Known as a technology addict, Prashant Pandey’s penchant for digital progression is turbo-boosting the Library’s transformation. As students complete their exams in this semester’s theme of physical isolation and online learning, this priority has served them well – and the needs of staff – in a uniquely disruptive year.
What does your work involve at Flinders University?
As the Director of Library Services, I lead a highly skilled team of librarians and technicians towards building active learning and research environments, enhancing the relevance and discovery of information resources, building staff capability, and ensuring the delivery of responsive services to students, academics and researchers.
Responsible for all aspects of the Flinders University Library, my vision is to enable new types of innovation and creativity in the Library that will make a real difference for both students and staff. In my view, the Library is central to the whole academic experience and I see my role as building effective partnerships to advance library services and contribute to strategic developments that support students’ active learning.
What inspired you to follow this career path?
I started working in a library by chance. After my master’s degree, I secured a scholarship with the Centre of Excellence in Defence and Industry Systems Capability at the University of South Australia to pursue a PhD. At the same time, I was shortlisted for implementing the Institutional research repository at the UniSA library in preparation for the Research Quality Framework (RQF). I am sure the mention of RQF (precursor to ERA) takes a few of us down memory lane! I decided to take the role at the library while continuing my PhD. The rest is history as slowly the library role took over, and my focus shifted.
Libraries exist at the intersection of arts, science and technology. While working at the library, I realised that it was perfectly placed for the digital transformation and my skillset and aptitude was an excellent fit for where a modern library was heading.
Has COVID-19 had much impact on your role or goals for this year?
Most recently, technology has been more viral than the virus itself! My team, along with the library sector, has been on a transformational journey in response to the digital disruption, information deluge and evolving expectations of our academic colleagues and students.
COVID-19 constrained only two services of the Library. Access to print collections and physical library spaces were limited while all other services moved online. The initial service usage data demonstrates the positive uptake of these online services, and in most cases, we were able to engage more users than the same time last year. For us, COVID-19 has fast-tracked the transformation within the Library and also the adoption of transformed library services by our users.
What has been a highlight of your work, or proudest moment?
As a people person, I am at best mentoring and coaching individuals and teams towards achieving their individual and collective goals. At Deakin University, I had the privilege of leading a strategic group to develop the research infrastructure roadmap to streamline systems, reduce administrative overhead for the researchers, reduce data duplication and improve workflows and data reuse. My significant achievement was in bringing everyone on board this journey of transformation. The proudest moment was when my team was nominated and received the two Vice-Chancellor awards for outstanding academic support and building effective partnerships for successfully delivering the roadmap, and aligning library systems with the roadmap.
Can you share a challenge and how you overcame it?
Challenges and opportunities go hand in hand. I have faced multiple challenges at multiple levels; My Australian story starts at Adelaide Airport. One of many international students arriving on the flying Kangaroo in Australia (Adelaide) on a 45-degree hot summer afternoon at the old Adelaide airport. Coming from the winters in the northern hemisphere, I may have lost half my weight in sweat just walking from the tarmac to the Airport building! Navigating through student life independently and getting used to the new culture along with the homesickness during the early months was very daunting. However, isolation slowly turned into independence, resulting in making lifelong friends and memories while receiving an excellent education.
On a funnier note, it took me a while and some awkward experiences to figure out, what is a “gold” coin and more so “thongs” in an Aussie context? I can easily summarise my international education experience as a pretty mind-blowing adventure! The help, mentorship and welcome I received in this country helped me overcome a lot of challenges and made me who I am today. It’s no wonder that I am privileged and proud to call Australia home.
How do you like to relax outside of work?
My colleagues, family and friends know me as a technology addict, so it might come as a surprise that it’s not my gadgets or social media channels but charcoal sketching, listening to the world music and cooking up a storm in the kitchen which not only relaxes me but also helps me disconnect from the technology and reconnect with myself.