Library

29 September 2016

Making the ordinary extraordinary


By Daniel Wee

Old and special books are an important element of any rare books collection, and people are often surprised by some of the items we acquire for Monash University Library. Our recent acquisition of over 400 school readers from the Whitcombe and Tombs series certainly fits into this category. Individually the readers are well used, somewhat unimpressive in appearance, and incongruous amongst the typical rare decorative cloth, fine gilt bindings and delicate engravings. However, when these singularities are merged to form a collection, the seemingly subdued suddenly takes on a new lustre.




Taking advantage of the Antipodeans’ late 19th-century interest in children's literature, New Zealand bookseller, George Hawkes Whitcombe, and printer, George Tombs, created “low-priced, paper-wrapped children’s supplementary readers” en masse (McLaren, 1984). The series became known in Australasia as ‘Whitcombe’s Story Books’. The printing of 12 million copies of original Australasian and classic literature from 1908 to 1962 is a testament to the proliferation of leisure reading amongst the masses over this time and the unyielding demand for cheap books.

These little readers demonstrated a delineation from prescribed canonised texts and inflexible school syllabuses to the 'democratisation' of education and availability of books to the masses. By creating cheap and accessible alternatives and supplements to school curriculums, Whitcombe and Tombs contributed to the cultural phenomenon of child readership. Jeff Prentice, muses in 'A History of the Book in Australia' that the 1930s and 1940s saw a movement that “reflected the needs of real child readers, and an increased willingness to address a child reader directly” (Prentice, 2001).

Unlike the rigidity of the 'School Papers' (a compulsory Education Department (Victoria) publication built into the curriculum), ‘Whitcombe’s Story Books’ amalgamated supplementary leisure reading with prescriptive texts. Whitcombe and Tombs’ encroachment into the school curriculum was met with a failed Victorian Royal Commission in 1935-36 after it was suggested that the bookseller was 'hijacking' the syllabus (Prentice, 2001).

The new acquisition of ‘Whitcombe’s Story Books’ are housed in the Lindsay Shaw Collection in the Rare Books Collection of the Library. This collection of over 12,000 items from the 19th and 20th century form one of Australia’s premier children’s literature collections.

Lindsay Shaw was the Secretary of the Monash Faculty of Education when he began to donate books to the Library in 1979. Lindsay was a major collector of Australian children's books and began his gift to Monash by donating sets of Ethel Turner and Mary Grant Bruce. As part of the development of this impressive collection, the Rare Books team posthumously supplement his collection by purchasing rare and important English, American and Australian children’s books.

The collection is available for viewing and research purposes Monday to Friday from 9.00am to 5.00pm.  Items can be found through Search and our knowledgeable librarians can work with you to discover some of the treasures that are housed in your Rare Books collection.



References

McLaren, I., and Whitcombe Tombs Limited 1984, Whitcombe's Story Books : A Trans-Tasman Survey. U of Melbourne Library, Parkville.

Prentice, J 2001, ‘Case-study: Textbook publishing’, in J Arnold, A history of the Book in Australia 1891-1945 : A National Culture in a Colonised Market. U of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld , pp. 294-297.


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19 September 2016

Tips and tricks for a better presentation


Oral presentations come in all shapes and sizes, but the basic skills to make a good one are all the same. Librarian Clinton Bell has all the strategies you need to overcome the public speaking nerves and make your presentation stand out from the rest...


Photo: nathan Rupert, 2010 - Flickr *
Most university courses include at least one oral presentation as part of the assessment, and public speaking is also an important career skill. Whether it’s making a pitch at a meeting, educating clients, or presenting your paper at a conference, a lot of jobs involve public speaking.


So how can you make better presentations? There are two elements to a good presentation: what you say and how you say it. People sometimes assume that it’s the content of a presentation that matters the most, but if you really want to deliver a good presentation, both aspects are equally important.


