Cataloguing Under Covid 4

Cataloguing Under Covid 4

It is the end of another working week, for me anyway, so I thought I’d share what I’ve been working on, just to keep everyone in the loop as we move towards reopening the PMI to members.

I went into the PMI yesterday to pick up more books, to update a few files and shelve the periodicals I’ve been indexing. You might have seen posts on our social media pages about a big donation by Moreland Libraries. These are the books I collected to bring home for cataloguing. Our Secretary Librarian Steven, had sorted them into books the PMI already holds (which will go to the book sale eventually) and the ones we will be adding to the collection. So I picked the three boxes, you can see them in the photo below, and brought them home for cataloguing.


It’s always fun going through the new books from a donation, and this is a great selection. The highlights are several Indigenous art books and some great natural history titles, an area of the collection we’re trying in particular to grow.

Today I catalogued the contents of the box on the right. This involves adding the books to our Accession Register, so we know that they are in the library (well theoretically in the library for now), downloading their records from Libraries Australia, and making sure we are listed as holding the book, and then cataloguing them inline with our cataloguing and operational procedures. For the most part the most interesting, and the trickiest, components of this are deciding what Dewey number to assign to the book (the PMI has a modified Dewey system as we are so specialised) and assigning the subjects (we also run our own subject thesaurus). Today this was largely straight forward as I was working on a number of books from the same area, but it can be quite complex.

I wanted to show you a few of the books I worked on today, to give you an idea of the scope of the donation. As I said the highlights are Indigenous art and natural history. So I thought I’d profile one of each.

My favourite natural history book from today is: Freshwater tortoises of Australia and New Guinea : in the family Chelidae / by John Goode ; designed and illustrated by Howard Johnson.

I mainly like it because it fills a gap in the collection, we didn’t have anything on Australian tortoises, and because of the somewhat amusing way they tried to show scale… have a look at the photo below and you’ll see what I’m talking about.


For the Indigenous art books, I wanted to look briefly at Australia’s Greatest Rock Art / Grahame L. Walsh 

Like other books on Indigenous Australians I have discussed before it is of its time, it was written in 1988, but it has an astounding and varied array of rock art depicted from all over Australia.

rock art

It brings home again, the importance, complexity, beauty and narrative nature of Indigenous art in Australia, especially in the face of recent depredations by mining companies. This is why these sorts of books are so important to the PMI’s collection, very sadly Indigenous rock art has been and is still being destroyed. They are also an important part of the history of art in Australia more generally.

The final thing I wanted to talk about is cataloguing material that has been donated from another library. You come across a great variety of library stamps and stickers. It’s always fun to see them, as they are part of the life and history of the book and to know that we’ll soon be adding PMI stamps to continue the book’s history in our collection. You can see some examples in the photos below.

So that’s a quick tour of today’s work. I’ll be back next week with another look at what I’ve been working on, and hopefully back in the library, at least sometimes, not too long after that.


Cataloguing Under Covid 3

Cataloguing Under Covid 3

It’s the end of the working week for me, so I thought I’d do another update on how the PMI’s collection is being grown. That way you can all have a further idea of what will be waiting for you when we open again.

I began today by pulling together the Recent Additions for April, which is a full list of all the new material that has been added to the collection during April. This has been sent off to be designed by another PMI staff member, and you can expect to see it in you mailboxes in the coming weeks.

For the rest of the day I’ve been cataloguing and indexing. The indexing was largely back issues of the Friends of St Kilda Cemetery newsletters, so I thought I’d focus on profiling some of the books that I’ve been working on.

It was a really mixed collection today, with everything from church histories,  to art books, to indigenous histories, to urban planning.

I thought I’d talk about examples of three of these. I have intentionally left the indigenous books out of the discussion because they are old books that are indicative of the times in which they are written, and as such hold views about indigenous people that  are extremely culturally insensitive. We keep this type of material because sometimes, sadly, it is the only source of information, but also because to leave it out of the collection would be to hide the views expressed within and thus sanitise history.

