Melbourne Study Visits 1.
I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my Study Visits, especially the smaller specialised libraries where it was easier to experience how library staff manage and coordinate their specific area of information and research. All the libraries I visited had one thing in common; their role had changed through the use of electronic technology from library curators to information and research facilities, in keeping with 21st century digital technology. This knowledge reinforced my learning from my university course.
I also recognised how several common themes emerged throughout the visits and identified with those similar to the school library I hope to work in as a Teacher Librarian. Lack of space was a consistent problem for all of the libraries, and all have utilised off-site storage facilities and Archives Repositories to address this issue. With policies of only one hard and digital copy of printed items in the collection, any additional materials needed to be stored too. However, the smaller specialised libraries found their members were resistant to electronic technology and preferred hard copies of books and printed material to digital copies, which is the opposite to schools and Melbourne University where electronic books and resources are popular and there is a trend towards digital resources.
Several libraries have also replaced the Dewey catalogue system with databases and publishers supply books ready to be shelved, which is less time-consuming and a more efficient management procedure. Funding and budgets are another important factor to all of the libraries whatever the size or category, as they affected the capability to purchase items or pay for technology, online subscriptions or licenses, wages, expansion and public or community engagement. This was evident with the Shaw Library and Discovery Centre where their internal data systems desperately needed to be upgraded but no funding was available.
Community and public access and engagement was another priority for the libraries I visited, even the Parliament Library, and the utilisation of space through storing items is creatively used to encourage public use of the library facilities and technologies. This factor is so necessary for libraries to survive in the 21st century, especially as information and research facilities using electronic technology. The City Library is a perfect example of a library adapting to change in our digital world and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to learn and experience from all of the libraries in my Study Visits.
State Library of Victoria
As I hadn’t visited the State Library before, I appreciated the opportunity to explore the impressive library setting and historical content, and particularly how the collection was developed by Sir Edmund Barry in the 1850’s to serve the people of Victoria and to remain for posterity. Unfortunately, like most libraries, problems with space and storage are issues associated with the collecting, and the library always holds both hard and digital copies of each item and out sources any surplus materials to storage or the National Archives. I found it particularly interesting to note the library had abandoned using the Dewey system of cataloguing, considering it too time consuming and replaced it by using publishers to catalogue print materials and databases to record and manage the collection.
I enjoyed the historical aspect of the State Library and the opportunity to collect information on the collection management and funding but the actual tour was too short and I would have appreciated having more time to actually look at the items and how the library was organised. I felt the librarian’s information about collection management was aimed at a presumed level of technical understanding of the databases used that I unfortunately didn’t have and I eventually lost interest and became bored. I would suggest further visits concentrate on a good balance between information sessions and the actual library tour.
Shaw Research Library
I really enjoyed the rare opportunity to visit the Shaw Research Library at the NGV, where access to the specialised collection and online catalogue is reserved for use by NGV staff, curators, and non-academic researchers only. The small library staff were welcoming and informative in regard to the extensive collection of approximately 60,000 items, serials, auction catalogues and Ephemera Files, an unfamiliar term which means the unique and valuable library items (prints, photographs, rare texts). Lack of space and limited room to expand, was emphasised as a major factor in the use of compactors instead of shelves, and off-site storage facilities are used for Archives or additional materials. I considered this an efficient, versatile, and practical utilisation of space in regards to the library’s location.
However, three separate databases are used by library staff to manage the library rather than one integrated Management System and an upgrade would be more efficient and productive.
Overall, an interesting and enjoyable visit, and one I would recommend for future visits. I rated it 5/5 because it was a totally different experience to the larger State and City Libraries, as a specialised collection primarily for research, and requiring a different environment and management approach. The library staff were friendly, welcoming, informative, and encouraged our questions at all times throughout the visit. Highly recommended for future Study Visits.
Melbourne University’s Libraries
Melbourne University was a totally difference experience after visiting the huge public State Library and the small, specialised Shaw Research Library. There was a distinct trend towards redevelopment by combining libraries to become Resource Centres, with separate departments and databases focusing on electronic information and digital technologies intent on getting more items online for users to access. The focus was definitely based on providing a high quality experience for students and academics through customer service officers rather than librarians. Cataloguing was completed by publishers as the Dewey system was considered to be inefficient and the printed material arrived ready to be shelved. It was also very apparent that funding was not a problem for the university and its redevelopment.
