Saturday, June 19, 2010

Our National Library

I love our nation's library.  Although I get to visit Canberra a few times a year I usually spend my time catching up with friends. During my visit this week I set aside time to do some family history research at the National Library of Australia. I was thrilled at some of the changes I witnessed.

An unnatural silence punctuated by laptops starting up, mobile phones beeping and bags rustling pervades the Main Reading Room. A little piped light classical music is needed as an antidote to the deathly silence. It would be hard to engage in collaborative work in this morgue like atmosphere. Perhaps it is time for the silence rule to be relaxed.

The library has a copy of "The Wanton Witches of the Wanstead" a book about the females who were transported to Australia on the ship, Wanstead. The catalyst for my visit was, as my ancestor Elizabeth Phipps was one of the witches, to read this book.  The night before my visit I accessed the library's catalogue and found this and a number of other works I was keen to consult. I logged in with my NLA library card  and requested the maximum 15 books. I arrived at the library at 9:00 am, opening time next morning, and made for the reading room.  14 of my 15 books were waiting for me.  What service!

When I selected a desk I was pleased to find it fitted with a dual power supply so that I could plug my laptop in without having to worry about conserving battery power. As I had limited time to read all the books I had packed my digital camera. Although  "The Wanton Witches of the Wanstead" was a disappointment the other resources I used  brought me a harvest of new births deaths and marriages and a few new cousins. Additionally I was able to find background information on some of the country areas where the ancestors lived and worked. I took digital images of several relevant paragraphs in some of the works and will peruse these at my leisure at home.

Warmth pervaded the library from the friendly smile of the lady on the baggage desk to the young librarian who searched valiantly but couldn't locate the 15th book I had requested.  The lightfilled reading room and comfortably heated room add to the warmth of the library.

I enjoyed my visit so much that I delayed my return home. This morning I requested another 15 books from our hotel and then dragged Mr Geniaus along with me for another library visit. Mr Geniaus was impressed as the library had free wireless internet access so he was able to catch up on his work while I continued with the ancestor hunting.

Genealogists, a visit to the National Library should be at the top of your bucket list.

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