Melbourne Study Visit

It has been an incredibly hectic week visiting a disparate array of libraries in the heart of Melbourne.  I was first reacquainted with the magnificent State Library – how could I have not been for so long.  Our guide was wonderful, informative and full of interesting detail.

As a significant icon in the Melbourne landscape and psyche the SLV is mandated to maintain and expand its connection in the lives of the community it serves, while being a leader in the provision of information and preservation of Victoria’s heritage.  The needs of our community are diverse and their vast number of ever expanding resources, testifies to that diversity.  I was amazed by how the library catered for so many groups in terms of balancing physical space, managing tangible resources but also in expanding their digital/online resources.

‘Kilometres’ of a collection – who knew that their collection was so expansive that this is how they discuss the size of it!  By the way they almost have 100 kms!  Their status as a legal deposit library and their charge to preserve every item that they acquire unless duplicated was staggering to discover.  Evidently there is continual work on maintaining the right balance between storing, digitizing and providing access to patrons. Rotating the exhibitions of SLV treasures is just one example of many.

Diverse, balanced and adaptive – this is the State Library’s core business and they are amazingly successful at it.  What an inspiring place full of passionate, educated and motivated people.

Onwards to…

The scope of the MCC’s library collection was incredible as was the staff’s in-depth knowledge of their patron’s needs.  Their aim of providing a rich sporting knowledge resource to their members/guests and as a prestigious asset was evident in the level of patronage and the intense use of the collection.  David Studham’s comparison between the MCC library and Lord’s was stark.  One can surmise that having a passionate librarian and staff who themselves are encyclopedic assets could be the key in patron demand.

I particularly enjoyed hearing about their roles in helping patrons track their family member’s sporting history and sniggered when I learnt how often they have to disabuse people of their conviction that their ancestors were test cricketers or AFL/VFL players. Oh the tragedy, the let down, the mouldy sporting paraphrenalia which would have to be demoted on their return home.  Still at least they managed to meet David, who is an inspiring and delightful human cornucopia of all sporting texts, and they also would have had the added bonus to see what can only be described as a breathtaking view of the Melbourne skyline.  I almost contemplated grabbing a membership for the MCC so I could sit in the library and while away some peaceful hours!  I then realised that I perhaps might have to like sport and actually watch it to get value for my membership, oh and live to 100 – so perhaps not.

Moving on to…

The City library is like the Tardis.  What seems diminutive and unassuming from the outside, is in fact a labyrinthine hive of community activity, connection and endeavour.  All this is supported by a not insignificant array of highly used resources in a myriad of formats. I suspect the most significant resource is the engaging, knowledgeable and energetic staff who were impressive in their passion, vibrancy and dynamism.  They seem to indeed successfully empower their patrons to create, connect, read and learn in a wonderfully central and welcoming social place.  Their enthusiasm was infectious. Cos – who was our guide was truly remarkable and a gem amongst the jewels who work there.

I was inspired to join on the spot (shiny new card in my wallet ready to go).  Discovered that Sue Perkins has written a book called ‘Spectacles’ – which I need, and found a brilliant space in the heart of the city to read, research and, well I was going to say relax but that would be ridiculous – far too much going on, all of it fabulous too.

Gil showed us ‘Littlebits‘ – a magnetic circuit builder, which allows kidults or regular kids to make different circuits that power different applications – lights, fans, wheels, LED cable.  So clever and already recommended to the IT crowd at school!

What a brilliant place, brilliant people and brilliant resources.  I wish it was a well kept secret but judging from their circulation and visitor numbers I could be the last one to know about it!

Travelling on…

After visiting RMIT it is evident that this academic library is a different breed.  Catering for students, all 82,000 of them at every stage of their academic lives is no mean feat and RMIT have it all down to a fine art.  What particularly impressed me was the detailed level of efficiency in meeting the requirements of differing and disparate patrons from VCE student to doctorate students.

