South Perth Library
Pull your archives out of the basement and share them with the world
"CONTENTdm has essentially allowed our collections to exist autonomously. The result is that our local history collection is much more appealing to our intended audience, as they are no longer forced to go through library staff in order to carry out their research and to access material. Additionally, this has freed up time for library staff, who in the past would have been required to assist with any queries regarding the historic photograph collection."
Local History Librarian, South Perth Library
The South Perth Library in Western Australia houses archival collections of local historic photographs and World War I-era postcards hand-drawn by author and illustrator May Gibbs and her father Herbert Gibbs, a renowned artist. But until recently, researchers could only access the collections by travelling to the South Perth Library, searching through the indexes and requesting limited access to specific content through the Local History Librarian. Even then, the content was not well catalogued, so looking for a specific item often required flipping through many albums stored in the library's lower level. "This has made the collection somewhat unapproachable, and interest in the collection has waned over time," Local History Librarian Farah Kabbani said.
South Perth Library staff wanted to ensure the "collection is adequately stored and protected" but still of value to researchers and the public. So they used CONTENTdm® to develop Picture South Perth, which has made the postcards and more than 1,500 photographs of South Perth available and searchable to local residents and online researchers worldwide. "The catalogued fields for our photograph collection meant that users can put in key search terms and find exactly what they are looking for," Farah said. "It was well worth the effort."
"This also opened up new avenues for our users who can now browse the collections at their leisure, at any time of day, from any location with an Internet connection, and can directly view the material themselves and download copies, depending on permissions."
The local community seems to agree. "The response from our community has been tenfold," Farah told us. "Local residents have been… offering to contribute their personal photographs… Students are using it as a reference point... Residents can now do their family [and house] history research… at their leisure, and those residing on the other side of Australia can also do the same."
But South Perth Library isn't done with Picture South Perth yet. "We hope to continue developing it and making it a more useful resource to all. We still see a lot of scope in working with local schools and teachers to integrate it in their programs."
Service used by South Perth Library
- Collection includes more than 70,000 items in two locations
- Special local history collection, stored in the lower level of the main library, consists of more than 50 hand-drawn, WWI-era post cards and thousands of photographs of the city
- Newer library building includes photovoltaic cells for power generation, automatic window shades, natural light, ventilation and rainwater collection
- Librarians select and deliver materials to homebound residents based on their preferences
- An oral history program, running since 1988, captures local memories
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