What you say


  • Do your research. If you’re going to mention facts or statistics, make sure to get them right, and make a note of the source you got them from.
  • Use appropriate content for your presentation’s purpose. For example, if you’re pitching a project to management, they probably care more about cost and outcomes than technical details.
  • Adjust your language to your audience. People from outside your field may not understand technical terms and jargon, while those from different backgrounds might not understand slang, colloquialisms, references to books or movies, etc.
  • Be concise. If you take too long to get to the point, you’ll lose the audience’s attention.
  • Keep presentation slides clear and simple. Use normal fonts and colours, and make sure all the text is large enough to be read from the back row.


How you say it


  • Speak clearly and loudly enough for everyone to hear. Take the size of the room into account and use a microphone if one is available. Think about pace as well as enunciation - if you’re nervous you may speak faster than normal, which can make it hard for the audience to understand.
  • Look and sound engaged. If you don’t seem interested in what you’re saying, your audience won’t be either. Be particularly careful if you’re reading from your notes - it’s very easy to fall into a monotone.
  • Pause for emphasis after making an important point. This gives your audience a moment to think about what you just said.
  • Act confident, even if you don’t feel confident. Try to avoid nervous body language like wringing your hands or constantly shifting side-to-side.
  • Look at your audience and make eye contact. Don’t turn your back on the audience to read your own PowerPoint slides.

For more tips on how to make a great presentation, check out our quick guide to oral presentations or try the video guides lynda.com, a video training service which Monash students can access for free through the library. Search for “public speaking” or “presentations” and you should find several useful courses.

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* Image credit:Nathan Rupert 2010
Creative Commons licence 2.0

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14 September 2016

Jay Winter's Photographing War: the Kodak revolution

Yale historian Jay Winter presented a provocative lecture on the Kodak revolution of World War I, and the vast trail of unofficial photography it left behind. In this article Monash University graduate student Sam Prendergast discusses the concept of dignity in death, and the questions raised by what the soldiers chose to photograph. [Scroll to the bottom for a full recording of Jay Winter's lecture.]


Jay Winter speaks at the Matheson event
Few 20th century events have been so heavily memorialised as WWI. In Australia, the process of commemoration starts early. Every April, Australian primary school children draw crayon depictions of Gallipoli. They group uniformed men in wide-brimmed hats and spend their red ink on poppies. The official iconography of war makes its way through generations; as we move further from the event we become increasingly reliant on what we have learned to remember.


This is the context in which Jay Winter spoke about the ‘Kodak revolution’. While official war photographers captured a censored record of WWI, soldiers left a vast trail of unofficial photographs. They did so with the help of pocket-sized Kodak cameras. In moments of boredom, action, significance, or reflection, individuals recorded their experiences of war. Few of the images have made their way to the textbooks, but that might change; as archives of the Great War grow, the photographs move out of family photo albums and into the public domain.


For historians, the significance of the ‘Kodak revolution’ is realised in the archives. As Jay Winter stressed throughout his talk, the collected Kodak photos hold some democratic potential: soldiers’ photographs can counter prevailing assumptions about the nature of WWI. In one of Winter’s selected videos, we see men piling corpses on a truck in a fashion that evokes the Holocaust. The image of men stacking bodies is haunting in a way that statistics are not. In images, we lose the accuracy of numbers but we gain a sense of what it means to deal with death on a mass scale. Unofficial photos do a good job of portraying the gruesome practicalities of war.

World War I items from the Rare Books Collection were on show
The soldiers’ photos tell us less about what they wanted to remember than about what they wanted to record. As Jay Winter guided us through a collection of images, I found myself wondering why these amateur photographers thought to pull out their cameras at particular points. This was especially so when Winter called our attention to a set of photos that belonged to a doctor. At war, the man had captured images of people in their dying moments. Some of the photos seemed curated: a head tilted, unnaturally; a body placed in position. In one image, an injured soldier laid in the dirt, his face in pain. The photographer had titled the image, ‘A dying Serb’. When Winter showed us the photo he asked: is there no dignity, even in death?


