Friday, May 21, 2010

Site Visit: UTS Blake Library

The UTS Blake Library emphasis its huge online presence throughout the library. During our site visit, we found much evidence of this, such as in the photographs below. Pamphlets are offered for all of the different faculties, detailing how to find "your way online". You are also able to access catalogues, ejournals and databases from any computer, anywhere, thus almost eradicating the need to visit the library completely. Of course, when borrowing an actual book, you have to go to the library, but every other service provided is also available online. You can even ask a librarian for help online via email and even instant messaging.

The library installed a 'WallWisher' in late 2009, which acts as a digital suggestion board. It's located in the main stairwell on ground level. Basically it's a massive widescreen TV with a keyboard, and you can type in any suggestions or constructive (hopefully) criticims that come to mind. The library's staff reviews each and every one of these, answering questions raised and taking all comments into consideration. This is just one part of what the library's website terms the site's "ongoing improvement process". Users of the library were also surveyed in 2008, and the results page is named "You asked, we delivered". Emma posted these results earlier, which show just how much value the UTS Blake Library places on improving and as technology improves and as users expectations of the site's sevices increase.

An interesting thing we noticed during our site visit was the different levels of the UTS Blake Library, and how significant the choice in structuring these and deciding what went where was. For example, the International Cultural and New Centre is located on level four whilst the Australian Culture Lounge is located on the fifth floor. We found this, let's say, 'intriguing'. It certainly seems in character with UTS as a whole to value the international over the national, and we felt this was a great example of where both the univeristy's and the library's main interest lies.

The Baya Ng'ara Nura, which in the language of the Eora Nation means "read, listen hear think, place", is a space designed for Indigenous students to study and learn together and with other students. At least, this is what the UTS library's website says. On the day of our visit, however, the space was one of the few deserted areas in the building. There is also an exhibition being held at the moment, called 'Rivers and Resilience: Aboriginal People on Sydney's Georges River' . This exhibition is based on research from the book by Heather Goodall and Allison Cadzow, and it basically consists of a series of photos. It's interesting to note that the UTS Blake Library uses its space in such a diverse way, hosting an exhibition like a museum would. Especially an exhibition concerning the Indigenous people and history of the land, considering that UTS generally doesn't place any focus whatsoever on the past. At UTS and its Blake Library, progress is key and so the recognition of 'Australian' history is an interesting choice.

The UTS Blake Library also has a number of displays throughout the building which, like the Rivers and Resilience exhibition, are almost museum-like and thus kind of out of place. One way the library has found to integrate these 'exhibitions' with the university itself, which I think is pretty great, is to display students work. We found a display of digital cameras made by students in a Designer Image class. Not only was this interesting to see and read about, it was relevant to the UTS Blake Library. By this I mean it didn't feel like an attempt to be 'international' or 'national', but a university library. After all, a university library is undoubtedly a cultural institution.

Finally, we came upon a room during our Blake Library visit. We didn't go in the room, because people were working in there and we did not wish to disrupt the users of the library. However, we did take a picture of what really interested us about this room. There was a wall, with the words "This wall is usufructuary* Feel free to express amd write your ideas." painted artistically across the top. The wall, though, was completely blank apart from these words. Why?

First off, I had to look up what usufructuary means. According to, usufuctuary is a noun derived from Roman and Civil Law, meaning the right of enjoying all advantages derivable from the use of something that belongs to another, as far as is compatible with the substance of thing not being destroyed or injured. So maybe this wall is saying to the UTS Blake Library users "sharing is caring, kids". Or perhaps it is commenting on the concept of copyright? Telling us to write our ideas, read others ideas, and learn from the experience certainly concerns the idea of intellectual property. And yet, nobody's written, read or learnt. What does this say about the UTS Library and its users?

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