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.


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

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.