The Wolanski Foundation Project

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28 April 2000














lost library or information agent?

Article for OPALessence, newsletter of the One-Person Australian Library Section of the Australian Library and Information Association 

In September this year, the Cambridge Project for the Book Trust will be holding a conference on lost libraries, exploring the neglected circumstances of their disappearance and the consequences of their loss or destruction. Most papers will be devoted to libraries from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century. In today’s Internet-connected world, does the theme have any relevance?

In 1997, the Sydney Opera House Trust closed the Dennis Wolanski Library of the Performing Arts. Apart from providing information services in a building that attracts high levels of curiosity (11,000 information transactions a year; income of $35,000 a year), the library also contributed significantly to the commercial and cultural interests of the House through corporate information management, exhibition, museum, multimedia and merchandising initiatives. Its closure – and the dispersal of its collection to 15 organisations in NSW and interstate - was in part driven by Government and Trust perceptions that external information is now ‘readily available on the Internet’ and ‘internal information can be retrieved using Isys’.

The Wolanski Foundation was established in 1998 to facilitate management, presentation and appreciation of the performing arts through research, publishing and industry support programs. Its primary interests are

  • addressing anomalies resulting from the dispersal of the Dennis Wolanski Library. Where is material located? How accessible is it? Is it in the right place? Can anything be done to assist organisations to maximise its value?

  • macro information strategy – management of performing arts information creation, capture, disposal and use by governments, industry bodies and individuals.

  • micro information strategy – management of performing arts information by individual organisations

When it was established in 1973, the Dennis Wolanski Library was a one-person operation.  The Foundation, beginning also as a one-person operation, pursues similar objectives albeit in an age when the cyber-economy is producing new demands by information seekers, new forms of information service, new ways of packaging information, new business relationships and new opportunities for knowledge workers. 

The Foundation’s website at <> has about 700 external links to sources on the performing arts and information management, a directory of material relocated by the Sydney Opera House and papers on information management, history and biography. Although the subject area may be peripheral to most OPALs, the section on managing performing arts information may be of general interest. 

Two papers on the site consider the role of performing arts library, archive and museum professional associations. These may be of interest in the context of the Australian Library and Information Association’s proposed structural changes.

We would welcome feedback from other OPALs on the functionality and usefulness of the website or enquiries about the work of the Foundation.

Paul Bentley

The Wolanski Foundation Project


Issued: 28 April 2000


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