Last week I had the honour of joining a group of inspiring information professionals who are completing their Bachelor and Master of Information Studies and Master of Education: Teacher Librarianship on our first Study Visit since they ceased due to Covid in 2020.
Over four days we toured ten completely different libraries and were generously hosted by their staff as they shared with us an indepth look at the myriad services they offer, the incredible collections they curate and the amazing buildings they inhabit. We are very much in debt to the generosity of our hosts, who gave us several hours of their time to take us on tours behind the scenes, explain their day to day work and allow us to catch a glimpse of the incredible collections they manage.
The tour took in the following sites:
What is the study visit about?
The study visit is a chance for those studying different courses in the School of Information and Communication to meet face to face, and to explore in context the ‘real world’ of librarianship and information management. As the CSU School of Information and Communication Studies in Information Management and Teacher Librarianship are offered wholly online, this is a rare opportunity to meet colleagues in person, and to establish networks and connections that we hope will continue beyond the four days of the visit.
There were so many highlights of the Study Visit. Some of the observations shared by participants are included below:
Our group shared their reflections, and by far one of the biggest highlights for them was the opportunity to meet with their colleagues in person, as well as to meet those who are working in the information profession and to see the huge variety of positions, the different ways in which librarianship is interpreted, and how different role holders made the position their own. The focus on sustainability that each of the sites maintains, respect for the many people from so many different backgrounds that they work to serve and the expertise and professional knowledge each of our tour guides shared was also recognised. Digitisation of collections was a major focus in many of the places we visited, as information professionals race to preserve aging resources and irreplaceable texts for future generations, however not every library was at the same stage of this process, and some even had concerns about what is lost between the physical and the digital. The immense cost of running an organisation mandated to continuously develop its collection was also a realisation for all of us, and a constant theme was the push and pull of time and money.
Far from being dusty, uninhabited spaces neglected as users search the internet on their phones, every one of the library spaces we visited was bursting with life. Seating was at a premium at Marrickville as people sought a well connected and comfortable place to work, while prams created a veritable carpark at Greensquare as not one but two different story time sessions were held for babies and little people. Several spaces including the Reserve Bank of Australia Library, Fisher Library at Uni Sydney and the State Library of NSW had ongoing renovations happening so that they could better meet the needs of their community. The focus on the user experience was obvious at the different institutions we visited. University of Sydney have a particularly strong focus on the use of space and place, and the emphasis upon how the design of the space impacts usage was unmissable. So many small details on how the libraries discovered, met and exceeded user expectations were shared, and these gems of wisdom are what we will all take away to enhance our practice into the future.
Thank you to our study visit group, who were fantastic throughout the visit, and to Kasey Garrison, who was central to the organisation of the event to the last detail. Thank you also to our hosts and the hosting institutions, for your hospitality, welcome and generous sharing of wisdom and experience. The Study Visit is a key part of our CSU courses, and an example of work integrated learning that will stay with participants for a long time!
Check out some more snapshots of our week below.