Sunday 22 March 2015

Planning for research at the National Library of Australia

Visiting the library

This week I have the opportunity to visit Canberra for Congress 2015. Not only will I be able to listen to and learn from a great range of speakers, but I will also be in the vicinity of the National Library of Australia and will be able to use the physical resources housed there.
The extensive online eresources provided by the National Library can be accessed by all Australians by applying for a free library cardTrove which "brings together content from libraries, museums, archives and other research organisations" is also provided by the National Library of Australia and is free for anyone to use online.

Finding resources

To prepare for my visit I have searched the online catalogue for materials pertinent to my areas of interest. Resources can be booked in advance and are brought to the reading room for library patrons where they are retained for up to seven days. A maximum of 15 resources can be booked. A current library card is needed to log in and book resources.

My current research is focused on my great-grandparents all of whom were resident in South Australia in the period 1850-1930. My intention is to garner background material about the towns, communities and farmlands where they lived rather than individual facts about particular lives. If I locate information about any one individual or family that will be an added bonus.

I have located 12 likely titles ranging from local histories, commemorative brochures from various centenary celebrations, family histories and a district council compiled report. An unrelated lucky 13th resource I've requested access to, is a newspaper not online that I think has a photo of me in much younger years. The items requested are kept in a list that can be viewed when logged into the NLA's catalogue.

Taking notes

I have clipped the bibliographic details of each requested resource into a separate note on Evernote and then added some keywords underneath to remind myself of the sort of information I am seeking from that particular item. The permanent link is retained in the information about each note. This will keep my mind focused as I try to make the best use of limited time with such a richness of resources. The keywords are not intended to be restrictive and indeed it is possible that I may find none of them in this resource, but they do serve to make me consider the possibilities before viewing the book or item.

Here's a sample from one of my notes. Now when I have the book in hand I'm ready to take notes on my ipad without having to waste any preparatory time. Where permitted digital copies of relevant pages or sections of text can be added to Evernote and then merged to that title's note.

Advantages of this method of note taking:

  • all notes are referenced with source details
  • digital images of text pages from any one source are together
  • tags relating to places and people are added as notes are taken
  • the text and tags of all notes are searchable

What methods do you use to prepare for research when time is limited?

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