Collecting Under Covid 2

Collecting Under Covid 2

It is the end of my working week again, so I thought it might be a good time for another short update. I picked up more material from the PMI yesterday, but I’ll be writing about that next week because I wanted to talk about what I’ve been working on today.

Today has been about finding material to add to the collection, and growing the PMI’s electronic resources.

A big part of my job is being on top of material becoming available that fits with our collection policy, this often includes going through a publisher’s entire listing to see what is relevant. As I’ve explained before, at the moment the book budget is frozen but these checks still need to be made, so new material can be purchased as soon as it is possible again.

So, today I was going through Magabala Books and the publications of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)

This means checking their backlistings and new books and other publications (in the case of AIATSIS) and seeing what we have, what we don’t and what fits with the collection policy. For anyone interested you can see the PMI’s collection policy here

Both of the organisations I was going through are Indigenous publishers, so I wanted to talk a little about our policy. The PMI collects:

All works on Indigenous Australians. Indigenous groups do not adhere to state/territory boundaries and interstate policy has had a profound effect on Victorian policy. The same principles outlined for Local Histories also apply.

The idea is to create as complete a picture as possible of Indigenous history, and (largely due to the scarcity of material) this often means reaching beyond Victoria’s boundaries, and collecting material such as children’s books when there is no other resource for the information. This is especially true of books written in Language, because if a children’s book is the only written form of Language available, then it is a vitally important part of the collection, they are also a great source of Indigenous stories.

I was also lucky enough to take part in an online book discussion about Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu today. It tied in beautifully with the material I’ve been looking through today and was really interesting (it also included a virtual tour of Melbourne Museum’s Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre by a curator). Additionally, it was an excellent networking opportunity to explain the PMI’s Indigenous collections to other professionals.

But to return to the collecting. Between AIATSIS and Magabala, I managed to find just over sixty books we didn’t have that fit with the collection policy. Some fit more closely than others, as in they are specifically Victorian, so they will receive first priority when purchasing begins again. These books have been added to my growing list of to be purchased items, and they’ll be an excellent resource at the PMI in the not too distant future.

There were some, however, that I was able to acquire immediately. AIATSIS has some electronic resources that you can download for free. I added their two, to two other electronic resources that I’d sourced yesterday when going through the National Library’s Recent Additions. So I had four electronic resources to catalogue. Under normal circumstances, as in if I was in the library, I’d upload them to our server, but for now I have just saved them to Dropbox and I’ll pick the files up in the library next time I’m there.

The PMI has a wide range of electronic resources, ranging from books, to audio, indexes, gazettes, databases, heritage studies and directories. These are all available on the PMI’s computers. We are looking at the possibility of making some available to members online, but it will depend on our new website when it is up and running. Today’s four come under books, using a broad definition of the term.

We have Latrobe Valley Social History: Celebrating and recognising Latrobe Valley’s history and heritage


FOLA anniversary celebrating 25 years 1994-2019 / text: Daniel Ferguson

25th Anniversary Booklet_FOLA_32pp_web

And the two from AIATSIS

The Gunditjmara land justice story / Jessica K Weir


Indigenous partnerships in protected area management in Australia [electronic resource] : three case studies / Toni Bauman and Dermot Smyth.



The four are quite different, but between them they represent both the work I’ve been doing today in finding new Indigenous books for the collection, and the diversity of the PMI’s electronic collection. It’s been an interesting day, finding all these new potential and actual resources, and I’ll be back next week with some of the material I filled the box with yesterday.

Hope you found it interesting

Collecting Under Covid

Collecting Under Covid


The National Library of Australia puts out a list of all the recent publications that have been added to their collection. We go through this list each month and determine which resources fit with the PMI Collection Policy.

That is the simple part of the process, the slightly more complicated part is finding a source to acquire the resources from. The PMI is not a legal deposit library, the way the NLA is, so we are not automatically sent all published resources. We have to track them down and that’s what I’ve been working on this afternoon.

Sometimes, it is incredibly straight forward. If the book is a mainstream publication such as Freedom Lost: A history of newspapers, journalism and press censorship in Australia by Robert Pullman, which was on my list, then it is uncomplicated. In this case we either source it from our local bookstore or from Bookworld, the online remains of Angus and Robertson, who have a really good range of Australian titles.

Others aren’t so easy, and can require some detective work. My favourite example of this is actually from a year or so ago. I found a family history called Before the Trumpet Sounds by John Oldmeadow by tracking him through an inquest on Google to the business he had owned in Hobart and finding that he was in his 90s, still owned the business and was delighted to be able to sell us his family history.

None of today’s books were that curly with such a satisfactory answer, but there were a couple of tricky ones. I spent twenty minutes trying to find somewhere to buy a 19 page history of Francis Knox Orme, who was a police magistrate in the late 1800s. Unusually for a book that was listed on Libraries Australia, it wasn’t on Trove and I only had the title and the author. It took a lot of digging, but I managed to find that it was published in Castlemaine- so once we are buying books again I will be contacting the Castlemaine Historical Society to see if they know where I might be able to obtain a copy from.

Another interesting one, is more a case of technology and contact. The Bunbartha Tennis club has a book on its 100 year history. Their only point of contact is their Facebook page and it doesn’t have a seperate email address, only the postal address. From experience, sending them a message on messenger will probably not be very effective so I will most likely end up writing to them. Yes we still send out hardcopy letters enquiring after books.

Another excellent source of book contact information is local newspapers. Today I found that a family history called 1838 Settlers: A history of the family of James McLaurin and his descendants was written up in the Deniliquin Pastoral Times. Sometimes I have to contact the paper directly to see if they have contact information in regards to the author of the book. Fortunately this time, there was a contact for purchasing listed at the end of the article.

So even with Covid meaning we can’t buy books at the moment, we can still track them down and make lists on where we can obtain them from. Going through the NLA list is always one of my favourite jobs, because it is a bit like being a detective and you jump through a fantastic array of books. Today I’ve gone through everything from Mornington Cemetery to an in-depth look at Australian radio history (this one I found in a free Ebook so we’ll be able to add it to the collection a little sooner). You never know what you are going to come across next.