24 February 2014
Revitalising the Mitchell Library
We have heard from many of our readers and passionate library lovers about the proposed changes to our services in the Mitchell Library Reading Room. We have listened carefully to people’s concerns and have addressed these as fully as possible with the available resources.
The Library's commitment to our researchers, writers and readers is reflected in our Q&As.
See the plans for the new layout of the Mitchell Wing.
21 February 2014
Library sound recordings featured in ABC Mary Poppins documentary
Precious sound recordings held by the State Library of NSW of 1960s interviews with P L Travers, creator of Mary Poppins, have been featured in the ABC documentary The Real Mary Poppins released to coincide with the film Saving Mr Banks.
The biographical documentary gives further insight into the complex life of this enigmatic author and the Library’s interviews with Travers herself enhance the film's authenticity.
These recordings were included in a manuscripts and pictures collection that the Library purchased in 1989 and have recently been digitised under the Library’s Digital Excellence Program. The eight fragile reels were converted to digital sound using the highest technical standards.
These recordings were also highly valuable to the BBC during research for their own documentary special about PL Travers, The Secret Life of Mary Poppins.
Listen to an extract from a 1966 radio interview with Travers on how she felt about Disney’s interpretation of Mary Poppins.
14 February 2014
Review of the Division of the Mitchell Library
The State Library has conducted a number of internal reviews over the past year. The reviews have identified opportunities to better deliver library services to the people of NSW while also addressing our budgetary constraints.
As part of this ongoing process, Emeritus Professor Lesley Johnson AM FAHA has undertaken the review of the Mitchell Library Division, including the historical significance of the Mitchell Library- its physical space and renown- and the role of the Mitchell Librarian.
Professor Johnson’s recent report outlines the changing needs of researchers and developments in the tertiary education sector and provides a range of options and recommendations for the State Library to consider over the coming months. The report acknowledges the esteem in which this great library is held by staff and the researchers of the Library’s collections who both “desire to ensure that their significance is duly recognised”.
The State Library is grateful to Professor Johnson for the thoroughness of the Review of the Division of the Mitchell Librarian and the extensive recommendations and also to the many who so willingly provided input to the Review.
It will take some time to work through the individual recommendations but the Library endorses the thrust of each group of recommendations including the need to better resource the Division of the Mitchell Librarian, more strongly promote the Division’s work and the importance of the Mitchell collections, and to further develop partnerships and collaborative relationships with universities and other organisations.
The Library invites you to view a summary of the report.
11 February 2014
Open letter by NSW State Librarian
The iconic Mitchell Library is much loved by the public and the staff who work here. We are fortunate to work with an extraordinary and unrivalled Australian collection that is used by researchers, students and all interested in the history and culture of this country and region. There has been some misinformation circulating about the revitalisation of the Mitchell: it continues to be a reading room, one of Sydney’s most evocative places. What is happening is a story of improvement to provide our readers with greater access to our collection both onsite and online.
I share the view that the Mitchell Library – the collection that commenced with David Scott Mitchell’s generous legacy and has been assiduously built by generations of librarians, collectors and donors – is an invaluable collection of our nation’s historical records and is at the heart of reading and research in Australian history and culture. To that end, we continue to acquire major items of importance for the study of Australian history including the TAL & Dai-Ichi (Derby) collection of 745 early Australian natural history drawings which will feature in a landmark exhibition opening in March. In addition, we continue to acquire New South Wales publications comprehensively, most Australian publications, manuscript collections, photographic collections (such as the recently acquired archive of Max Dupain and Associates) and any other materials which are central to both research and creative work. Last year the Library added 8,433 books to the Mitchell collections, as well as 290 metres of manuscripts, 196,000 photographic negatives and 24,187 prints and drawings.
These acquisitions have been complemented by the completion last December of a five year project to create online records for our entire collection, much of which was previously only recorded in the card catalogues and often with limited detail. This achievement is a boon to researchers on site and at a distance. We are also fast - tracking the digitisation of much of our unique material under a State Government funded Digital Excellence Program which has already delivered close to two million pages of newspapers via Trove. Both initiatives will help make our rich collections more widely known and more readily available to researchers, writers, historians, students, indeed anyone, locally and internationally.
Storage is an ongoing concern for all major libraries with large collections. At the State Library of NSW, we need about two kilometres of additional storage every year. When the budget allows, we install additional compactus to keep more material on site and are working on ways of further increasing on site storage. Some materials are being relocated from unsuitable storage areas to ensure their long term preservation and to facilitate access and use. This is an ongoing process which will actually lead to greater accessibility for all those who wish to use the material. The combination of online catalogue records, digitisation of a growing proportion of historical documents and the ability to request items online means it is even easier to access to our extensive collections.
The core imperative for everything we do, and what the 1939 Library Act is built around, is providing free access to our collections and resources so that all of us can understand our past, consider our present and imagine our future. Through exhibitions, lectures and other activities, school programs and student seminars, we introduce the wider public and, especially, new generations to the importance of knowledge and research. The Amaze Gallery, opened last year, is a first step in enabling us to show the depth and breadth of our collection: we aim to add to those facilities. By seeing those wonders, many of those visitors of today become our readers and researchers of tomorrow.
We value all of our readers and are determined to provide appropriate spaces for them to access all forms of material - original and digital. To this end we are recreating a dedicated reading room to access manuscripts and other special collections in the original Mitchell wing where the likes of Manning Clark, Patrick White and Greg Dening researched and wrote. Together with an adjoining study room for State Library's Fellows, this will offer a place where ideas can be exchanged or quiet and concentrated research can be pursued, just as it did before this service was moved to the current Mitchell Reading Room in 1988. As always, our passionate staff will continue to deliver materials and provide advice and expertise.
Like all great libraries, we will continue to respond to the changing needs of readers. We have been speaking to individuals, associations and institutions to discuss how best to support the scholarly community, and this will continue. We remain committed to scholarship and this Library’s leading role in supporting research and writing in Australian history and culture is undiminished.
Dr Alex Byrne
State Librarian and Chief Executive
Tuesday, 11 February 2014