ETL507 Study Visit: Sydney 2014

Day Three: Jessie Street Women’s Library and The Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS)

Jessie Street Women’s 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 weaknesses 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.

The Jerzy Toeplitz Library at the 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.


ETL507 Study Visit: Sydney 2014

Day Two: Australian Museum Research Library and Art Gallery of NSW

Australian Museum Research Library


At the Australian Museum Research Library it was interesting to learn that even though it is 2014 a card catalogue is still in use. An automated Library Management System started in the library in 1988 however the card catalogue is still regularly referred to. The library’s main collection has been divided into a monographs catalogue and a serials catalogue with a variety of in-house classification and Dewey classification systems being utilised. During the visit I really enjoyed viewing the rare book room and being able to see a variety of rare books which dated back to the 1550’s. I was fascinated to learn that the library is kept at 51 percent humidity and 21 degree temperature in order to keep the resources from rotting/deteriorating. It was also interesting to learn that unlike the State Library, the Australian Museum Library does weed their collection. Currently the library is in the process of weeding journals which can now be found digitally and are no longer considered unique.

The Australian Museum Research Library’s strengths are that it is committed to the conservation of its resources, it holds many journal titles that other libraries do not have and has one of the finest natural history collections in Australia. The Australian Museum Research Library’s weaknesses are that there is little space to shelve the collection and different cataloguing rules have been used to shelve the resources which makes it increasingly hard to locate anything. Currently the librarian spends her days converting older resources into the current Dewey classification system which is a time consuming practice. Had I not attended the library I would not have known of its existence. This study visit has certainly opened my eyes to the different types of library’s that are available in Australia and to the unique collections that they hold.

Art Gallery of NSW – Edmund and Joanna Capon Research Library


I have visited the Art Gallery of NSW many times and have never known that a library existed there. The Edmund and Joanna Capon Research Library opened to the general public in 1988. It was originally funded to support the acquisition and conservation of artworks and today supports the professional staff at the library as well as artists and Sydney locals. The library is very hidden and only a little plaque on the wall revealed its existence at the bottom of an elaborate staircase. The library contains fine art publications, rare books and manuscripts. The library’s collection surrounds mainly Australian and British art but in recent years Asian art has also been incorporated. It was interesting to learn that the general public contacts the library about inherited artworks and what they may be worth. It was also interesting to learn that the librarians have a large say in what the library will acquire and that no collection development policy currently exists in the library. Most acquisitions are simply driven by demand.

The Edmund and Joanna Capon Research Library’s strength is that it holds one of the most outstanding collections of fine art publications, rare books and manuscripts in Australia. The Edmund and Joanna Capon Research Library’s weaknesses are that many people do not know of the library’s existence, there is no public access given to the archive, the library has no collection development policy so acquisitions are haphazard and the library’s physical space is extremely small and cramped. I found it interesting that any material that is viewed by the public is first weighed before being given to the user and then weighed upon its return to ensure the contents remain in the library and are not stolen. A particular highlight of this study visit would have to have been the viewing of the rare cake book. It contained many elaborate hand drawings and its cover was made to look like icing. What a remarkable find.

ETL507 Study Visit: Sydney 2014

Day One: The State Library of NSW and The ABC Sound and Reference Library

The State Library of NSW

state library

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, 2.142 billion to be exact. 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. Its 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.

The ABC Sound and Reference Library


The ABC Sound and Reference Library was an eye opening experience. The library did not live up to my preconceived expectations. Being affiliated with the ABC I thought that the library would be up-to-date with the very latest equipment, especially in terms of technology but unfortunately this was not the case. The library is still utilising card catalogues and the library’s collection development seems to be sourced from the librarians heads, even though a collection development policy was recently developed. There is also no succession plans in place so when the current librarians leave information about how the collection runs and what should be added to the collection will be lost. This haphazard style of acquiring resources will not serve the library well as future librarians will not understand the process. Before my visit I never realised that a library could be used to serve television programs. It was great to see first hand just how diverse library services can be.

The ABC Sound and Reference Library’s strengths are that it successfully provides material to the journalists and editors of ABC television programs and maintains an extremely descriptive catalogue using the Library Management System TARA. This system not only describes resource content but also describes resource specifics such as particular camera angles and shots. The ABC Sound and Reference Library’s weaknesses are that they are still collecting newspaper clippings, a time consuming and archaic practice, they have no succession plans in place and the library does not currently collect any information via social media, even though the ABC programs they support constantly provide information to the public via Facebook and Twitter feeds. Another interesting and worrying fact that I learnt on the study visit was that from the end of July two totally different LMS systems (pre 31st JULY 2014 and post 31st July 2014) will be running in the library. This will mean that the librarians will have to remember which system to check, either the pre or post system, depending upon what type of information they are after.