Monday, 16 July 2018

Fifty Years in Libraries - I remember when - 1970s

Returning to Melbourne, I worked at the Hargrave Engineering and Physical Sciences Library at Monash University in the 1970s. I started work at the beginning of February 1971 and left in December 1977. For the first two years I worked as inter-library loans officer until I completed my Arts degree. I was the reference and reader education librarian for the following five years.

I remember when:

  • Most of the engineering and physical sciences students and staff were male.
  • The only computers were in the Computer Centre. 
  • Loan records were processed overnight and made available next day as a computer printout. 
  • Card catalogues still provided information about the collection.
  • Filing new catalogue cards, or replacement cards, above the rod for a senior staff member to check was done before the library opened each morning.
  • If needing to contact interstate libraries for inter-library loans there was a telex machine at the Main Library that could be used. A form was filled in then taken across campus for transmission.
  • I ran classes for students, new post-grad students and new staff on using the library and information resources. On several occasions I had to tell students to learn the alphabet before they could learn to use a card catalogue.
  • At the reference desk, three years of my life was spent checking computer print-outs and writing correction forms ensuring all items in the collection were recorded for the new computer loans system. Fortunately I left Monash before the first of several loan systems was implemented.
  •  There was a liquid toner photocopier in the public area. Copies cost 2c each and were wet when they came out of the machine.
  • The photocopier frequently broke down and one of the attendants would have to fix it.

The Hargrave Library was officially opened in 1962 and was the first library on the Monash campus until the Main Library opened in 1964.

Needless to say there have been many changes to the Hargrave Library over the years. The library now also holds the medical and biological sciences collections and has been renamed the Hargrave-Andrew Library. An extension has been added and the ground floor is now part of the library complex making three floors instead of two. In the 1970s the ground floor of the building was a cafeteria which was open during the day. In the evening we had to go to the Student Union Building to use the main cafeteria if we wanted something to eat or drink.

A staircase in a glassed in area led to the first floor. An enclosed walkway also connected the engineering buildings and the library entrance. Before people entered the library there was the bag room on the right where bags were to be left.

On entering the library the reference desk was on the left near the door. The circulation desk and reserve collection were on the right. An attendant sat at the end of the circulation desk so that he could check that only library books on loan were removed from the library.

Walking into the library you could not miss the card catalogue. The cataolgue consisted of two rows of wooden cabinets containing drawers of catalogue cards on each side of the cabinet. Cards were arranged alphabetically by author, title or subject. There was also a shelf list - a numerical sequence by Dewey number.
Example of a card catalogue (Smithsonian Library)
The reference collection was located on the wall behind the card cabinets.

The ceiling in the foyer of the library was two stories high and the focal point was a model of the box kite designed by Lawrence Hargrave after whom the library was named. Lawrence Hargrave was commemorated on the Australian $20 note from 1966-1994.
A Lawrence Hargrave box kite
On the right wall was a group of ceramic pieces designed as a Homage to Lawrence Hargrave by John Perceval, known for his 'angels'. In her biography, John Perceval, Traudi Allen noted: "Perceval wrote an explanation of his mural, describing the central core as representing the splitting of the atom, with a dead astronaut to the top right, a baby astronaut to the lower left, and a birdman homage to Hargrave.

The total can be seen as a constellation of the stars which emphasises man's desire to get off the earth. The splitting of the atom is seen as a problem incidental to that of population growth, and space travel offers no solution." (Allen p121)

SLV image -
As there was no information provided in the library about this sculpture its meaning was a mystery to most staff and students entering the building. However everyone noticed it. Above the door to the current periodicals room was another head which the Hargrave Librarian at the time irreverently referred to it as a 'woman washing her hair'. However apparently Perceval designed this as the sun, 'the source of life, a mysterious body containing the symbol of birth". (Allen p121)

A curved staircase in the middle of the foyer led to the second floor. I
t was not unusual to see a student slide down the banister. The room to the bound periodicals was past the staircase while more bound periodicals and the books were stored on the second floor. The abstracts and indexes plus maps collection, entered via the current periodicals room, was staffed by a reference librarian who helped students and staff members use these tools

The Hargrave Library was a busy library, especially during the day in term-time, and was open seven days a week - Monday to Friday from 10 am to 10 pm, Saturday until 5 pm plus Sunday afternoon.

Monash University - Library in a timeline

Hargrave Library - Monash University Gazette vol. 1 no. 1 1964 pages 7-9
Monash University - Matheson stories
Friends and Angels - John Perceval by Traudi Allen (MUP re. ed. 2015) p 121
Floor plan of Hargrave-Andrew Library today
Lawrence Hargrave - Wikiwand

Lawrence Hargrave - Australian Dictionary of Biography 

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