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CDNLAO Newsletter

No. 84, December 2015

Special topic: Reader Services

Reader Services at the National Library of Australia

By Aileen Weir, Director, Reader Services of the National Library of Australia

As a national institution serving a population dispersed across a large geographic area, the National Library of Australia offers a wide range of services both online and onsite. Over the last few years, the National Library building in Canberra has undergone a significant physical transformation. The original reading rooms and public spaces, although beautiful, were constructed in 1968 before the Internet revolutionised how people use libraries.

< Main Reading Room entrance >

< Main Reading Room >

One of the most significant changes is a new Special Collections Reading Room that opened on 5 January 2015. Prior to the renovations, the National Library operated several small reading rooms arranged by collection format across multiple floors. The spacious, integrated Special Collections Reading Room, located on the first floor overlooking the Main Reading Room, gives pride of place to the Library’s unique collections enabling researchers to access manuscripts, maps, oral history, pictures, rare books and ephemera in one location. Technology is omnipresent in the new space and research facilities include group consultation rooms and booths for listening to audio recordings or dictating. Staff with expertise in different collection areas work together on the service point, while in-depth curatorial and reference librarian assistance is available by appointment.

< A view of the Main Reading Room from the Special Collections Reading Room >

< Special Collections Reading Room >

Within the expansive Main Reading Room on the ground floor, a new Newspapers and Family History zone opened in May 2015, creating a lovely environment for genealogists who pursue this popular pastime. Like most libraries, the National Library has established zones in its reading rooms to cater for a variety of uses through clever use of furniture, lighting and design. In addition to the reading room changes, the Library gained a permanent ‘Treasures Gallery’ to showcase its most iconic collection items as well as a state-of-the-art gallery to house temporary exhibitions. Feedback about the renovations has been very positive, with people appreciating the thoughtful juxtaposition of both contemporary and original features.

< Treasures Gallery >

As well as its beautiful building, the Library’s online presence is central to its service delivery. Trove continues to grow, now encompassing more than 180 million digitised newspaper articles and providing bibliographic access to more than 20 million books held in collections around Australia. The Library continues to enhance its digitisation infrastructure and is preparing for the implementation of electronic legal deposit across Australia in February 2016. Reference librarians regularly highlight the Library’s collections and staff expertise through the creation of online research guides and blog posts while also inviting people to submit questions through Facebook and via Twitter. A recent Facebook ‘family history hour’ proved popular, with people posting family history queries and receiving answers and advice from National Library librarians in real time.

User expectations of libraries, both in terms of onsite spaces and online activities, continue to evolve. The National Library of Australia is investing in its building, online infrastructure and staff to ensure that its collections and services keep pace and remain accessible for many years to come.

Copyright (C) 2015 National Library of Australia