The liaison librarian intricately knew and was connected to her two departments.  She supported them in a myriad of ways by tracking the needs of academic staff with resourcing, creating learning objects, libguides and presenting seminars on highly useful tools targeted to their academic lives such as ORCID.  Their aims and objectives were met via careful detailing of department responsibilities and sustained interconnection between departments.  This fluidity was especially evident between the reference librarian and the liaison librarian, where their created resources were shared freely and used by a variety of patrons in a disparate array of courses to maximum effect and benefit.

Highlights were the dynamism of the staff and how darned good they were at their craft, how serious they were.  RMIT – the grown up library for librarians.  No pratting around.  They mean business – and probably every other subject I can think of, and they will resource it up the wazoo, interconnect it, vodcast, Libguide it and then take a photo of it too.  Phew.

And we’re walking…

The contrast between RMIT and William Angliss was interesting.  The former coming from a place of reasonably secure funding, staffing and resourcing to the latter which had recently been decimated by significant budget cuts by the government.  It impressed upon me how funding affect all aspects of a library and can impact the scope and quality of the service delivered.

I found it particularly interesting to learn how the entire library staff except one was part time.  Staff members at William Angliss, who were part time were certainly stretched to provide vital connective services between the library and the different academic departments and staff.  The requirements and demands of the TAFE certainly had not diminished but the library staff were expected to do more with less, which brought home the challenging budgetary juggling of this library.

Despite this, the library seemed to be successfully meeting its aims and objectives or providing resources to its patrons, resourcing the curriculum, out-reaching to all departments and enthusiastically planning how they would meet the strategic future the TAFE has planned for Masters and Doctoral courses.

Their archive section was terrific – the menu guides from the 19th century were a corker – imagine having menus from 1856!  That was forward thinking by someone.  Are they valuable – heck yes, monetarily and also as a resource for research.  I did have my eye on the Mrs Beeton’s, I really do need to find one of those to learn how to treat my servants, what my maids should be wearing, what I should pay my gardner and exactly how to pickle calf’s ears.  Never too late to learn.

Going, going ever upwards…

The University High library was a beautiful, loved and well-resourced asset in the school.  It is staffed by TL’s who obviously work really well as a team and who constantly seek to improve services to meet the needs of the students and teaching staff.  This is a library which is valued and accordingly funded.

As a team the library staff’s evaluation into new online resources for the library was encompassing and thorough.  Their adoption of GALE for non-fiction resources online was interesting and certainly something I will be investigating further.  Tracking borrowing trends of non-fiction books enabled them to see where demand was and adapt their collection accordingly, something applicable to my library where there are parallels in borrowing trends.

I heartily share Rob’s philosophy of ‘getting them in’, highlighting how vital it is to be an inclusive and accessible place for students to socialise and gather as well as access information and study.  The lack of eBook fiction was interesting but Rob’s priority of tailoring the collection to meet the requirements of the patrons, it was easy to see how he had prioritised the possible acquisition of audiobooks based on predicted demand.  An in-depth understanding of one’s clientele – their needs, reading/listening habits, preferences and academic requirements is invaluable and informs decisions to the benefit of all.

It is daunting to go to such a fantastically staffed and managed school library.  Does make one think quite a bit about having a stern talking to oneself and then raising one’s game – sharpish.  That’s the crux of this visit for me.  I have been told and I shall do something about it.  Communicating with the senior campus about meeting their academic needs never seemed like a better idea.  Just have to make sure I am wearing a flak jacket, padded salopettes, sturdy bra and running shoes – no reason.

Ah the finish line…

There is one more to go.  It is in Bundoora.  I know I live in Melbourne but Bundoora drew a blank.  I am a product of the Bayside Bubble.  Chaps, tomorrow I head north.  I have packed the compass, lunch, rappelling rope, crampons and jungle strength insecticide.  I have left the beads and buckets at home – I wouldn’t want to insult the natives’ intelligence.  Off to a foreign land. It’s beyond Greensborough for God’s sake!  Not even on the same Google maps screen.  Feel fluttery. Becks and a good lie down.







About kblaich

I live in Melbourne, Australia, have one lovely husband, one delightful daughter, one bouncy son, lots of pets (2 dogs and 3 cats) and work at a primary school part time. I am currently studying my Masters in Teacher Librarianship through Charles Sturt University.
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