Bringing the past to life

A state-based public library not just about books or good wifi (even though that matters) – it’s about a variety of learning experiences.

So the State Library of New South Wales (SLNSW) is launching programs to showcase its dazzling array of ‘wares’ available for view from its vault.

It has three approaches to teaching: on-site, online and on tour (its travelling around the state program is called “Far Out”) and these have been going for six years.


Education Officer Prudence Macleod shows the much greater length of Indigenous history by stretching a tape round the room and imagining it extending outside the library all the way to the park over the road.

“We have this policy of equity of access, and we have such a great collection here we just really need to be available to all teachers and students across the state to make that connection,” said Michelle Lee, SLNSW Education Officer.

The three new programs for 2016 are a gifted and talented program ‘Walking into Australia’, a three-hour experience; Research Skills using problem-based learning (for Stages 3 and 4) and ‘In the Frame’ (also for Stages 3 and 4) that interprets images and analyses techniques used in photographs from the library’s collection.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Primary School Waterloo Stage 2 (Years 3 and 4) students were invited to a morning at the library to find out about British colonisation of Australia as part of its ‘Learning at the Library’ program.


Ann Sturgeon shows the children an original convict’s hat

SLNSW Specialist Art Educator Andrea Sturgeon said very few people know what’s in the library, yet everyone owns the library.

“We tell the children we don’t own it, they do,” she said.

“In terms of primary sources, this is it. This is where they are and this is where writers come to do their research to write articles, plays and novels. This is where people come from around the world to look at the original material,” said Ms Sturgeon.

She said with the recent changes in the Primary syllabus in the separation of History and Geography as two subjects (from what was formerly History Society and its Environment, or HSIE) the library could offer resources to support teachers.

“Now that they have to be history teachers, it’s connecting them with the primary sources that are here – this is the story of Australia in this building,” said Ms Sturgeon.

She said in the past teachers had not been aware of the value of the library’s resources that fitted into the curriculum.

“We’re trying to align everything for teachers so that they can see the resource,” said Ms Lee, who added that they’d visited 50% of NSW schools with “special items from the vault”. This included artefacts and important historical letters.

Next year there will be activities online as well as in the library to support Primary school teachers in their Geography lessons and offer them student activities to make the subject real and bring it to life.

“It’s their stories,” said Ms Sturgeon.State Library visit 3

Twenty-eight of Our Lady of Mount Carmel students were invited to take part in a re-enactment of what justice was like in Sydney after it was colonised by the British through role-playing, costumes, stories – and examining authentic historical items.



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