Five reflections on five years: we’re just getting started

newCardigan is five years old this month. If we were a human, we’d be “going” to school over Zoom by now! Normally we like to have a little birthday cardiParty in June, but things are weird this year. Instead, every day this week one of the ‘cardiCore’ will be sharing their personal reflections on the first five years of newCardigan. Please share your own reflections with us on your favourite social media, your blog, as a video or audio recording, an email, or via ye olde postal service. We can’t wait to read, hear and watch them.

In June 2015, scheming with friends at a bar between the Yarra River and Flinders Street Station, we thought it would be fun to invite other GLAM workers to a regular catchup over drinks. Little did I know that five years later we would have formed a community of hundreds of GLAM workers across the whole of Australia and New Zealand, run dozens of in-person events, established a podcast, and been invited to tour some of the most amazing GLAM venues in Melbourne, Perth, and beyond. It’s been a wild ride, and yet it still feels like we’re just getting started.

newCardigan has been evolving the entire time, but one thing has always stayed the same. The ‘new’ in newCardigan was always about challenging ourselves and our professions to think, act, and interact in new ways. To be of our communities, not just for our communities. To be public institutions, not just institutions for the public. And our semi-official motto – “Just fucking do it” (JFDI) – was aimed at the typically ponderous and timid approach we believed our official GLAM institutions and professional associations were taking in their interactions with the world.

Incendium Radical Library, February 2019

Last year’s cardiParty at Melbourne’s Incendium Radical Library (IRL) has really stuck with me – I think about it every week, because it exemplifies what I want from newCardigan and from GLAM. Our hosts were gracious and welcoming, despite having never heard of us before I cold-emailed them. IRL’s very existence challenges typical public library operating models and assumptions about what should be in library collections, and why. And more than anything, in the midst of culture warriors screaming about freedom of speech, and demanding ‘neutrality’, IRL shows us how to enact an uncompromising harm-minimisation approach to the operation of GLAM institutions. Like all the best cardiParties, it ‘complicated’ things I thought were familiar to me, and opened up a whole new world of possibility.

I can’t wait to see what the next five years of newCardigan bring.