Vassiliki Veros has turned her love of libraries and romance fiction into a PhD through UTS’s Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre. John Elliott is the Marketing and Communications Manager for UTS Business School. More than 20 years after they first met during their undergraduate degree, they’re now married and have both returned to UTS.
I used to have to catch two trains then a bus to the Kuring-Gai campus.
My friends and I always tried to scam a lift up to the train station with whoever would take us. That was how I met John. I thought of him as this Anglo-Aussie guy who gave me lifts and didn’t wear shoes to uni. We had a couple of classes together, but he wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye. Two years after graduating we started going out; we’ve now been married for 18 years.
I did the Information Science degree because I always wanted to work in public libraries.
My specialisation is readers’ advisory, which is about developing reading recommendations, materials and collections focusing on library users. One of the most common questions we get in public libraries is, ‘Can you recommend a good book or a good movie for me?’ It’s not about your personal preference; it’s about how you match the user with something that will connect them to cultural outputs. After a 20-year break in my formal education, I started doing a Masters by Research in Information Knowledge Management. My supervisors suggested I transfer to a PhD, which is what I’ve been doing for the last six months.
My PhD looks at how certain practices and policies of cultural institutions – such as libraries and publishers – marginalise romance fiction.
If the fiction is marginalised then the reader is marginalised. I’m using catalogue records and metadata to determine whether there is a gender imbalance. I’m also exploring how a lack of literary reviews of the genre impact the way romances are purchased. The disdain towards the romance genre has started to shift.
Romance fiction is no different to any other genre; it’s some of the most wonderful reading I’ve ever enjoyed.
Just like every literary genre, there are good examples and mediocre examples. Finding a partner is an almost universal drive and the most important thing in many people’s lives. Stories about this should be valued, not just by women but by men too. John has read quite a few and he enjoys them. At least, that’s what he tells me.
We commute together every day, which is great because we get on really well.
He also brings me coffee in bed every morning. We park the car a bit further away and then walk into uni. It’s a great way to start the morning. We’re like little children; we’re always laughing and sometimes we meet up for lunch. When we’re apart it feels like we’ve not seen each other for months, even if it’s only been a few hours. We just really enjoy each other’s company.
I was in a class with Vassiliki and we had very big differences of opinion in that subject.
I bumped into our lecturer years later and she was really surprised that Vassiliki and I were married; she never would have placed us together. We met in 1991 and became good friends after we graduated. We started going out in October 1994 and married in February 1996. When you know you want to marry someone, there’s no point in stuffing about.
I don’t know any other couple who laugh as much as we do.
My mum always said the most important thing is that the person you marry has to make you laugh. I offered Vassiliki and some mutual friends a lift to the station after class, and I can’t actually remember the other friends. I just remember Vassiliki as this really funny person; she made me laugh the whole time. Life isn’t always enjoyable, and when life is hard it’s good to be able to know when you can make a joke and release the tension.
Vassiliki has outed me on ABC702 as a romance reader confident enough to read romance on public transport.
There are a lot of pretty ordinary romance books, but that’s the same for every genre; the secret is to sift through them all to find the gems. The great thing is, when you live with somebody who has already done all that sifting, you don’t need to do it yourself. This is a big part of Vassilki’s life and it would be a shame not to be a part of that. She’s passionate about what she does and was doing this research before she started her PhD. The research isn’t a chore for her and that’s what makes her a brilliant PhD student.
Romance is getting up every morning and making your partner coffee.
It’s the little things that make romance. Vassiliki is a very cynical person and we often laugh about plots where people are whisked off to the Greek Islands or an Argentine hacienda by surprise. I used to love celebrating Valentine’s Day and our wedding anniversary, but she’s usually organising some library lover’s event on the big day. One year she promised me a room full of women for our anniversary – it turned out to be a panel discussion about romance literature with some really funny and engaging people.
University is a transformative thing. It changes people’s lives; it changed my life.
Beyond meeting Vassiliki, the course we did – now offered as a Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Information and Media) – opened up a career path that would not have been possible without that background knowledge of how people use information. Universities provide a wonderful, social ‘good,’ and it’s nice to be working for an organisation that’s, ethically, pretty pure. I couldn’t market a product I don’t believe in, and to be part of this industry through the promotion and communication of the way it changes people’s lives is a good thing.