Friday 15th AM: Customs House Library – City of Sydney Libraries
The stated purpose of the City of Sydney library at Customs House is “supporting individual and collective learning to build successful communities”. This library acknowledges a diverse community and caters to their diverse needs. This particular branch’s location means they serve both the local population and significant numbers of “drop-ins” who are visitors to Circular Quay.
Our visit was particularly useful to learn about a library that has travelled much further down the eResources path of a public library. They have a large eBook collection of over 9000 titles, offer a wide range of eMagazines (over 150 titles using Zinio with over 4000 loans per month), eNewspapers (3000 titles using PressReader), eDatabases and a new service in eAudiobooks (launched 2 weeks prior to our visit).
The selection of materials for this library is outsourced to PeterPal – a full service including shelf ready physical copies. This service is evaluated every six months.
While this library maintains some traditional roles of storage and organisation of knowledge, it also has new roles – outreach, information literacy, lifelong learning, decision making tools and access to technology. It is also a hub for information dissemination – in-library, online and across locations.
The presentation here also hinted at some of the skill set needed by current and future library professionals. The importance of networking leads to “what social media do you have experience with?” and the establishment of a makerspace introduces the skill set of 3D printers, coding and maker knowledge. This library is reinventing their purpose in order to transform and cater for the needs of their clientele, and staff are being required to adapt to those changing needs. This is reflected in how staff are required to actively engage with library users and take inquiry to the next level of customer service.
This was a great library to finish the four days of the Sydney Study Visit. The group had achieved much more connection to each other and to the spaces we had visited and there was some great sharing of impressions and information to round off a fascinating opportunity.
Please pass on my thanks to Tahnee and the team for a fabulous four days of learning.
Thursday 14th AM: Caroline Simpson Library
The Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection is located in the old Mint building in Macquarie Street in the heart of Sydney. The library developed out of the need to support the work of Sydney Living Museums and the management of a range of culturally significant locations in NSW including places like Vaucluse House, Elizabeth Bay House, Meroogal, Rose Seidler House and a number of other important locations. This library is open to the general public and offers services to anyone with an interest in the history of house and garden design and interior furnishing in NSW. This library is a specialist research resource for scholars, heritage and conservation practitioners, museum professionals, designers and tertiary students.
Caroline Simpson Library has some very particular challenges. It is located in an historic building which dictates certain aspects of its architectural design and conservation of links to the past uses of the site. It has a vast array of items beyond a collection of books and it therefore requires staff with curation experience across a wide range of objects. Being shown how these objects are stored and displayed was most informative and stimulates interest in how libraries can be utilised to provide storage and access to much more than just books.
The power of the REAL artefacts was clearly evident in this collection. We were shown the connection between elements of the collection and the provision of historical evidence of the uses of those elements in the daily life of NSW.
Another theme emerged here – the impact of the librarian’s particular skill set and expertise in establishing both the ongoing collection of items and forging new facets of interest in aspects of life that this collection can house. The international reputation of the library is currently enhanced by the Research Librarian’s, Matthew Stephens, interest in the domestic history of music in Australia.
Thursday 14th PM: Art Gallery of NSW
The Edmund and Joanna Capon Research Library at the Art Gallery of NSW has supported the artistic life of NSW since 1874. It is the oldest continuous fine arts library in Australia. It purchases for both education and also to support the work purchased by the Art Gallery. The library was originally a practicing teaching and studio space.
Administratively the library is under the Collections division of the gallery. The gallery’s core function is the collection – conservation supports that function – the library supports conservation.
The library also has ambitions of being the National Art Archive and has been the first to appoint an Indigenous Archivist.
This library has a small team of 5 librarians who do a bit of everything. The librarians do a lot of archiving to support their role as members of gallery staff. The library is an asset of the gallery’s collection and is valued every 3 years.
The collection is still very print based and includes books, journals, exhibition catalogues, a huge ephemera collection and artists’ files dating back to the 19th century. This library also houses a large audio visual collection being transferred to digital formats. There is a huge amount of work to be done to attach metadata to the catalogue and finalise their collection development policy – an evolving document.
“A reference library needs to hold onto things” – so this library has storage challenges just as all the libraries we attended during these visits. However, the library does not provide lending services but does email research solutions.
This library has a very clear message – the librarians here have an obvious interest and passion for the art in the collection and the artists who utilise the services provided here. They combine their own interests and skills sets to support research and also teach the research skills needed.
Wednesday 13th AM: NSW Parliamentary Library
The NSW Parliamentary Library is the oldest parliamentary library in Australia. Their four pillars of ACCURATE – TIMELY – IMPARTIAL – CONFIDENTIAL reflect their niche clientele and challenge of their role. “For every question, an answer you can trust” reflects the very particular purpose of a library within a parliamentary system.
It was interesting to hear about their use of open source library management systems, the establishment of an in-house knowledge management database, the manipulation of the legal repository and the challenges faced regarding copyright with a clientele that has some specific self-promotion requirements.
This library’s focus on provision of the answer to questions rather than directing clients to how to achieve the answer, is the first time I started thinking about the very real difference between those two services. As a teacher librarian in a school I realise my role is a combination of both but with a very distinct leaning towards sharing how to achieve the answer – not just provide it with a sense of transferred authority. To work in the parliamentary library must come with a certain amount of stress when information becomes a commodity upon which significant decision making processes can be based.
This visit also highlighted another theme that was appearing in this group of libraries… the responsibility of being the repository for rare books of significant value to our nation. Digitisation and online access in some ways desensitises the modern learner to the power of holding physical books that have long been a part of our nation’s history.
Wednesday 13th PM: Law Courts of NSW
I must admit that the Library at the Law Courts of NSW was not somewhere that I expected to see high levels of effervescent energy and enthusiasm towards the role of law librarian – a significant underestimation on my part! I came away from here with a very strong sense of “team” and thoroughly impressed by the calibre of the individuals involved in working in this library. High intelligence is obviously the first prerequisite!
This staff of 24 are a mix of professional law librarians, library technicians and assistants, and clerical staff. They are a full service library and manage a “source of truth” in our legal system. They are also an historical library – a repository for judgements and case law for the state supreme and federal courts. The location of the library in the building makes them a bridge between the two jurisdictions.
The discussion about the crucial nature of print based resources to the core work of this library, and their acknowledgment that print will continue to be essential to their work, brought up some interesting points of discussion. There is also a strong need for information technology skills to accompany those print based access requirements as the staff here maintain a large intranet with a high turnover of information and new materials.
They also have a specific teaching role for some levels of court staff. In particular for the Tipstaves who are employed as part of the personal chambers staff of particular judges.
While the library utilises many features of the Dewey Decimal system, they also have site specific organisational solutions to meet their particular storage challenges and access requirements.
This library again hinted at the history behind libraries in our state and the importance of private collectors and bequests which provide ongoing access to information which continues to be used by our legal systems. This library is another bridge between the past of our state and its present but with a very real utilisation of that information in an ongoing way which affects NSW citizens.