Hume Global Learning Centres – Thursday 24th October

This visit took me off at a tangent from my proposal to learn about the work of Australian libraries in building collections and programs around international sporting events. Back in the initial stages of meeting staff from all areas of Glasgow Life to gather ideas, our Director of Policy and Research mentioned an existing contact between Glasgow Museums and Hume Global Learning Village through a network called PIE (PASCAL International Exchanges). This is a project that aims to broker and support exchange between local, city and community agencies in different parts of the world with a focus on building innovative learning communities that promote the well-being and quality of life of all citizens.

I met with the Director of PIE Peter Kearns and his wife Denise Reghenzani-Kearns, who is currently a Regional President of the Australian College of Educators, for an informal lunch during my visit to Brisbane back at the start of this tour. Their passion for the contribution made by neighbourhood learning centres, libraries, and cultural and heritage institutions to lifelong learning absolutely convinced me it was worth scheduling a visit to the learning centres at Broadmeadows and Craigieburn, on the outskirts of Melbourne at Hume. I was not disappointed.

I was met initially by Marea Ekladious, Manager of the Learning Community, who passed me into the very capable hands of the Co-ordinator of Library Operations Mieke Mellars. Mieke provided a tour of The Age Library at Broadmeadows including the giant chess boards in the youth oriented areas and spoke about the very full learning program that is being delivered from these innovative centres. This not only includes the storytime, ICT and ESL oppurtunities that we are familiar with in UK libraries but a very important partnership with Victoria University at Broadmeadows and Deakin University at Craigieburn to deliver Multiversity – an education project designed to offer access to education and flexible study options to the local community.

Mieke drove me from Broadmeadows to Craigieburn where I met the Branch Co-ordinator there, Amanda Forde. What struck me most about both of the facilities was the generous space, the sheer number of resources in multiple formats and languages, and their ability to respond to the ever-changing needs of a rapidly growing and very diverse community. These visits called to mind my previous meeting with Cameron Morley at Public Library Services in Sydney during which he highlighted space and the ability to deliver services for a growing number of library users from all backgrounds as a priority for future and strategic library planning. I will take a closer look at some of the statistics available for the services in Hume when I return home but the impression I was able to form during my visit was that the community was already very much engaged with the services available and that further outreach work was very much ongoing to entice further sectors of the community to take advantage of the services on offer.

I must also mention the extensive work being done through Hume Volunteer Gateway which is an extensive program matching individuals to suitable volunteer opportunities based on interests, skills and needs. Hume Global Learning Centres are central to this process, hosting Expo’s that deliver information and training and of course utilising volunteers themselves.

I also love what the learning centres have able to achieve in their children’s areas.

Children's area at Craigieburn

Children’s area at Craigieburn

Melbourne Museum – Wednesday 23rd October

Melbourne Museum

Today I met with Margaret Griffith, Education and Community Program Manager at Melbourne Museum. Margaret talked about the public program that was delivered during the Commonwealth Games 2006 and the Spirit of the Games exhibition that opened in the touring hall of Melbourne Museum a mere seventy two hours after the opening ceremony. The exhibition featured props, costumes and uniforms from the ceremony as well as objects, film footage and information about the history of the Commonwealth Games, especially the Empire Games (precursor to the Commonwealth Games) held in Sydney in 1938; the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, and the 1982 Brisbane Games.

As with London 2012, the cultural institutions had correctly anticipated that their visitor figures would fall during the period of the Games. However a program must be delivered during this time, as with all holiday periods, and the museum tied in the normal holiday program with a Commonwealth theme. They also offered teacher professional development – primarily aimed at those involved in delivering courses in design & technology, media, studio arts, visual communication and anyone else using the Commonwealth Games as a theme in their classroom. This included a talk by the baton designer, Paul Charlwood, and a showing of the film, Wired to Win about how the human brain deals with competitive sport, at the IMAX Theatre next door. Margaret noted that although the CPD opportunity was well attended, it was not followed up by many class visits to the exhibition itself.

Given the very short timescale between the opening ceremony and the Spirit of the Games exhibition, Margaret gave me a document that provided some very interesting insights by the assistant curator Adrian Regan. These focused on the inception of the idea for The Flying Tram through to its not altogether smooth journey onto the stage; the Canoe which was central to the indigenous segment of the ceremony; and the stylistic decisions and challenges involved in creating Stellar – the character of a fantasy duck woman who morphed into a modern woman as the ceremony progressed. I can’t wait to see the props and footage that emerge from the opening ceremony of Glasgow 2014, hear the stories that evolve from them and incorporate my knowledge of these into the programs and activities that we will eventually offer using the library collections that we gather.

