ETL507 – Melbourne Study Visit Summary Reflection

Being a teacher librarian student, I enjoyed the opportunity this study visit gave me to experience and learn from a wider variety of libraries and information sites. Although each of the libraries were unique in their role and user-base, I began to notice some themes common to most of the libraries in the direction they are taking for the future.

The first most common theme was in a changing of library space. From the university libraries to the public libraries to the school library visited, users were asking for space in the library in which they could work for a variety of purposes. All the libraries visit, except for the specialty libraries, had already or were in the process of giving the users this space and the diversity of needs were being catered to. I felt the Ballieu Library at the University of Melbourne had taken the idea of user space to its highest possibility, clearing most of the ground floor and large areas on other floors and putting in spaces for individual study, group study, wired study, non-wired study, discussion-based study, AV viewing study, silent study, casual study, and so on. Even without the library space or budget of the public and university libraries, the Academy of Mary Immaculate School library was also meeting the changing emphasis to user space housing its collection only against walls to allow for maximum user space in the centre of the library. This school library was a very good example for me to see of how a small space can be used to its potential fitting in varied spaces for different purposes while still feeling like a library space.

The second common theme, in order to make room for all this user-space, is a culling of print resources and an emphasis on building electronic resources. All libraries, except the RACV speciality library, mentioned an increase in budget spent on e-resources mostly in the non-fiction and journal genres. Although I already have experience with online databases used in schools such as Ebsco and world book online, I was interested to learn the possibilities of music and video streaming being promoted at the Lenton Parr Library. However, I also learnt about the issues that come along with purchases electronic resources such as whether to buy in perpetuity and house onsite, or whether to save server space and only buy access to the resource with the fear of it suddenly no longer being available.

The third common theme observed in the libraries was letting the users help themselves where possible to free up staff for other tasks, along with a change in how the staff do their job in the libraries. Self-checkout terminals were at many of larger libraries, printing and photocopying terminals, online account log-in where users can renew loans, holds self-pickup, and many online help videos and common reference questions. I could appreciate how this easy self-help system allows staff more time to work on more complex queries and tasks, and, while not all of this can be applied to a school library, I liked the idea of putting the user to work to help themselves. There was also a changing role in how the staff perform their jobs in the libraries – long gone are the days of the La Trobe Reading Room librarian sitting in the centre of the room on a raised platform. Instead, I really liked the idea of an Apple Store style, or bank style system of working with the users, where staff are working side-by-side with the users, and queries are tackled together instead of a power divide between librarian and user. The Ballieu, City, and State Libraries were the best example of this and made a big impression on me.

Lastly, this study visit truly highlighted how important it is for a library to cater to its unique users and always have them in mind when making collection decisions, making changes to the physical library space, or deciding how the library is run. While I would have thought all University libraries would be available to users into the evening and over weekends, the Lenton Parr Library recognised its users did not need this and instead decided to use the money that would be spent on extended hours in other way that serve its users better. Similarly, the RACV library recognised that its users largely wanted non-fiction books especially in the travel section, so it decided not to collect fiction and direct its entire budget into a non-fiction collection. I learnt that while a librarian might like to collect a diversity of books, or feel certain services should be provided by all libraries, this is not the best use of funds if the books collected, or services provided are catering not to its unique users.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the diverse range of libraries during the study visit, and will use what I have seen and learnt in my future library.



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