Hidden treasure

I've written before about some of the discoveries one can make while wandering around the ERC Library at Melbourne. (Which used to be the 'Education Resource Centre Library' but, after the renovations are complete, will be backronymed into the 'Eastern Resource Centre'.) I'm sure lots of university libraries have a section like this -- at least where they haven't been moved offsite or worse -- a ghetto full of old books that nobody is interested in any more, except historians. I've found about 50 books in the ERC relevant to my research, from The Great War of 189-- (1893) to Civil Defence in War (1941). I can get most of them at the SLV (or the BL, if I happen to be in London), but the nice thing about them being in the ERC is that I can borrow them, take them home, and read them at my leisure instead of having to pore over them in a reading room.

I thought I'd mined the ERC pretty thoroughly, but now I'm not so sure! This evening I swung by after work to pick up a couple of books. I found one with no trouble, but the other one wasn't there. Instead, a different book with the same author and call number was there, so I think the catalogue is incorrect here. In fact, I know it's incorrect, because on a shelf nearby I stumbled across a cache of books on air raid precautions which aren't even in the catalogue! And I know this because only a couple of weeks ago I spent about $50 photocopying chunks of two of them, one at the SLV and the other at the Ballieau special collections. If they'd been listed in the catalogue I could have just borrowed them, and directed that money elsewhere!

I wonder what other uncatalogued treasures are hidden in the ERC? The only way to find out would be a call number-to-call number search, starting with the usual suspects ...

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10 thoughts on “Hidden treasure

  1. jbentham

    hi Brett,

    I don't know if it still applies, but it used to be that there was a chunk? of books not electronically catalogued. Those books were in the card catalogue, which used to be on the ground floor of the Baillieu.


  2. Post author

    Thanks, it could well be! The electronic catalogue has been around for a long time now, though -- the better part of two decades, at least. That seems like plenty of time to finish the task. Of course, it takes money to do that, but data entry is something that could be done by students, say, of which there are a few about ...

  3. George Shaner

    Nothing like retroactive oppertunity cost angst to wreck your whole day.

    As for the issue of putting students to work, the problem is that students come and students go, and another, more pressing problem rears its ugly head in the meantime. I've seen this problem many a time at the U.S. National Archives.

  4. Have you tried using your digital camera at the State Library to save on photocopying fees? Apparently it's been allowed for a while now, my photocopying bill has recently dropped sharply (also from being able to scan direct to a USB stick on the microfilm scanners). The dome reading room gives a nice diffuse light source for copy photography too (during the day).

  5. Post author

    I think I was slaving away at the SLV's overhead photocopier at the exact time you posted that, Matthew ... talk about retroactive opportunity cost! So, no, I didn't know that :(


    I don't think the students need to hang around. Just hire them over the summer, give them a barcode scanner and a PDA and get them to walk down the aisles and check each book. As for money, they're spending millions to refurbish the place and put in lots more computers, surely they could spend a few dollars on the BOOKS. Ah well, it's a university, it doesn't have to make sense.

  6. jbentham

    Hi Brett, I checked today. The card catalogue is still there, presumably because it still has stuff not transferred. It only a year or two since I last used it to find books not on the e- cat.

  7. Brett, hopefully next time it will save you some money. I've also found the overhead photocopier is also a good diffuse light source for using a digital camera at night, or on dull days, you do get some strange looks though.

  8. When I last studied there, the University of London Library had old card cats sitting around the shelves....with signs saying they hadn't been updated since 1996.

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