National Sports Information Centre – Tuesday 22nd October

National Sport Information Centre Lounge

National Sport Information Centre Lounge

The National Sports Information Centre located in the grounds of the Australian Institute of Sports in Canberra is Australia’s premier sports research library and information service, providing the Australian Sports community with access to a comprehensive range of research resources. Primary clients include ASC staff; AIS athletes; coaches and scientists; national sports organisations and peak sport bodies; commonwealth, state and territory government agencies. (1)

My visit was organised by the Librarian, Christine May who provided a tour of the resources and some time to browse the Olympic and Commonwealth Games collections. The collections of the NSIC as a whole are scientifically and technically orientated in line with the needs of the user base and contain a large number of audiovisual materials including the Australian Paralympic Committee’s collection of technical and sport footage and Paralympic Games broadcast footage. There is also a small audiovisual team constantly engaged in recording and editing sports broadcasts to build upon the collection.

The original NSIC librarian, Greg Blood, who is now AIS Emeritus Researcher happened to be present in the building during my visit and he spoke about the divisive potential that major events have within local communities. People don’t always approve of the decision to host a major Games until after the event has successfully taken place and Greg feels that oral histories and documentary footage of past events can be used positively to engage and educate local communities in the lead up. This sentiment had a particular resonance since a controversial documentary that had had it’s first airing in Australia as part of the Sydney Opera House 40th anniversary celebrations was hot on the lips of some of the people I had met over the preceding days. Autopsy On a Dream was commissioned by David Attenborough during his tenure as controller at BBC2 and originally aired in the UK in 1968 although it was never shown in Australia. Thought to have been destroyed, the film was unearthed and restored by an ABC producer looking for archive footage at the BBC. At the time of construction, the political and architectural scandal that beset the project made the site a national embarrassment  – a far cry from what is now recognized as “a masterpiece of 20th century architecture” (2) on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Dr Ralph Richards, Senior Research Consultant at NSIC showed me around the Clearinghouse for Sport website. The Clearinghouse is an Australian sport sector information and knowledge sharing initiative. The level of information available is very deep and covers high performance sport, sport development and participation. Ralph has been involved with the project since its inception and explained the process of setting up and maintaining the site as well as the challenges of working with collaborators in the Australian sports sector.



National Library of Australia – Monday 21st October

National Library of Australia

National Library of Australia

Located in Canberra, Australia’s capital city and seat of the federal government, the National Library of Australia is within short walking distance of other socially and culturally significant institutions including Parliament House, the High Court, The National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery. The building’s design was inspired by the architect Walter Bunning’s visit to the Pantheon in Greece and specially commissioned works of art both inside and outside of the building including stained glass, sculture and tapestry reflect the classical style of the architecture.

As is to be expected of a National Library, the building houses the world’s largest collection of material relating to Australia and the Australian people. Captain James Cook is well represented, as he is at the State Libraries, and his journal of the Endeavour is just one of the library’s many unique treasures.

Erica Ryan (Manager of Australian Retrospective Collections), met me upon arrival before an initial discussion with Rusell Latham (Web curator), Liam Wyatt (Social Media Coordinator) and Catherine Aldersey (Ephemera Officer) around targeted collection, including social media and crowd sourcing collection content. The staff were all very excited about their recent and ongoing work in canvassing federal election ephemera and Liam’s presence as the inaugural social media coordinator at NLA was recognised as having had quite an impact on the way they were able to extend their reach in this process. Liam suggested that it might benefit the Mitchell Library to consider having a Wikimedian in residence for a limited period around the Commonwealth Games to help improve our Wiki presence. Other social media options for collecting and poviding access were discussed including Flickr.

My visit to the ephemera stack was paricularly exciting as I was allowed to handle some fun items, like sunscreen and a kangaroo-shaped bottle opener issued as part of a spectator’s pack at Sydney 2000. Another item of interest was a ceremonial medal cushion with the official athlete’s pins from a number of participating countries from the 1956 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne which had been received as an anonymous donation.