As it says on our website:

Please be aware that items in our collection may contain words, descriptions, names, sounds, images, videos and audio recordings which may be culturally sensitive and which might not normally be used in certain public or community contexts. Terms and annotations which reflect the author’s attitude or that of the period in which the item was written may not be considered appropriate today.

But this doesn’t mean that I feel comfortable taking photos of them and putting them up on this blog. If you wish to view the material they will be available in the library.

The other three categories are interesting to examine though. I wanted to start with the report.


This one is a masterplan for Prahran and is one of many such documents that PMI holds. This particular work was created in 2014 and sets out what the Victorian Government hoped the future of Prahran would be. These sorts of works are invaluable additions to the collection because they not only show what was in the locality when the report was written, they also give a clear idea of the planned direction- even if it never came to fruition.


Now we have the church history. This work is an excellent example of the literally hundreds of the church histories that the PMI holds. We are working on a couple of projects to try to collect histories of other religious buildings, but it is a slow process as often they simply haven’t been written. This one is of the history of the Presbyterian Church in Surrey Hills and it’s typical of such church histories. It outlines how the church was founded and the main players involved over the years. These histories can be fantastic for family history, because if your ancestor was involved in a community then there’s a pretty good chance they would have been involved in a church.

Finally the art book:


We collect art books because we see art as an integral part of the history of Victoria and Australia and believe it should be a part of all historical research. If you want to know more about our art resources and why we collect them, Collection Corner in June’s newsletter last year covers it in much greater depth.

This particular book is about Mambo, which I’m sure many of you will be familiar with. Mambo is very much part of Australian and Victorian culture and we’ve kept this book to reflect that. As you can see it already has some library stamps on it. This one was a donation from Parade College Library. We quite often are lucky enough to receive donations from other libraries, who don’t have the space or who weed on circulation. We are proud that we are able to preserve these works and make them accessible.

Well, that’s just a brief rundown of the some of the material I’ve been working on today. I’ve got a little bit of cataloguing left for next week and some tracking down of books from the National Library. Then it will be back up to the PMI to collect more material.

Hope you found today’s cataloguing under COVID interesting.



Cataloguing under Covid 2

Cataloguing under Covid 2

On this cold and wet day, I thought I’d provide some further reflections on the books going into the collection, that will be waiting for you when the PMI reopens.

I have collected another box of books to work my way through from home so I’m hoping I’ll be able to continue to provide a few snippets as I go along

I’ve been helping finish off a grant application today, so the cataloguing pile is by necessity a little smaller, but there are still some very interesting books worthy of discussion, though I’m just going to highlight one today.

It’s another botanical book, this time by Baron Ferdinand Von Mueller. Von Mueller was the Government Botanist and the first Director of the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens. He was a fascinating figure and you can find more about him here

This particular book is Introduction to Botanic Teachings at the Schools of Victoria


It dates to 1877 and aims to introduce the story of plants into elementary schools. It has some lovely illustrations, like the one of the Eucalyptus Melliodora below.


The book introduces a variety of plants. What is really interesting about it, is that the government botanist is making sure that native Australian plants – not just European plants were being taught in schools as early as 1877. Von Mueller states his aim (not for this particular book but overall) as ‘any child of average mental capacity, even without the aid of a teacher, to name and classify a large number of local indigenous plants’.

It’s just a lovely little window into the beginnings of the education system, and identifying with our native plants.

This is a shorter post than usual, but I still thought an introduction to one of the newly added books would be nice


Cataloguing under Covid

Cataloguing under Covid

As a Collections Librarian, managing a collection under Covid is a new way of thinking.

I’m working from home at the moment, going into the library occasionally to collect more books. It’s an excellent chance to work through some of the older material that has been sitting awaiting cataloguing. So I thought I’d write a short post highlighting a few of the books that are making their way into the collection and will be available for you to borrow once the library is open again.

