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ETL 507 Sydney Study Visit

Day One: The State Library of NSW

The State Library of NSW was an extremely valuable visit. I really enjoyed the Mitchell Library, the Shakespeare Room and learning about their Indigenous and Colonial Collections. I was astounded to learn that the libraries budget is in the billions. No wonder they are such a state of the art library. I was also surprised to learn that the library is not a traditional lending library but more of a repository that aims to provide learning materials for all people in NSW mostly through interlibrary loan. Visiting the State Library of NSW was a valuable experience because it has shown me where my degree can also take me career wise. I still wish to be a teacher librarian but the visit has made me think about many library positions I had never considered before.

The State Library of NSW strengths are its budget, its unique collections, its shift in staffing towards educators and its continued vision to document Australian heritage now and into the future. The State Library of NSW had very little weaknesses but one major one would be job cuts. It’s scary to think that with such a big budget library positions are still being lost. The fact that the libraries insurance premiums are so high has certainly attributed to this. I found it fascinating to learn that the state library is unable to cull their old/unused stock which can also be classed as a weakness. Instead of culling their material it is moved offsite and stored in a warehouse at Moorebank. Not being able to cull the collection means that the library must be careful about the types of items they acquire, as they will be holding onto what they collect forever.

University of NSW

The University of NSW library really opened my eyes to what goes on behind the scenes, as well as the effort the librarians put in to assisting their clients. This was an experience that I really valued because only four years ago, I was at university and never once did I think about the many jobs the librarians have to complete in order to help us attain success. The opening tour gave me a nice clear picture of what was on offer at the UNSW Library, how things were set up and an idea of how staff would orientate new students to their campus. The scale of the job for staff in moving and reorganising the collection was scary! The librarians provided some really relevant information including the alignment of all loans to 6 week terms (with some “on hold” conditions) and a focus on automating borrowing giving staff additional time to provide more customised learning support to students.

I found it very interesting that the library constantly has to prove its worth constantly so that they are valued by each of the schools that exist within the library. Because I am a Primary Teacher hoping to one day become a teacher librarian, this is some what relatable, but not to the extent that the university librarians have to go to. Yes as a teacher librarian you are battling with the misconception that you are just an RFF teacher, but to think that if you don’t prove your worth the budget could be cut further and librarians are often the first to go is a real eye opener. The way in which they address their client base with a top down approach was also fascinating. The librarians will often prioritise assisting the academics before the undergraduates. Yes I can understand and see their point that the academics do the research that feed the undergraduate degrees, however when looking at it from an undergraduates point of view, I would think it could be sometimes frustrating as you are trying so hard to get your mind around study and assignments and then the stress of trying to complete a university requirement with little evidential support because an academic may need it.The University of NSW is the only university across NSW that set a compulsory information literacy quiz ‘Alyse’ for their undergraduate students that they must complete before they are allowed to continue with their course. I think that this is a great idea as students really need to understand it if they are to be successful in their course.

Day Two: The Parliamentary Library of NSW

The resounding element of the NSW Parliamentary Library was the copyright conditions they operate under – how amazing to be able to legally copy absolutely anything (given, of course, that it serves the purpose of assisting a member of Parliament). This allows them to maintain an amazing electronic database of articles from serials for easy access and “on demand” access.

This library is only open to people that work at Parliament House. This included accredited Press who work at Parliament. The way in which the library staff has to address their client base was also interesting. There is a particular etiquette that they must follow including addressing them by Mr or Mrs regardless of whether or not the members of parliament ask them to just call them by their first name. Confidentiality is required by the library as they are often requested to research material for different political parties and can’t tell the other party what they are researching.