Spectator's pack items

Spectator’s pack items

Ms Wan Wong accompanied me on a visit to the digitisation and photography studio where there is equipment to flatbed scan 2D materials and capture 3D objects. The NLA’s digitisation programme is extensive and Wan explained the some of the procedures that are gone through before an item makes it into the studio. All of the items that are processed here are indexed and can be found using Trove, an online search tool maintained by NLA in collaboration with other Australian libraries, museums and galleries.

After a very pleasant lunch outside in the library’s bookplate cafe, I received a tour of the treasures gallery and a visit to the pictures and archives stack followed by a chat with Kevin Bradley (Manager of Sound Preservation and Technical Services) about oral history collections. Kevin has worked previously with the Australian Sports Commission and Sport Australia Hall of Fame, and more recently with the Australian Paralympic Committee on an ongoing project to record whole of life interviews with winning competitors (including all eight surviving Paralympians from the first Games in Rome in 1960). The interviews are typically conducted over five hours providing the opportunity for intensive reflection over the highs and lows of a career and the life events that impact upon it. Kevin’s passion for the value that oral histories have in bringing past events to life was quite infectious.

Erica rounded up my visit to NLA with a general tour of the building and a stroll around the first floor balcony which looks out over the expansive man-made Lake Burley Griffin and to the other cultural venues in the area. Catherine Aldersey took time out after work to show me around the sculpture garden at the National Gallery and a drive up to Mount Ainslie lookout where their are impressive views of the Austrlian War Memorial, Anzac Parade and Parliament House. This is also where I had my first sighting of some real live kangaroos!

Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts – Friday 18th October


This visit was kindly organized by Marilyn Jenner, one of my English-Speaking Union NSW branch hosts.

The School of Arts movement originated in Scotland when natural philosopher George Birkbeck ran a series of Saturday evening lectures at the Andersonian Institute in Glasgow for the mechanics working in his centrifugal pumps. The School of Arts name came along later when the School of Arts in Edinburgh was founded on the same principles. Founded in 1833 and now occupying its second permanent home at 280 Pitt Street in Sydney, the SMSA Library is proud to be the oldest continuous lending library in Australia.

Like many libraries, the space is used by members to read and to use the computers, attend events and participate in book groups. Interestingly, one of the book groups does not follow the conventional model where members all read the same book and then come together for discussion, but instead, all different texts are read around an agreed subject and the members come together to share the diversity of their learning.

Two very knowledgeable guides showed me around the recently opened Tom Keneally Centre. In 1982 Tom won the Booker Prize for his novel Schindler’s Ark which was later adapted into the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. The centre contains Tom’s personal research collection which he has donated as a special collection and it was interesting to see a number of the same titles amongst his fiction collection that we hold as part of the Edwin Morgan collection back at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. Great minds obviously do think alike.

Meeting with Cameron Morley, Manager of Funding and Advisory Services for Public Library Services NSW – Thursday 17th October

This meeting took me back to the State Library of NSW and was off the topic of my study proposal. Cameron is the Manager of Funding and Advisory Services for the Public Library Service of New South Wales. I wanted to discuss Bookends Scenarios – Alternative Futures for the Public Library Network in NSW in 2030. This report was the output of a strategic planning project that brought together staff at all levels from public libraries and the State Library with consultants from the Neville Freeman Agency to explore trends and developments in society that could impact future service provision and the responsiveness of libraries  to “face a future where physical, virtual, recreational and educational business worlds are increasingly merging” where the role of the library as facilitators “of access for the public is becoming increasingly complex”(1). Major influences changing our world were identified as environment, society, politics, economics, culture and technology. The way in which Glasgow Libraries provides services is currently under review so this meeting seemed like a great opportunity to find out what impact all of this scenario based learning had had on NSW’s strategic plans heading into the future.

The discussion proved to be very interesting and we exchanged information about new models of delivery that bring together culture, leisure and lending as well as increased partnership working between communities, councils and educational establishments.

He told me one of the biggest challenges facing public libraries in NSW is creating the social spaces that library users need. Visitor numbers and loans are rising year on year and the distance between libraries across NSW can be substantial. People are willing to travel if the space is suitable but many buildings need to be replaced, extended and or upgraded to satisfy demand.

The Public Libraries section on the State Library website provides a wealth of information about the role of the Library Council of NSW and the Act that governs it as well as information on ways the Public Library Services team at the State Library can provide support and specialist advice on library provision to local councils.

Bookends Scenarios

(1)    State Library of NSW, The Bookends Scenarios – Alternative Futures for the Public Library Network in NSW in 2030, available at