It was a provocative question, designed to make us question the photographer’s motivations. The assumption, on Winter’s part, was that the photographer, a soldier, acted unethically when he captured an image of another man dying. I was not so sure. The value of the Kodak photos is that they show us how soldiers’ experienced the war. Without one man’s photo, there would be no record of the other man’s death. I wondered what the dying man might have thought about having his image captured at that moment. Perhaps he, like Winter, wondered why the photographer would strip him of all dignity in his final moments. Perhaps he felt relief that someone was bothering to capture an honest portrayal of his death at war. Or maybe he was just consumed with whatever consumes a person when they’re lying, near-death, in the dirt.


Either way, the photo tells us about something about the reality of the man’s death, and there must be some dignity in having that experience recorded and remembered – if not for the photographed man, then perhaps for the many others who died similar deaths, or for those who returned home, having witnessed friends and strangers die. Because of the Kodak archive, the man is, at least, remembered as something other than a number. In capturing images, the amateur photographers left us with a democratic scaffolding around which to construct meaning. That one man could photograph another, as he died, reveals something about the battle front; it is at once tethered to the home front and, yet, removed from the home front’s norms.


War strips people of their dignity long before they die; the question is whether or not the archive can restore it. The ‘Kodak revolution’ created a wealth of source material, but the value of an archive is realised through its use, not through its mere existence. As more ‘democratic’ records of war make their way into historians’ hands, we face new questions about how to use the materials – how to read them, select them, and present them. Perhaps there is rarely dignity in archives: the respectable, legitimised trash cans of the past. But there might be some dignity in using them to restore a lopsided version of history. As a graduate student, Winter’s lecture raised unexpected questions about the ethics of trawling through documents and guessing at the motivations of people who are long-dead.




A video recording of the lecture is available, with permission from Jay Winter.

Sam Pendergast is a Masters candidate in the History Department, Faculty of Arts. Her research focuses on the question of how historians can overcome the limitations of long-archived oral histories in order to bring forth "unheard" narratives. Currently, she's working with a collection of post-WWII Soviet displacement narratives; in 1950s Munich, US scholars created translated transcripts of their non-recorded interviews with Soviet DPs.


Follow Sam on Twitter:  @samprendergast_. 


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13 September 2016

Strategies for success: Group assignments

Group assignments. So infamous they're among the most common of study memes. They can be tricky, but the end result is worth more than one might think. Michelle de Aizpurua and Emma Price are here to unpack successful strategies for managing your group assignment, and how to handle those social loafers...

It is not uncommon to feel a bit negative towards group assignments. Many students say they want to work individually because their experiences in previous group assignments have been less than ideal. You may feel like you are left doing all the work, but the assignment grades don’t reflect this. Trying to organise timing, as well as conflicting ideas among different members, can be a struggle. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Group work can be a very positive experience in your studies; it just takes a few easy steps to manage it effectively.


Why is group work important?

You can’t avoid working in groups, because in workplaces it is a vital skill. Effective group work is an increasingly important skill required by employers. Students who have experience working in groups are better prepared for the collaborative nature of work in their future careers. In job interviews, you can draw on your university experiences to answer questions about working in teams and challenges you have overcome, so it makes sense to develop these skills while studying.


What strategies can you use for successful group work?

In psychology, the tendency to ‘slack off’ when working in a group is a well-known phenomena called ‘social loafing’. Thankfully, however, these clever scientists have also found ways to reduce social loafing tendencies. Rothwell (2000) details the “three C’s of motivation” for effective group work: collaboration, choice and content [1]. In addition to these strategies, we would also add two more areas of great importance; communication and coordination. Let’s look at each of these and how you can utilise them in your group assignments.


Collaboration
Everyone needs to get involved. The best way to achieve this is to set ground rules that dictate each person's role or tasks to complete, as well as the timeline for completion. You should also decide on when and how you will meet and communicate.


Choice
Make sure everyone agrees on these terms. Assigning someone a role without their agreement will simply cause frustration and complaints. If everyone is involved in the planning stage and has their thoughts considered, they are less likely to disengage from the group.