They offer a news clipping service. The way in which they select what they collect and keep I found extremely interesting. The library staff has to be up to date with what is happening with in NSW consistently in relation to any parliamentary member. They scour the newspapers for relevant clippings and decide (by their own judgment) what should be kept or discarded. They do not keep any clippings that are of federal concern however there are times where it is a grey area and professional judgment is required. I would feel a huge sense of responsibility if I was in one of these roles as there could come a time when a particular news clipping is required but was discarded due to lack of knowledge of state events. In comparison to my own course and working towards becoming a teacher librarian, selecting resources would be a collaborative effort and would also require up to date knowledge on the current syllabus and school requirements, but not as near as demanding as that of the Parliamentary library.

This is a legal deposit library so they get everything that is published in NSW. Most of the things they get is kept, what they don’t want they send to the State Library and they discard it for them. (It was good to get this explained because I had didn’t know what that meant when I heard the term at the State Library).

NIDA Archives

Having been so focused throughout my Masters course on just teacher librarianship, I had never considered what other libraries or even resource facilities there were out there let alone an entire space dedicated to archives. Yes I know, I have lived a very sheltered life. NIDA is a not for profit company which means that its funding consist of donations however the Commonwealth does provide 50%.

At the NIDA archives there is one permanent member of staff, a qualified archivist and several volunteers that help to run the archives warehouse. With such a range of resources from photographs to set models, it is not well protected and runs the risk of great loss as it is within a warehouse that has no sprinklers and I full of extremely flammable costumes.

The location of the archives is also a hurtle as it is in Alexandria when the school itself is in Kensington, therefore students and staff need to travel a great distance to be able to make use of the archives. Therefore it is not ideal and would prove difficult to promote the effective use and worth of the archives as some students would see it as a hassle to make the journey. Whereas if it was right next door, I would think it would be quite a popular destination because once you are there and see what NIDA archives has to offer, it is definitely worth it.

Promoting the value of the archives is done through feature articles that are written by the archivist herself. The main clients are the general staff, researchers, historians and teachers. However, NIDA archives are not able to share many of the photographs because they need to be given permission from the people themselves and often that is hard as there are many photographs with a large group of people and trying to track to every single person can be difficult. They do loan their archives to museums, but again cab be restricted in what they loan due to permission needed.

This visit was definitely valuable to me as I was able to get an insight into something I had never really thought about previously. It was interesting when making comparisons to school libraries as they do not consist of archives, but now I am aware that inter library loans of archives or even exhibitions that are on offer with archives from places such as NIDA is something to consider. It would be an insightful and interesting experience for the students I teach.

Day Three: Jessie Street Library 

Passion would be the first word that comes to mind when asked to describe the Jessie Street National Women’s Library. The women that run this library certainly believe in the library’s purpose and pursue it with passion. The library is dedicated to the preservation of Australian women’s work, words and history. It was eye opening to learn that every librarian within the organisation is unpaid and simply volunteers their services. Despite being volunteers their collection development policy is updated every two years and consistently adhered to. They consider themselves as a repository more so than a library and look for unique material for women, by women and about women. A fascinating fact that I learnt about this library is that they have no government funding and are completely self-funded. Their funding is raised through bequests, donations, lifetime memberships and monthly and annual fundraising. This means that they do not have to answer to any government body and are free to run the library as they choose, collecting what they please.

The Jessie Street National Women’s Library’s strengths are that it is run by a passionate and enthusiastic team, it is also self-funded and therefore has no restrictions placed upon it in terms of collection acquisition and development. The Jessie Street National Women’s Library’s major weakness is continuity. Being run by volunteers means that continuity can be broken ie. jobs can take longer to do because the staff need to be trusted, dependable and consistent in their attendance and work skills. During the study visit I was surprised to learn that the library is not currently collecting information about today’s women from any digital platforms. This I believe is largely due to the age of volunteers, who are all of retirement age, but also because the volunteers seemed to dismiss the importance of such platforms. By not collecting this information it means in future years to come that a large chunk of feminist history will be lost.

