challenges and rewards that this new opportunity has been presenting.