Content
Each person should feel their role is of value to the group. Team members should choose a role in which they are confident they have the necessary skills to excel. Before you can choose tasks, your group will need to analyse the assignment closely to decide what is required and how you will achieve this. Once you have a clear picture on the assignment, you can then determine a fair and equal way of dividing the workload.


Communication
Being polite and respectful is important. Listening to everyone’s thoughts on the assignment and keeping an open mind to suggestions is essential. Be aware of your non-verbal communication (body language) when meeting together and focus on giving each other constructive feedback rather than negative criticism or ‘nit-picking’. At the same time, always consider any constructive feedback or suggestions you receive from your fellow group members and don’t take it personally.


Coordination
Try to organise your meetings from the beginning of the assignment. This way you will all know what you are aiming for as a group with set milestones and tasks to be completed for each meeting. If availability is causing problems, you might want to discuss if online meetings will suit all of your group better, or a combination of online and face-to-face. Always record any decisions made, task allocations and assignment progress in every meeting.


(Dealing with) Conflict
Problems will often happen due to group dynamics or slow progress. If conflict does arise, clearly identify the problem as a group and avoid negative ‘finger-pointing’. Focus your discussion on constructive ideas (rather than on individuals) and consider practical solutions to address the problem. You may need to revise your plans or change your goals, but remember, this is all part of working in a team.


Group work can be challenging, but it is also rewarding. Through careful planning, active participation and good communication, your group work experience can be effective and positive.


Don’t forget the friendly Learning Skills Advisers at the Research and Learning Point drop-ins are available if you have any questions on effective group work, and remember to check for any upcoming workshops.





[1] J. D. Rothwell. (2000). In the Company of Others: An Introduction to Communication. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing.


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12 September 2016

Update: Matheson Library and Forum works

There's so much to look forward to next semester when the library refurbishment is completed and all corners of the Sir Louis Matheson Library are opened. On top of that, the Forum, that area between the library and the Menzies Building, will look beautifully landscaped and will have a decked area, lawn, boardwalks...


This week landscaping works will commence on the Forum. It will complement the new library entrance, and create a contemporary, central and ceremonial space.

We know you love to be in the library, your 'study bubble', but we're pretty sure you'll appreciate the new open courtyard and decked space for informal study and relaxation.

The whole area will have larger walkways, integrated boardwalks and better lighting. Fresh lawn and new native plants will reinvigorate the landscape and establish it as a welcoming outdoor community space.

A new cascading water feature will form the centrepiece of the landscape. This will act as a natural stormwater treatment and harvesting system to filter water into major underground storage tanks for sustainable landscape irrigation.

To allow landscaping works to progress, sections of the Forum will be hoarded off. This may affect access to the Matheson Library from the Campus Centre via Chancellors Walk. Wayfinding and directional signage will be in place throughout each project stage to help guide pedestrians.

Given the central location of the Forum, we are keenly aware of the impacts these landscaping works will have on neighbouring building occupants and the broader campus community. We will endeavour to keep impacts to a minimum, continue to closely monitor noise levels, and will keep you informed of anticipated changes and disruptions.

For more information contact bpd-feedback@monash.edu.

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9 September 2016

A new cafe coming to Hargrave-Andrew Library

By orientation week in semester 1 2017, the Hargrave-Andrew Library on the Clayton campus will have a much-anticipated new retail space on the ground floor, similar to the exciting new Northern Plaza dining options at the Campus Centre.


Architect's drawing

Get excited! Here's what you can look forward to: a destination meeting space and a relaxed sanctuary offering, with music performances in the Kenneth Hunt Garden at selected times. It will be a unique environment that has the opportunity to house unique and quality operators with the concept for it to become the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ on campus. The space will encourage student engagement with seating arrangements to foster group discussions. It will also be a space to cater to off-campus visitors seeking a quality eating experience.

Construction has begun and the after-hours return chute is closed due to the hoardings, with a sign redirecting users to the Law Library.


