To get a better overview, read Evelyn Juers’s article or Susan Wyndham’s column. Both cover the major concerns more in detail than the petition. Also, Alex Byrne open letters published on February 11 addresses “some misinformation that is circulating about revitalisation Mitchell”.
In the comments, the word “shame”, as well as “disgrace”, and “outrage”, are frequently used. In the midst of this storm, it’s easy to lose sight of what modern libraries will look like in a digital era. When you look at the larger challenges that these institutions face, it’s easy to sympathize with both petitioners and the library management. This issue calls for a discussion on some of the difficult questions libraries need to address in order to stay relevant, both now and into the future.
What role does a library play in a world where so much information is available digitally? It is a library, archival site or more? Does a library exist if there are no books in it?
Libraries as cultural centres
City libraries in Australia offer a variety of free programs to attract the public, from computer classes and parenting groups to drug and alcohol counseling. Visitors can attend mah-jong, Egyptian craft, and gardening workshops in Perth. Brisbane libraries offer gardening workshops. Sydney libraries have erotic fiction readings and knitting nights. Melbourne libraries present comedy, jazz, and other performances.
A lock of hair pressed between the pages of a Miles Franklin personal archive. A librarian showed it to me. Photograph of the author
In the US, Chicago’s Harold Washington Library offers a “maker lab”, which allows public access to 3D printers and laser cutters. Libraries are increasingly serving the community beyond book lending.
There is still a difference between public libraries, such as city libraries, and research libraries. Public libraries lend out books; research libraries don’t. A research library holds a collection of cultural and historic material that patrons can access.
Libraries also include manuscripts (manuscripts), letters, diaries and “realia”, which are objects, mementos, and artefacts that curators have acquired with an eye to cultural storytelling. SLNSW holds more paintings than Art Gallery of NSW. The collection includes 1.1 million photos, 11.2 kilometers of manuscripts and 114,000 architectural plans. It also contains tens and thousands of prints, maps and drawings, as well as one of Australia’s largest collections human hair.
Through its Program for Digital Excellence, the Library is digitizing vast quantities of this collection. The Library is digitizing vast amounts of this collection through its a href= “http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/about/projects/digital_excellence/index.html”>Digital Excellence/a> program.
Unknown photographer, Mitchell Library, March 8, 1910. Flickr
The State Library of New South Wales has little in common with books for many visitors. I see tutors tackling complex topics with students, such as Shakespeare, mathematics and other subjects. Travellers are on Facebook and checking their emails. The generations of a Latin American clan reunited in the foyer before heading to the café for a boisterous lunch. Meetings are held on legal notepads.
People queue up for seats in the Macquarie Street Wing. They are occupied by pen-and paper writers, laptop users, and newspaper readers. The gallery spaces connecting the Mitchell Street and Macquarie Street wings are crowded with visitors. The Library is a lively public space every time I go.
State Reference Library Open Seating Area Bruce York
The complaint is that social and commercial activities are given priority over traditional scholarship by converting the Reading Room, which was originally a space for archival research. Social spaces, digital kiosks, and rooms for events and conferences are already available. The new space, which will serve those who used to use the Reading Room as a research room for archives, will be smaller.
Security guards will replace the trained librarians that formerly staffed Reading Room. The main complaint seems to be this shift toward a modern public library model.
This shift reflects how research culture has evolved in response to digital technology. We expect more and more to be able to search digital catalogues rather than ask librarians for material, or to see it on our screens instead of being delivered to us. This saddens me, just like many others who have commented on the petition. It’s not just me. It’s happening everywhere.
The Book Problem
This brings us to the problem of books. Libraries are facing a growing problem with storage. SLNSW builds around 2 km of storage space a year in order to accommodate new purchases. This problem will only get worse over time for research libraries that are tasked with archiving culturally important material.
Does a library have to contain books in order to be considered a true library? Rosapolis
Newspapers in Australia, as well as overseas, regularly publish stories about desperate libraries throwing out books. There is a growing trend of school and University libraries going “bookless”. They often rebrand themselves as “learning centers”.
Digital content is a good idea for educational institutions where the content must be current and suffers from a large number of readers.
San Antonio Te, as, has an entirely bookless library. The BiblioTech library opened in late 2013, and patrons can only borrow electronic readers or download books onto their devices. It’s important to note that previous bookless library experimentations in California’s Newport Beach, and Arizona’s Tuscon/Pima were abandoned when residents demanded the physical books.
State and other research libraries must adapt and change to continue collecting, conserving, and finding storage of material with cultural and historical value. Libraries are going through a tough time, and they may lose some of their most treasured features.
As part of the Sydney Festival, I was able to experience Ant Hampton and Tim Etchells’s quiet volume in the Mitchell Library Reading Room last year. The digital translation will not be able to replicate the experience of the live performance, but you can find a quiet place to watch it and reflect on how important libraries are.