Why (and How) to Join the National and State Libraries
Most chambers in Brisbane are 10 minute’s walk to the State Library of Queensland (SLQ).
Up North, you can use the electronic services, and order physical books delivered via your municipal library.
If you are a professional or student in Queensland, you should register, get your card number, and start using it. (See end for links.)
And join the National Library of Australia (NLA). The electronic services are different. The services are different. For example, NLA will scan you a chapter cheaply. You need both memberships.
I’m also an interstate member of SA and Victorian State libraries. (See “Bolt-hole”, below.)
Borrow stuff the Council library does not hold
I’m currently reading a book that our (large & excellent) municipal library does not own. I’ve borrowed from the SLQ.
Yes, you can borrow from SLQ.
Not everything. And note that some State libraries, eg SLSA, don’t lend. So ask.
But I’m on a Hugh Trevor-Roper binge at the moment.
Most of this historian’s more academic stuff is for loan at SLQ. Most is of no interest to the municipal library (with its different mandate).
Really surprising databases
During a recent trial, I needed a scientific journal paper about avian health.
It was available through an NLA subscription service, free.
Note it wasn’t a subscription service SLQ offered.
SLQ was actually my first port of call, as it has excellent access to these academic databases.
NLA was the only ready source for that journal.
You need membership of both SLQ & NLA to provide this kind of cover.
Years ago, an expert witness disappeared. We had heard he had died, but it had evidently taken a toll on the next of kin who weren’t responding. I needed to check for a death/funeral notice in the (late, lamented) Bundaberg News-Mail.
I rang SLQ. The September bundle of papers was retrieved from archive to SLQ within the hour.
We ran our application to rely on a new expert witness based principally on that funeral notice.
More recently, when the Pandemic was but new, I got instructions from out-of-state to advise about privileges & immunities of an obscure international entity.
This is important but finicky stuff. That’s why I fight to keep this stuff at the Queensland Bar.
But how to service such instructions, during a Pandemic?
The Supreme Court of Queensland Library (SCLQLD) and the NLA remained open to remote requests for most of the Pandemic. Their service was truly exceptional. These 2 great institutions just powered on, in ways that made colleagues in New Zealand and England marvel.
Most of the material I needed was available via SCLQLD requests.
But this was a truly obscure corner of public international law, given the kind of entity involved.
I wanted background to the history & treaties. A lot of public international law is grounded in custom, sometimes centuries old. You need to know your history.
I asked NLA for a chapter of a book they held.
The scanned chapter turned up the next day, for $18.
(Service standard at NLA is longer. But they had no walk-ins, since the front door was locked at that point of the Pandemic!)
Accuracy and authority of sources
Why rely on web searches for basic general knowledge?
Barristers practise across a lot of industries and topics.
For important, basic knowledge about an industry or theme – I have my SLQ access to Britannica bookmarked.
I am interstate enough for this topic to matter.
Between meetings, the State libraries are quiet bolt-holes, for silent work with good wifi.
A library membership greases the wheel.
I’m a member of SLV and SLSA. (In Sydney, I use my NSWBA interstate membership, and retreat to the excellent NSWBA library in the sub-basement in Phillip Street. But come fully charged, and do ask for help with the wifi.)
Which to join? How?
Obviously, join SLQ and NLA. If you live interstate, join your State’s library.
But first, dust off your municipal library card, or join now. The municipal libraries are fundamental, since they are your gateway, up North, to getting a physical loan from SLQ. The collections are good, just different, and you can indulge your recreational reading pleasurably.
Now, the point of my pitch —
What if you are reading this interstate? State library digital rights seem to be linked to State of residence. If you’re reading this interstate, join your own State library for digital rights.
As Molly Meldrum would say – “Do yourself a favour.” Join your State and National libraries today.