Extended hours of food retailers on campus

Currently Hargrave-Andrew Library and Caulfield Library are open until midnight during semester. If you're studying late, you'd be pleased to know you can get quality food on these campuses -- check out the retailers' extended hours.

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5 September 2016

How being a student is like being a detective


If you’ve ever been told by your lecturer or tutor that your paper is “too descriptive”, you need to show more analysis, or you need to take a more critical approach, then Librarian Clinton Bell has an unusual solution: imagine you’re a detective…

Let’s say you’re working on a case. When you start out, nobody knows what the correct solution is - you certainly can’t look it up in a textbook! Instead, you need to collect evidence, and then try to establish what might have happened based on the evidence you find and your own reasoning. As the case proceeds, you need to investigate thoroughly and avoid jumping to conclusions. Sometimes evidence can be false or misleading - witnesses might lie, or something that seems suspicious at first might have an innocent explanation. This makes it important to collect evidence from multiple sources and carefully assess how reliable your information is. As well as collecting evidence, you need to put it together to work out what happened. 

You might start by coming up with several possible explanations and then comparing each against the evidence; or you might look at the evidence and try to link all the pieces together to come up with a coherent explanation. Once you think you have a solution, you need to convince the police or the courts. To do this you will need to explain your reasoning and show that the evidence supports your conclusion. You may need to contrast your conclusion with other possibilities, and demonstrate that your explanation is more likely to be true.
  
So what does all this have to do with being a student?
Like the detective’s case, the questions you work on at university don’t always have one correct solution that you can look up in a book. Instead, you’re expected to gather information from various sources and then form your own view based on that information. The emphasis is on trying to establish which answer is best, rather than just accepting what someone else has said or compiling a list of information. You can’t accept all the evidence at face value either. Some sources just aren’t very reliable, but even experts can disagree with one another. Like the detective, you need to carefully evaluate the information you’ve gathered and avoid relying on a single source. As well as gathering information, you need to analyse and interpret it. Exactly what this means depends on the assignment and what field you’re studying, but in general you need to link the information you’ve found together and make judgements. Asking yourself questions is a good way to do this.

Some questions you might ask are:

  • What are the different views on this matter? How do they differ?
  • How strong is the evidence for each view? Are some better supported than others?
  • If there are conflicting opinions or evidence, why is that? 
  • Based on the information you’ve gathered, what actions should we take? What result do you expect from these actions? 
Finally, you need to communicate your findings and explain how you reached them. You need to show the person reading your assignment that you’ve come to a conclusion based on sound reasoning and evidence. This is what your lecturer is asking for when they tell you to be critical or show analysis - they want you to demonstrate that you’ve gone through the process of careful investigation and reasoning I’ve just described.

Good luck with your assignments - hopefully with these tips you’ll find them elementary.



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1 September 2016

Migration to new worlds

Migration to New Worlds is a digital primary source collection that explores the journeys of 19th and early 20th century immigrants from around the world to the United States, Canada and Australasia. ... by Melanie Thorn


Most of the material is from the period 1800 to 1924, the ‘Century of immigration’, and comes from institutions in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, with a small number of items from Museum Victoria and the Maritime Museum of Tasmania included. The material incorporates Colonial Office files, manuscripts, watercolours, rare printed books, ship logs and plans, legal papers, maps and scrapbooks, and objects related to migration. There is also a significant collection of first hand accounts in the form of letters, diaries and oral histories. The database includes an interactive Migration Map which allows you to analyse and visualise migration trends using data from around the world, and also provides some secondary research aids such as the biographies of major immigrant agents and Tasmanian migrant stories. Content can be discovered by browsing thematic areas such as ‘Motives for Emigration’, ‘Departures: Port Conditions and Organisation’ and ‘Journey Conditions’, or browsing or searching the Documents, Galleries, and Oral History sections. Migration to New Worlds is available through Library Search and the Databases A-Z. For other primary source databases, the Primary Sources for Humanities Library Guide is a great place to start!



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