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Portable local studies project update for NSW public libraries

Showing public library staff receiving collection care training

Collection care training for NSW public library staff

The local studies portable collecting project assists NSW public libraries in collecting local stories through oral history recording and scanning . The idea of portable collecting is inspired by the Archivist in a backpack program from Southern Historical Collection (SHC) at the Wilson Special Collections Library at the University of North Carolina.

The project involves 17 NSW public libraries who are collecting local studies material in their communities. This includes working with people who are culturally and linguistically diverse as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. These kits in backpacks (oral history) or wheeled cases (scanning) contain equipment to assist public library staff conduct and record oral history interviews or scan photographs, letters, documents and other artefacts.  Our target was  to enable public libraries to more effectively collect material for their local studies collections.

NSW public libraries were invited to express interest in participating in this project, with requirements  to commit staff time to the training, as well as implementing the project. There are five libraries who are scanning and eleven who are recording oral histories.  Collected material will be catalogued and made available on Trove Australia. 

Collection care components were included as part of each kit. To ensure the kits could be effectively used, training was provided for two people from each library in basic collection care and either oral history recording or scanning. Libraries are involved in a range of projects such as working with people who arrived as refugees, groups who work with refugees, and other communities who have migrated to Australia including Punjabi, Italian, Vietnamese, Nepalese and Sudanese people.

Comprehensive results are not available yet. Training for the project took place late last year, and it is likely that the material collected will be available more broadly in 2021. Some of the libraries participating in the project are in bushfire affected areas which is likely to have an impact on the time that it will take for them to complete the planned work. The contents for the kits were based on those from University of North Carolina, however staff across the State Library of NSW were consulted so that the kits were suited to local conditions.  It was very helpful to be able to access this expertise. The collection care and scanning training was provided by staff from the State Library of NSW, with the oral history training being provided by a member of Oral History NSW.

 Contact Ellen Forsyth with any questions about this project.