The winner for best title is: Riding Bareback Backwards On A Pig: A book about the Collingwood Children’s Farm. It tells the story of the Collingwood Children’s Farm based on interviews with farm workers, volunteers, gardeners, children, local residents and workers in Collingwood.

riding bareback backwards on a pig

The winner for most engaging cover is: The Wintringham Story by Elaine Farrelly

It explores the foundation of Wintringham-specialst aged care for the elderly who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness. Telling the stories of some of the most vulnerable members of our community. An essentially important part of the collection.


The oldest book I’ve catalogued over the last week is A Census of the Plants of Victoria,  written by the Field Naturalists’ Club of Victoria in 1923. As well as some lovely maps of Victoria it has a comprehensive list of plants from across Victoria. The natural history of Victoria is an important part of the PMI’s collection.

a census on plants

So that’s just three of the books that I’ve been working on for the last couple of days. The others range from everything from family histories, to calendars, annual reports, biographies, historic  walks, guidebooks and much more.

I’ve also been indexing periodicals from the historical societies that are still putting them out. The last couple of days I’ve worked my way through the Genealogist

And the Australian Book Review- which is always a great source of new material we will eventually be purchasing for the library.

I’ve also been indexing a number of local historical society periodicals, which are being put out due to the sterling effort of groups of volunteers, working out new ways to work together remotely in these uncertain times.

So life at the PMI goes on, the collection is still being tended to- even if from a distance -and when we open there’ll be lots of new and exciting material for you to borrow.


Collections Librarian



Meet the Volunteers: Marie Pernat

Meet the Volunteers: Marie Pernat


A chance meeting with a PMI Library staff member resulted in my visiting the library and kindly being given a guided tour. I immediately thought that I would love to volunteer in such a fine library with great historical as well as current collections. As my lengthy career in librarianship had been spent in academic and special libraries and archives, I saw an opportunity to apply my skills and contribute to the PMI Victorian History Library.

As a retiree, I can indulge myself and participate in activities of my choosing. I have five delightful grandchildren aged five to 12 to entertain me. I am a volunteer tour guide at the MCG and in the MCC Library. Tennis, cycling and walking keep me physically fit and, hopefully, the brain is ticking over when I play bridge and mahjong. My husband, Fred, and I travel within Australia and overseas and enjoy fine wine and food. I will always, however, make sure I reserve time for the PMI Library!

I commenced volunteering at the library in early 2017. As it is a lending library, it is important that members can readily retrieve information and locate wanted items on the shelves. In support of this, my first project was to assist in expanding the classification numbers of the art collection. It had grown over the years to some hundreds of titles, but the catalogue had not been revised to reflect such growth.

Most titles were catalogued to the Dewey 700 art call number, with the result that works by the same artist, art periods and styles could not easily be identified by browsing. It was my role to suggest revised call numbers in accordance with the library’s guidelines and Dewey principles.  Ellen, collections librarian, checked my work to ensure consistency with library practice. Re-labelling and changing the item record in the catalogue were also in my brief.

This was a most interesting project, partly because the books contained numerous paintings by Australian artists and because it was finite, and I had the feeling of satisfaction upon its completion. I not only gained insight into Australian art, but also learnt something about the library’s classification and cataloguing systems.

Subsequent projects were to similarly expand the call numbers of education, churches, fiction and most recently, the indigenous Australians collection to accord with new guidelines devised by Ellen. You can imagine my delight when, working with the education books, I came across information and photographs of my father that I had never seen. One photograph pictured my father, then a young teacher at University High School, as coach of the football team, which included Essendon legend John Coleman.

Soon I will move onto another project. The beauty of volunteering at the PMI Library is that there is a range of tasks to suit volunteers’ skills. The staff are most helpful and patient and recognise the contributions of volunteers. There is onsite parking, working conditions are pleasant and I have enjoyed meeting fellow volunteers. Being a Stonnington resident, I am very pleased to give back a little to our local community library.