ON A NEW STAGE:
performing arts information management in New South Wales
6 PERFORMING ARTS INFORMATION
MANAGEMENT IN NSW
6.2 Information managers: libraries and
6.21 General observations
A survey of selected libraries and
potential stakeholders in March 1998 provides preliminary data and opinions
on individual organisations.
The survey questions were pitched at a
fairly superficial level. The process was not conducive for capturing
collective thought and exploring new paradigms. Pressures in the workplace
made it difficult for those completing the survey to transcend the daily
grind and look beyond immediate practicalities. Accordingly, this
description and analysis must be regarded as a preliminary step towards a
broader outlook and approach in developing performing arts information
services in New South Wales.
The analysis also focuses on libraries
rather than museums. Some aspects of music librarianship are placed in the
background. The libraries of the University of Sydney and Macquarie
University were not approached.
Services are provided by state, tertiary,
public and private libraries with different objectives, different primary
clientele and different capabilities.
The State Library of New South Wales is the
primary repository for archival and manuscript material and, most likely,
the principal performing arts information delivery service in other
respects. It has significant holdings and professional capability. On the
other hand, its generalist interests and priorities can inhibit specialised
activities in areas like the performing arts. To some people, it can be
intimidating. To some people it is a library "where things are hidden away
in boxes". There is fact and fallacy in these perceptions.
The tertiary libraries maintain performing
arts collections to support the needs of the teaching and student bodies of
the institutions they represent. The provision of services to a wider
audience is inhibited by the primacy of this role – although tertiary
libraries, increasingly, are opening up their services to a wider clientele
in exchange for improved access, on behalf of the primary clientele, to
resources held by public and special libraries.
The Seaborn Broughton and Walford (SBW)
Foundation is the chief private collection offering services to the general
public. It derives its strength from its specialised interest, enthusiasm
and the potential of its support group. Its success is inhibited by lack of
clear objectives and policies, limited finances and a total reliance on
Mark Carpenter at the University of New
South Wales has created a performing arts database based on his collection
of 11,000 programs. The University of New South Wales School of Theatre,
Dance and Film Studies has a small number of collections donated by
collectors and former professionals. The Southern Highlands Institute for
Performing Arts received press clippings, 1843-1970, books and artefacts
from the Sydney Opera House with the intention of incorporating them into a
proposed entertainment museum at Bowral.
It is vital for the currents in
tributaries to flow back into the main river by strengthening mechanisms for
communication and co-operation between all parties.
6.22 Business and strategic plans
Very few libraries have business or
strategic plans. This may be partly explained by the fact that libraries
have tended to place much of their business definition into collection
policies. Wider application of business planning practices is desirable not
only as a mechanism for fine-tuning operations in individual libraries but
also as a device for consolidating activities collectively.
6.23 Information workers in libraries
Often the most valuable information
resources in libraries are the people who acquire, process and make
available the information in their collections and advise on external
avenues for pursuing enquiries. Yet these dynamic resources are rarely
identified, classified, packaged and promoted in a way that maximises their
usefulness to those who are seeking information.
Volunteers are used by the State Library
and the SBW Foundation. The Dennis Wolanski Library had a volunteer force of
about 30 people assisting in managing press clipping and program
collections. Students were also used effectively for special projects as
part of their course work. The identification of projects and the
development of clearly written procedures, supported by some form of quality
control system, may produce dividends in some libraries such as the
University of NSW Library and the SBW Foundation.
6.24 Collections and systems
Most libraries have written collection
policies. All libraries need one. All policies need to be reviewed
The scope of collections is determined by four
main elements: subject coverage, geographical coverage, period coverage and
material types. Subjects fall into three major groups: [a] theatre [b] music
and [c] film, radio and television – each with their own collection
management requirements and peculiarities.
Geographical coverage is normally coded by interest in foreign, Australian,
and New South Wales' materials. Collections are also described and assessed
by their holdings in four major types of material – [a] printed material [b]
archival and manuscript material [c] audio-visual material and [d] special
collections like programs and press clippings. The Australian Conspectus may
be used formally or informally to describe and rate holdings.
The table below is a preliminary stab at representing the strengths of each
collection, based on my assumptions rather than an intimate knowledge of
each library. It would be useful to review and complete this exercise, in
consultation with each institution, using three or more tables for different
Although all material types deserve further
assessment, comments following the table below are confined to three key
areas: archival and manuscript materials, programs and press clippings.
Archival and manuscript material
The State Library of New South Wales is the
main repository for archival and manuscript material, with extensive
holdings on performing arts organisations and personalities associated with
the history of the state. The Powerhouse Museum has limited holdings,
governed by its selective interest in Australian cultural objects and
Other libraries should enter this territory only if they have satisfactory
facilities and the professional and financial resources to perform the task.