Australian Film Television and Radio School

The Jerzy Toeplitz Library at the Australian Film Television and Radio School was a rewarding visit. The library collection contains education and research resources related to the screen arts and broadcast sectors. The library is certainly state of the art with database services, e-reserve services, streamed videos and more. The library’s collection consists of more than 12,000 DVD’s/Blu-ray’s and over 23,000 books. The library did not provide budget figures but it did not seem to be short on funding especially when I learnt that the library sends users an SMS if they have any outstanding loans rather than an email. The library also receives some government funding which means that the library is able to be used by the public but the library does restrict the type of borrowing the public can do. It was interesting to learn that each week a selection of recently acquired resources goes on display in the library and that a list of newly acquired titles is emailed to staff and students to keep them up to date on new acquisitions.

The Jerzy Toeplitz Library at the Australian Film Television and Radio School’s strengths are that they train their users in information seeking skills and teach students to evaluate the authority of the information they are using. Another strength of the library is that it collects many hard to find documentary’s and short films required by many of its users. The Jerzy Toeplitz Library at the Australian Film Television and Radio School did not seem to have any obvious weaknesses, other than its broadband stream can be temperamental. Whilst visiting the library it was great to see that the librarians not only supported their students in their research/study but that they also felt that in some small way they had helped their students to become successful in their chosen fields of television or radio. It was also interesting to learn that most student films made at AFTRS are available to borrow or view in the library.

Day Four: The University of Newcastle (Ourimbah Campus) and TAFE

Because I was unable to attend the last day, Sigrid said that I could just visit my local TAFE library and write a reflection based on that. So I visited the University of Newcastle (Ourimbah Campus) and TAFE. The Ourimbah University and TAFE Library’s strengths are that it aims to make itself invaluable to users. Its staff is well informed and extremely approachable. It meets the needs of several clients ranging from academics to TAFE students, so their wealth of knowledge and resources is quite broad. The library also supports a wide collection as is dictated by the current subjects offered by both the university and the TAFE. However, with the digitisation of resources becoming very relevant, the collection is becoming very much consisted of e-Books and the physical collection that they hold is shrinking. The layout of the library is also changing as it is evolving from book shelves to open spaces with lounges for its students to enjoy whilst connecting to the digital world.

This visit gave a very detailed analysis of the university and TAFE’s facilities, student support focus and specialist services. During the visit it was evident that the library’s main aim is to support their students. There one-on-one student support services, their English reading groups and their lunch time drop in sessions are a few ways the library does this. After a tour of the premises I realised just how blessed the both the university and TAFE was to have such a large amount of space. All areas were certainly put to good use. There were quiet areas, beanbag rest areas, jigsaw puzzles, chess, digital gaming spaces and more.

Overall Reflection

Over the four days of the study visit I have learnt that many of the above libraries share a common theme, they all aim to preserve their collection/history for future use. Whilst some of the libraries like AFTRS and TAFE believe it is important to acquire the latest and most up-to-date resources others like the State Library see the importance of preserving historical resources. In this digital age it was also interesting to note that many of the libraries still viewed books as an essential part of their library collection, even though many books in a variety of libraries were being discarded in favour of the digitised version. I loved seeing firsthand how the specialist Libraries fought to fiercely protect the items in their collection that supported their libraries uniqueness/niche in the library market. It was also no surprise to see that the Dewey Decimal Classification System was predominantly used throughout all of the libraries. However it is interesting to note that many libraries still classified to the needs of their own individual collections.

The study visit has made me more aware of the history of particular collections and the passion of those who maintain them. It has opened my eyes to what is similar and contrastingly different in each information institution and has highlighted the practices of libraries in terms of their information access. It has also opened my eyes to a variety of library jobs and library’s that I never knew existed in Sydney. Whilst I have not changed my mind and still wish to be a teacher librarian just knowing that other job opportunities can come out of finishing my degree is promising. I am sure some students left the study visit feeling low and wondering if they will even have a job at the end of this degree, especially as so many librarians talked of job losses and budget cuts. However I left feeling inspired in the hope that these historical institutions and the role of the librarian will live on for many years to come.