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“What are the factors of 336?” I pondered, star­ing at the KENKEN puzzle on the screen of the com­puter in the SciTech lib­rary I was seated at.

Cursed com­puter! No cal­cu­lat­or!

I’ve been annoyed by how locked down the com­puters at Sydney Uni’s lib­rar­ies are for a while, so I set out to find out wheth­er I can, in fact, bring up the humble cal­cu­lat­or.1

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If you’ve ever been to the old law school build­ing in the city at St James, you’ll prob­ably agree that while it may have had great loc­a­tion, loc­a­tion, loc­a­tion, it was most def­in­itely a renovator’s choice find. Cock­roaches, tem­per­at­ure vari­ations nev­er thought pos­sible on plan­et Earth and utterly-frus­trat­ing swiv­el chairs will thank­fully be a thing of the past (mostly any­way — some classes will still be taught at St James). So rejoice, and explore the new law build­ing with me.

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The Dar­ling­ton side of main cam­pus of the Uni­ver­sity of Sydney was a renovator’s dream. Its end­less array of con­crete slabs might lay claim to coher­ence in some kind of bru­tal­ist archi­tec­ture, but I sus­pect the uni­ver­sity pretty much built the Engin­eer­ing and Archi­tec­ture fac­ulties out of whatever spare cash they could find at the time.

The USyd Cent­ral build­ing adja­cent to the Union’s Wentworth build­ing is part of the Cam­pus 2010 plan to reverse the years of neg­lect that have rendered oth­er uni­ver­sit­ies with sub­stan­tially more attract­ive (and mar­ket­able) cam­puses. The first part of the USyd Cent­ral to open, the SciTech Lib­rary, has now been delivered, and it sure was a deliv­ery from heav­en.

When you first walk into SciTech, the thing that strikes you is how dif­fer­ent it is from any oth­er lib­rary that you’ve been to. With your first steps past the styl­ishly glassy entrance, you are presen­ted with a large, wel­com­ing atri­um that envel­ops you and draws you in; the splend­our and the inter­est­ing topo­logy of the lib­rary makes you feel like you are view­ing spec­tac­u­lar scenery from the top of a moun­tain. To the right is a lounge-like area, with play­ful, lime-green chairs that wouldn’t look out of place in an Ikea store. To the left are the book stands, and in front is a sunken val­ley of study cubicles. At night, the entrance area is taste­fully lit up with small spot­lights that cast small pools of light on the soft car­pet, and dur­ing the day, there is ample nat­ur­al sun­light from the wall of glass.

SciTech Library

As I intim­ated above, the fur­niture is one thing that sets SciTech apart from any oth­er lib­rary I’ve seen. Col­our­ful, dis­tinct­ive, mod­ern and def­in­itely play­ful — as I write, some people are stack­ing up the lime-green chairs in vari­ous con­fig­ur­a­tions, pos­sible as the chairs are made up of three con­joined cyl­in­ders — the fur­niture is fit­ting for a sci­ence and tech­no­logy lib­rary. From the jelly-col­oured red and orange stools to the Ikea-like chairs, they are all invit­ing and very com­fort­able.

SciTech Library

The lib­rary, from the ground up, has been designed to be more than just a repos­it­ory of books. It appears to have been designed for stu­dents to learn, to study and to col­lab­or­ate. The “study val­ley” that I alluded to before encases you as a cocoon encases a cater­pil­lar, draw­ing you away from the hustle and bustle of the out­side world into a study world of your own. The hours melt away as you study in one of the the plush, mul­ti­col­oured pods, or the seats that line the green river-like divider that sep­ar­ates the study val­ley from one of the com­puter access areas. As you meander between the mel­low-col­oured book­shelves, you come across islands of tran­quil­lity, where you can sit down and enjoy a book or two. If you prefer elec­tron­ic learn­ing, power points are abund­ant, and there are mul­tiple com­puter rooms, with desktop com­puters and laptops — now that is some­thing I haven’t seen before any­where in the uni­ver­sity. The only minor com­plaint is that the wire­less con­nec­tion here isn’t as stable as it could be.

Ulti­mately, a lib­rary isn’t much of a lib­rary unless it stores books. Although I find it dis­ap­point­ing that in the move to the new lib­rary, a large por­tion of the Engin­eer­ing col­lec­tion was moved into archiv­al stor­age, because there just isn’t room at SciTech, there is some­thing that they have done that is quite inter­est­ing; some shelves hold the book so that the front is dis­played, much like spe­cial book dis­plays at book stores.

SciTech Library

If the rest of the Cam­pus 2010 improve­ments are of the qual­ity and thought­ful­ness of the SciTech Lib­rary, the uni­ver­sity is onto a win­ner. The design of the SciTech lib­rary shows a thought­ful­ness to the needs of stu­dents and staff at the uni­ver­sity. I look for­ward to the new law lib­rary with much anti­cip­a­tion — and to spend­ing many days and nights at SciTech.

SciTech LibrarySciTech LibrarySciTech Library

More pho­tos here.

The SciTech Lib­rary: Level 1, Jane Foss Rus­sell Build­ing, on City Road

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Yes, you read the title right. The Uni­ver­sity of Sydney Lib­rary has a vast col­lec­tion of fea­ture films, in a vari­ety of lan­guages to boot. The col­lec­tion is mainly at Fish­er AV Reserve and at Roselle, but there will be enough at Fish­er to keep you busy without hav­ing to trek over to the Sydney Col­lege of the Arts. If you have a lib­rary card, you will be able to bor­row videos from Fish­er AV Reserve for three hours at a time.

To explore what is out there, vis­it the Lib­rary Cata­logue and bring up the Advanced tab:

Library Catalogue advanced search, showing important fields

Step 1: Enter the search as “fea­ture film”.

Step 2: Select the DVD/​VIDEO/​SLID mater­i­al type.

Step 3: Option­ally, select the lan­guage that you want.

Step 4: Hit Search!

Altern­at­ively, go to the Sub­ject Search and enter “fea­ture film”; all fea­ture film sub­ject cat­egor­ies begin with “Fea­ture Film”, and you will then be able to nar­row down your search by coun­try of ori­gin.

So there you have it! Many hours of view­ing pleas­ure, for free, if you don’t mind the less-than-cine­mat­ic exper­i­ence of sit­ting on lib­rary chairs and watch­ing it on small tele­vi­sion sets.

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We had break­fast at Mel­bourne Cent­ral, then saw the por­trait exhib­i­tion at the state lib­rary. We saw a spe­cial exhib­i­tion at the art gal­lery, then we had lunch at Chin­atown. We could only spend half an hour at the Mel­bourne Museum because we got there rather late… we’ll go there again tomor­row. We had din­ner with a pair of everything2 mates of Rob. The even­ing was topped off with a vis­it to the Eureka Tower for a top down look at the city.

Lots planned for tomor­row — last day! Off to bed…

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I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but to get around the fact that a lot of the online New Sci­ent­ist is locked up for sub­scribers only, you can log into the uni­ver­sity library’s web­site and go via one of the data­bases that has New Sci­ent­ist. Some are an edi­tion behind, but Factiva has the cur­rent one avail­able… and although the format­ting makes it a little hard to read, at least all the text is there.

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