Thursday 3 September 2015

An AFTRS Update...... and why downgrade the School Library

In an earlier post which you can find here, a contribution to discussion which has resulted in record page views for this blog, comment was made about what the school is up to these days and especially about the fall in the numbers of feature film directors being produced by the institution

There has been a bit of comment about the blog piece, some very private, but for some more interesting thoughts you can go
here. The various contributions have also caused one specific complaint to be received regarding the state and working methods of the AFTRS Library.

Here’s what my correspondent, whose anonymity I’m protecting, has written: When AFTRS moved from North Ryde to the Entertainment Quarter, the building was supposedly purpose built to accommodate all aspects of what a film school needed, including a library. 

At the EQ, the library was situated at the front of the building, and although the library staff had a rather small and unsatisfactory space to work in, the library itself was well laid out for general access to books, magazines and DVDs.
However in recent times it seems the importance of the library has been severely downgraded. The library has been moved to a smaller space, the previous library space is now a ‘student area’.

While it may be important to have a ‘student area’, should that have come at the cost of the school's library?  Surely one of the most important aspects of a learning institution is access to information and history of the subjects being taught?

The new library space at AFTRS is not as "usable or serviceable" as the previous space, and one would suspect that the hard working library staff have even smaller areas to work in. Now almost half the library has been put into the stacks (i.e. a part of the library not available for perusal by browsers). Not that you can't ask for the books or magazine to be taken out of the stack, but anyone who uses a library (and especially students) know how helpful it can be to browse the shelves and be able to check randomly on a book or magazine.

The new system in the library is now that one looks up what one wants on the computer. If it's not on the shelves, then a request is put in and the library staff go to the stack to retrieve the item.  The stacks, in this purpose built building are not next to the library space, but some distance away.

I’m not a librarian but have spent many hours in libraries. It would seem that this system wastes a lot of time for library staff, not to mention library users. It should be emphasised here that there is no criticism of the library staff who are always helpful and accommodating.  But they, like those who use the library are put at a disadvantage. This is especially so when, after getting material from the stack it turns out not to be what was required. Instead of a book being put back on a shelf (easy) it means another trip to the stacks for the staff.

It's unknown if with cost cutting on all fronts these days whether the library's budget has been reduced. However it is known that when the library has a book sale, the funds raised are returned into general revenue not back into library funds.

Even though things are changing in a digital age and many books are only being made available as e-books, as an elite teaching institution, the national film school should hold its library in pride of place not continue to constantly reduce its space and usefulness.

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