My name is Aaron. When I first heard about the Prahran Mechanics’ Institute, it was 2017 and I was studying a Certificate IV in Library and Information Services at Box Hill Institute. It was one of the examples that a teacher of one of my units had found, as an example of a library and possible services they might offer.
What first piqued my interest was in fact the colour of the PMI website, that distinct orange colour. After that, I noticed under one of the drop down menus was an option for volunteering and the associated form. I sat on it for a few days before deciding to submit my name and contact information using this form, feeling that it would be good to have some hands on experience in a library.
I was promptly contacted by one of the staff members of the library and decided to meet on a Friday afternoon for a chat on what I could do as a volunteer there. Since then I have been helping around the library when I can, initially on Fridays, but now on both Thursday and Friday.
One of the first things I was asked to do was to assist with shelving library resources. At the time, I was learning how to properly file resources according to the Dewey Decimal Classification system as part of my studies, and this task really helped me to reinforce these filing rules into memory, which I am quite thankful for.
A few weeks later, I was doing shelf-reading, or making sure that the resources are in order so they can be found by members. This took a couple weeks, as it was from 0 all the way up to the 990s. I continued shelving/shelf-reading for a bit, until I was asked to start indexing back issues of Australian Geographic, from when Aus. Geo. was first founded in 1984. There were a few interesting articles, and some very dated advertisements.
After this, I was taught how to cover new books to the library collection, and what I have to attach to the books so that they’re shelf-ready, which for PMI includes attaching a spine label, a due date slip (PMI is one of the few libraries that still makes use of these slips) and a security strip.
Lately, I have been helping the library to catalogue new resources. From changing the holdings record of a resource on Libraries Australia to indicate that PMI has a copy available for loan if you search for an item on Trove, to assigning a call number using the collection policy document and the Dewey books, it is very satisfying to complete the “word picture” of a resource so that it can be found by patrons using the catalogue. Occasionally, the library software has conniptions, most often showing lines of text in the wrong order, but otherwise cataloguing is a worthwhile and very enjoyable task.
Most of the time I am cataloguing at the front desk, where I also loan out resources to members and help them to find them where necessary.
Volunteering at PMI has been worthwhile and enjoyable, and has given me useful experience for when I manage to get a job in a library.