I wasn’t overly impressed by the Melbourne University visit, which I considered to be too much information from three departments resulting in information overload. Also, the tour of the libraries was too short, with little time to experience each specific library environment. I would suggest being divided into groups and just visiting one library in the future, so students can experience the individual management of a specialised Library, eg. BioMedical Library.
I appreciate that the University is projecting a 21st century approach to libraries as information resource centres but I considered the atmosphere of the library to be almost clinical and felt it too ‘business like’ in its efforts to become more consumer-driven by modelling its approach on that of the banks and Medicare.
Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre
The Discovery Centre is mainly a research facility that assists with identifications, donations, and general enquiries from overseas and locally regarding History, Technology, Science and Indigenous Cultures. The librarians’ work closely with the Museum Curators and other libraries both locally and interstate to assist with research and information queries. I was interested to learn about the Centre’s excellent website with its popular Online Enquiries and varied links to other relevant websites or databases for the public and academic’s to utilise for research purposes. The staff encourages public interest and engagement by staging various exhibitions throughout the year.
I had no idea the Discovery Centre existed even though I visit the Museum on a regular basis, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover such a different form of information and research facility, but with the same enthusiastic and motivated staff intent on providing the best resources and information possible for public and community interest and research, as other libraries I have visited. It is a totally different experience for students to enjoy and compare in regard to information services in Melbourne, and I would definitely recommend it as an alternative information service.
The Fair Work Commission Law Library is another specialised collection which reflects the specific nature of Labour Relations and Workers Rights. Use of the library is restricted to Judges, Associates, Legal representatives, clients and selected researchers, however, all Commonwealth and State Legislation, Decisions, Agreements and Judgements are available online for access by the public. The library staff were both specialised Law Librarians and emphasised the purpose of the library was for Research only and there was no public access to resources. I gained so much from this visit, especially about the work of the Fairwork Commission, the structure and management of the collection and present/future use of the library space in regards to public access and engagement through exhibition
I actually rated this visit the best out of all the organised visits, which was amazing since I had anticipated this would be the most boring due to the content, but I was so wrong! A ‘highlight’ of the visit was the tour of the Industrial Courts and Judge’s Chambers by Judge Hamilton, and the gift of a book based on the song ‘Waltzing Matilda’, which contrary to current myth was about workers’ rights and police corruption, fascinating information for a history teacher!! Another ‘highlight’ was the invaluable personal information by both librarians detailing their previous positions in other libraries and how they came to be at the Fair Work Commission Law Library. I really appreciated one librarian spending 30 minutes explaining in detail how intricate and time consuming the complex procedure of archiving and retrieving documents with the National Archives, which I found fascinating
I was impressed with the historical setting of the library and by its grandeur, but particularly interested in the management of such a specialised library accessed only by Members of Parliament for information and research on Acts of Parliament and State Laws. The collection is recorded
on databases but there is a strong preference by Member’s to directly access books rather than use digital copies or research electronically. I was amazed to hear that there were many rare books and artefacts, art works and old documents lying in the basement unseen, and the Manager’s main priority is to access and display these historical items as part of her plan to allow more community access to the collection and bring the library into the 21st century!
I enjoyed the rare opportunity to sit in the Member’s Lounge in Parliament House and experience the historical atmosphere and listen to the history of the library from the Library Manager, who was both enthusiastic and entertaining in her delivery! I was entranced by the beautiful décor and impressive book collection, but totally intrigued with the tall ladders that reached almost to the ceiling; a definite OHAS problem! I thought this visit was an excellent opportunity to experience another specialised library and learn how it is managed and utilised by an innovative Manager determined to display the collection to its full potential.
The City Library
I found the City Library to be the ultimate example of how tradition and modern technology have been blended into a dynamic library
environment, with a strong emphasis on community engagement and integration. The most impressive factor of the library was the availability to all of the public especially the homeless, where they have procedures in place to borrow and return books from those disadvantaged members of the city. There is a good balance between books/printed materials and electronic technology and digital resources. Staff move between the libraries on a roster basis, which allows them to experience the different library environments and broaden their knowledge of the various communities, besides developing new skills.
I would take my children to this library due to its efficient use of space, colour, creativity, and the specific knowledge of the staff about its user’s needs, eg, game consoles, computers, community. Roving library staff address any information needs and there are user-friendly machines for the public to use when checking out books. The latest technology and databases are used for efficient collection and library management, and enthusiastic staff competently handle hundreds of users every day with. It is vibrant, engaging, with a positive energy, and I would highly recommend this library for further visits.