The State Library of New South Wales acquires programs relevant to the
history of New South Wales. The University of NSW Library, which acquired
the Dennis Wolanski program collection of about 60,000 items, the SBW
Foundation and Mark Carpenter also collect and catalogue programs. These
collections are broader in scope than the collection at the State Library,
but some form of rationalisation is desirable to make the most of available
One of the major resources of the Dennis Wolanski Library was its
comprehensive press clippings collection of several million items, mainly
1970-1996. This was transferred to the University of NSW together with its
associated card index and an index of Australian plays. Chronological files
and unprocessed clippings 1843-1970 were transferred to the Southern
Highlands Institute for Performing Arts. Policies and strategies need to be
completed to guide access, maintenance and development of this scattered
6.243 Dennis Wolanski Library transfers
The collections of the Dennis Wolanski
Library of the Performing Arts were transferred to a number of interstate
and intrastate organisations.
Major parts of the library were transferred to the following organisations:
Library of NSW
Australian publications, archival and manuscript material,
photographs, posters, and works of art.
Arts Museum, Melbourne
and manuscript material, photographs and artefacts
of New South Wales Library
clippings and program collections, with indexes, and theatre books.
Additional material was deposited in the
and Walford Foundation
and manuscript material, photographs, books.
University of Western Sydney, Nepean
Dance books and serials.
National Institute of Dramatic Art
Rockdale City Library
Music books and scores.
Artefacts, some archival and manuscript material
Highlands Institute for Performing Arts
books, press clippings 1843-1970
Sydney Theatre Company
Performing Arts Collection of South Australia
quantity of clippings about foreign films personalities
National Film and Sound Archive
Queensland Performing Arts Museum
The process of transferring this material was
flawed: deadlines were more important than quality decision-making. Some
material may have gone to the wrong organisation. The ability of
organisations to absorb this material and make it available varies from
institution to institution. In the past year, some users have experienced
difficulty in locating information previously supplied by the Dennis
6.244 Systems and data creation
All libraries have computer systems. The level
of sophistication varies.
Hardware and software details are important, but
they are less important than the way the information is structured, entered
and controlled in individual systems. General information standards are
relevant. Standards need to be created for managing performing arts
information, including guidelines for the use of author, title and subject
fields for events, use of general material designations and specific
material designations to distinguish material types, codification of event
types, levels of description, authority control and means for data exchange.
The prospects for collaborative computing need
further assessment. There are two basic approaches – a centralised approach
or a distributed approach (in which interface protocols like Z39.50 assume
importance). Examples of collaborative computing and resource sharing
between academic, public and special libraries can be found in Virginia
Virtual Library Project, UNILINC and the ACT Libraries for All Consortium
Performing arts databases
Access to information about Australian
performers and performances 1800-1998 is of central interest to performing
arts libraries. This information in the past has been derived largely from
program and press clipping holdings or newspaper indexes.
The program collections of the National Library
of Australia and the State Library of NSW have been catalogued with minimum
level entries, some of which are accessible through the Websites of each
library. The State Library also produces Infoquick, a comprehensive index to
the Sydney Morning Herald from 1988.
The University of NSW Library has a card index
to the Dennis Wolanski’s press clippings and program collections. The SBW
Foundation has a comprehensive index of music performances, c1947-1995,
created by Fred Blanks. Both Mark Carpenter and the SBW Foundation are
creating a database from their program collections. Manuscript, card and
published indexes exist in various locations covering various forms and
periods from 1800 to the present day.
There is strong need to map the coverage,
grapple with the issue of indexing future performances in the light of
changes in the way newspaper information is made available via the Internet,
and develop appropriate cooperative strategies. Inspiration for this work
could be drawn from the London Stage Project 1660-1800 and the JP Wearing
London Stage publications.
6.245 Cataloguing backlogs
There appears to be little need for assistance
in reducing cataloguing backlogs of print materials. However assistance may
required in organising and indexing manuscript collections, program and
press clipping collections – particularly in satellite collections like the
SBW Foundation and in collections that have recently modified their
collection scope or have absorbed major collections from the Wolanski
Library (eg University of New South Wales, NIDA).
The question of cataloguing Internet resources
was not raised in the survey and has not been addressed, but there may be
scope in future for a project that assists in providing more streamlined
access to these digital resources.
6.246 Copying and digitisation projects
The Cultural Ministers Council produced a report
in 1996 that looked at digitisation projects in Australia. Recommendations
were made on a range of management issues such as policy, structure,
copyright, user needs, priorities, collaboration, commercial and technical
matters. The Digitisation Forum Online and other initiatives of the
Department of Communication and the Arts have evolved from this report.
There is merit in reviewing the holdings of NSW
performing arts collections to identify material that could be microfilmed
or digitised as a preservation strategy and as means of improving access.
The press clippings collection at the University
of New South Wales and the collection now with the Southern Highlands
Institute of Performing Arts deserve consideration.
Copyright questions and the availability of the
information in other forms in other locations need to be balanced against
the convenience of consolidated information, improved preservation of the
collections and improved controls in providing access.