Posted by: eheino | September 27, 2014

Melbourne Study Visit Reflection

The study visit to a variety of Melbourne libraries was a very rewarding experience for me. I learnt a great deal about how different styles of libraries function, and what changes are being made to future-proof the library for the next generation.

Although the libraries I visited were all quite different, I found there were a number of commonalities across all of them. The first and most prevalent of these was that they all had a strong focus on what the users want from the library, and providing that first and foremost, rather than bowing to expectations of what a library ‘should’ be. The best demonstration of that was Library @ the Dock, which reached out to their users during the planning process, as well as now it is open to find out what users want, and then providing those services to the community. The result is a dynamic space which is well used by the local community as well as tourists and people who work in the area. On the other end of the spectrum, the Library of the Federal Court continues to have a strong print collection despite the general trend towards online resources, because that is what the judges that use the library require of it. Even online resources are regularly printed and then kept in that form in the library to be used again.

Another common trend among the libraries was an understanding of and willingness to change to meet the needs of future generations. The majority of the libraries appeared to be in a state of change, whether it be through restructuring the library to be more efficient (Ashurst, NML) or changing the space itself to increase user satisfaction (RMIT, Library @ the Dock). In general the staff appeared to be quite enthusiastic about the changes that were happening in their libraries, and indicated that the changes were having a positive impact on their patronage. Learning about these changes and their effects filled me with ideas to take with me to my own library one day, and to suggest to my mentor librarian at my placement school, particularly from visiting Library @ the Dock.

The major area of difference was the services provided by the libraries. Although the primary goal was the same, to provide information to their patrons, the manner in which this was done varied quite significantly between the libraries. This was mostly because of the range of libraries I visited, but being able to see these differences and how useful they were to the library’s particular users was a valuable experience, even if some of the services weren’t really transferable to a school library context. I found it particularly interesting learning about how archives and special libraries work compared to the school and university libraries I’m used to. For example, the Federal Court Library librarians prepare authorities for cases, as well as directing judges and lawyers to useful judgements. This contrasted with the Ashurst librarians, whose primary function was purely to direct the lawyers to information, not provide any analysis of the information at all. Both libraries had a lax lending policy, trusting the user intrinsically to return documents when they are finished with them. Other libraries such as the SLV and PROV saw themselves more as repositories of historical information.

Overall I am coming away from the study visit with a breadth of knowledge about the librarianship profession I had little understanding of prior to the visit. The experiences I have had over the week have left me full of inspiration and hope for my future career, and I can’t wait to get started.

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