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The Borchardt Library

The Borchardt Library is the main library at the Bundoora campus of La Trobe University. It is quite literally at the heart of the campus, as well as being the place that most serious students can be found. So information services-literate are the students of La Trobe that they can be heard to remark to their friends "I have stuff to do, I'll be at 599.6367098 B699c for about half an hour". That was actually a joke. La Trobe students do not really say that (well, none that I've seen or heard around the campus). And who wants to know about llamas, especially if you can't read Spanish. The Dewey reference I used is really from the Borchardt catalogue, and it really is in Spanish (I think it's Spanish, anyway).

The Borchardt is a squat three storey building. It's actually quite tall, but due to being long and wide, and all the other building being about one or two storeys higher, it looks short and squat. It is a pleasant looking building on the outside, and not so bad on the inside. For some reason, the front door is on the second level, with a nice stained glass windbreak. This does not make sense at first, but the logic is clear eventually. La Trobe University has a set of elevated walkways that connect all the buildings on campus. This is primarily for wheelchair ease, but everyone uses them. This is the level the Library doors are on. Smart, really.

On the ground floor, there are the government publications, serials and some quiet study areas and a few computers. Computers are a prized commodity in the library, as everyone wants to use them. On the ground floor, there are 24 public computers, 3 catalogue terminals, 3 photocopiers, maybe 100 desk spaces, and the serials compactus. Everybody who has watched enough scary movies, has seen a serials compactus used as a cause of death.

The second level is the main part of the library. Here you will find the Reference Collection, the Reserve Collection, the Audio-Visual Section, and other stuff. Here you will find most of the library’s computers. There are 18 catalogue terminals (12 near the entrance, 3 in the Audio-Visual Section, and 3 in the Reserve Collection). There are 3 printers (the only printers available to students in the library), 13 photocopiers (10 in the photocopier bays, and 3 in the Reserve Collection), and a total of 138 computers on this floor.

The third level is the main collection. Here you will find the majority of the library’s 1,000,000 books. Here you will find a book on almost anything. Well, almost anything. Sometimes it is quite frustrating to not find what you need. Allegedly, the Borchardt has specialized collections in Canadian studies (precisely what this term means, who knows) and romantic fiction (Gosh, it’s a shame this is actually true. It also has a sizable amount of erotic fiction, but I didn’t tell you that!). My source: The Good Guides Guide to Higher Education, 2004 edition. There are 20 computers in the main stairwell, and 9 catalogue terminals in another stairwell. There are all but two of the study carrels here, mostly clustered around the toilets. The toilets (there are two, male and female, despite the efforts of the pan campaign to provide toilets that do not ‘oppress us into the binary gender paradigm’ Please!) are located in the middle of the building. Due to the curious layout of the collection (which will be explained eventually), the male toilets are located opposite 158, which I think is Abnormal Psychology (Are they trying to say something?) and the female toilets are located opposite Eye Ear and Nose Medicine. Health Sciences is one of the most prominent Faculties on campus, and the gender makeup is primarily female. Is this a coincidence?

The Library began in 1965, two years before the university. I believe the front half (up to the study carrels and where 999 and 000 meet) was built by 1969. The back half was built in 1989, and this is part of the reason why the catalogue is organized so oddly. Now in an ideal universe, the catalogue would start with the 000s next to the catalogue terminals, and then go around the library anticlockwise. Sort of like starting at 3 o’clock and going round. But no, the catalogue starts at about 4:15, where the new part of the library starts. Why is this so? Probably because the librarians were too bone lazy to reorganize the catalogue in a logical manner. The didn’t even have a million books then, because this was before the Faculty of Health Sciences and the higher education amalgamations of the early 90s. And now there are too many books to make it worthwhile. This sounds like such a petty complaint, and it is. It’s just an institutional quirk.

Why is it called the Borchardt? Because it was named after Dietrich Borchardt, of course. He was the head librarian at La Trobe University from 1965 to 1981 He lived from 1916, dying some time in 1997. Apparently he was a significant librarian in Australia, and made an impact in New Zealand as well. He founded a few things, like the La Trobe University Library in his name, and a magazine or serial called Australian Academic and Research Libraries. He even wrote a book about the library. I read it, but it did not make an impression. At the time I was trying to find the entrances to the campus utility tunnels.

Allegedly, the library is also a good place for couples wishing to have some dangerous illicit library sex. I say allegedly, because despite the graffiti about it across campus, I can't see the practicality. There are no little corners you could do this. All the shelves are in lines straight across the building. The carrals, maybe, but they have small windows near the door I think this is just a perpetuated myth.

All students are automatically granted borrowing privileges. These priveleges continue until the user has accrued more than $10 in fines. Then all fines must be paid in full before privileges are restored. Books attract 20c a day per item, and 3 & 7 day and recalled items are $1 a day per item. Reserve items (avalable only for 3 hours or 8:30pm to 8:30am) are $2.50 for the first hour, then $1 every hour after that. Other hourly loans are 60c an hour. Carrels are expensive. If you have less than $10 in fines at the end of the academic year, they forgive the debt. If not, you have to pay up or they withold your results, your re-enrolment, and basically make a voodoo doll of you. An unpleasant situation, from personal experience.

The Library is also part of the CAVAL Reciprocal Borrowing Program. The CAVAL (Co-operative Action by Victorian Academic Libraries) Program means that if you can borrow at one of the participating libraries, you can apply for a card to borrow at the others, providing you take that card and register at those libraries. This is what it is supposed to mean. What it really means is you can borrow at 5 other participating Libraries, because you only have 5 barcode spaces.

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