Friday, May 14, 2010

parchment and pixels, and lots and lots of libraries

I know there is a lot happening in the world right now: elections, recessions, budgets, not to mention floods and volcanoes and so on. But I am sorry to say I am unable to comment on any of them. I have not really been following the news at all. Last week work was hectic and this week has been very different. This week has been full of libraries! 

From Tuesday to today I've been on a study visit for my library course (it's like a school excursion all over again) visiting libraries all over Sydney. Such a variety there were too! There was Ultimo TAFE, doing so much innovative work on a tiny budget, and UTS doing so much innovative work on a much bigger budget. There was the NSW Parliamentary library, which was AMAZING and where the librarians are like researchers, and the Society of Australian Genealogists, where the researchers were like librarians. The Botanical Gardens library had a signed first edition of the Origin of the Species, and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School had scripts in every stage of development. As for the State Library, well that was very impressive all round. Needless to say I am currently feeling very inspired about working in a library one day. I also have some links, just to share the library love!

If you haven't seen the State Library website recently, you should definitely check it out. They have this thing called Discover Collections where they show digitised versions of library historical resources (for instance, you can read journals from the First Fleet in original handwriting) with contextual information, organised into subject collections. Plus, NSW residents can access a number of databases for free online through the site. It's just an incredible way of merging the historical collection with electronic accessibility. I could rave on...

And those interested in family history should definitely check out the Society of Australian Genealogists: they may be smaller and slower with their digitisation but they have a great collection of Australia genealogy material and the librarians have some great experience in the field too. The website might not have everything, but it gives a pretty comprehensive guide to what's on offer, and if you need to know in detail they have an online catalogue.

If you're a student or interested in the use of social media, check out UTS Library on Facebook. Or Twitter. They are still kind of small (around 350 followers) but it's interesting to see what they're doing.

One of the things that amazed me about these visits is how many card catalogues are still around. Apparently only 30% of the State Library's collection is in the electronic catalogue, for example. And they are clearly a library who are fairly happy to embrace technology.

For myself, I think I found that even though I loved hearing about all the new developments in libraries and what they were doing electronically, it was when I saw the libraries that were full of old manuscripts and texts and photos that they didn't want to get rid of that I got really excited. Maybe a future in the archives somewhere is in store for me... What can I say? I may blog and be on Facebook and Twitter, but one thing I will never get behind is the idea of e-books replacing real books. I love them. Thus although I was one of the youngest on the study visit I felt a bit behind the times. Will find a nice library that is also behind the times to work in- I think there might be some around. But not to end on a down note- let's hear it for libraries! Yeah!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

I wasn't reading anything last Tuesday. But here we go again...

"I moved softly. The water shimmered, giving off a pale light, like a mirror in a dark room."

Irene Nemirovsky, Fire in the Blood, p. 37