Matters of the art at Fisher

ARTBOX visual display in Fisher Library

If you’re lucky enough to be able to visit Fisher Library in person these days, you might notice a colourful new display in the Level 3 and 4 corridors.

ARTBOX is a student exhibition space that showcases an ongoing rotation of artworks in Fisher Library. It is an initiative created by Verge Gallery and hosted by the University of Sydney Library.

Currently on display in the Level 3 corridor is the exhibit pause.play by student curator Anthia Balis. This exhibit aims to connect the University of Sydney community through the retelling of personal experiences to do with their physical absence from campus, home isolation, re-entering public spaces and uni life.

Balis curates the artworks of the University of Sydney Calligraphy Society in a text-based exhibition which uses conversations with the University of Sydney community as the foundation of the artworks.

The Level 4 corridor features a work by student artist Yu Zhao entitled Lockdown in a room of one’s own.

Through the media of printmaking, photography, new technology and installation, Zhao explores ideas about identity and social interaction under the impact of social media, with an emphasis on COVID-19.

Zhao sees the pandemic creating copious information but lacking the physical dimension of touch and therefore emotional connection. The work is interactive and through a QR code, invites the viewer into the artist’s virtual space.

The exhibitions form part of Verge Gallery’s ongoing investigation of a developing global situation and are the first of a schedule of exhibits for the ARTBOX project within Fisher Library.

Photographs: Sarah Lorien

It’s time we had a [Pod]chat

What’s the best way to maintain academic integrity when submitting assessments? Where can students with a disability go for support throughout their studies? What strategies have people used to look after themselves and connect with peers during the massive changes of the last six months?

If these issues are on your mind, PeerPod is for you. It’s the University Library-hosted podcast run by students, for students.

Hosted by the Library’s Peer Learning Advisors (PLAs), this bi-monthly podcast is all about increasing a deeper sense of connectivity and belonging at Uni. As currently enrolled postgrads, PLAs have a wealth of knowledge and study experience.

PLAs are joined by expert guests to share their advice and experiences. Each episode shares stories and advice, and answers many a frequent question about student life at the University of Sydney.

Previous PeerPod podchats have covered such topics as bouncing back from academic failure; maintaining mental health and good study habits during self-isolation; and strategies for transitioning from undergrad to postgrad study. Future episodes will explore allyship LGBTQIA+ inclusivity, and what we can all do to green our campus and our communities in the face of serious ecological challenges.

PeerPod is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Soundcloud. You can also learn more about previous episodes on our website.


Latest episode

PeerPod #17

Mental wellbeing: smashing the stigma and working together to develop a welcoming mental health environment here at USyd.

PeerPod Number 17: Mental Wellbeing

A few of our previous episodes
PeerPod Number 16: Keeping it fair - Academic integrity
PeerPod Number 13: Self-iso = Self-discovery
PeerPod Number 11: Healthy eating on a budget
PeerPod Number 10: You can ask for help

400-year-old book our latest literary treasure

The Workes of Benjamin Jonson

The Library recently received an extraordinary donation: a first edition of The Workes of Benjamin Jonson from 1616, along with a 16-volume set of the Plays and Poems of William Shakspeare (sic) curated by Edmond Malone and originally published in 1790, and a rare complete set of Malone Society publications.

The donors, Charles Littrell, former Executive General Manager of APRA, and his partner, haematologist Dr Kimberly Cartwright, made this very generous gift to commemorate the tenure and achievements of the University’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence AC, prior to his departure in December 2020.

University Librarian Philip Kent explains how he was “delighted to have met Charles and Kimberly through this special gift. The Jonson and Shakespeare works have enormous value to the University. As a collector myself, I was impressed by the way that Charles scoured the world to find the volumes to complete the set of Malone Society publications. Their gift will be enhanced as future volumes are added each year.”

The gift isn’t just a generous addition to the Library; it is a priceless resource for researchers and students across the University.

The 1616 first edition of The Workes of Benjamin Jonson (his ‘Folio’) is the original theatre book in the English language. As such, it is “one of the most important books published in England,” according to Dr Huw Griffiths, Chair of the Department of English at the University of Sydney.

“It marks the first time that a living author made a concerted effort to present his writing as a distinct and coherent body of work.”

Benjamin Jonson (1572-1637) was an English poet and playwright, best known for popularising the dramatic comedy genre, ‘comedy of humours’. As a dramatist, he is generally regarded as second only to Shakespeare.

Comprised of three kinds of literary texts: plays; poems and epigraphs; and the texts of his masques (court entertainments), Jonson’s Folio served as a model for Shakespeare’s first collected works, his ‘First Folio’ (1623).

“By placing the plays and masques in this magnificent book, Jonson is making a bold statement,” says Dr Griffiths. “Plays and masques are ephemeral, time-dependant events, and, of course, they had been printed in less prestigious print texts before.” Jonson’s innovation was to “take them out of their short-term contexts, insisting on their value across time.”

Professor of Early Modern Literature, Liam Semler, concurs with this view. “Various people at the time expressed surprise and derision at the fact that a mere ‘play’ could be declared a ‘work’, and so this book helped contribute to the emerging idea of modern plays as worthy of some elevated status.”

Dr Griffiths says the Folio will be used for research as well as for teaching students about early books and how literary value is established. “The book wonderfully situates Jonson in complex contexts: the courtly writer, familiar with putting on royal entertainments, but also the working writer, engaged in the life of the printing house. He is really testing out (for all of us) how literary fame might be sustained in print.”

Though Professor Semler and Dr Griffiths have only had a short time to examine our new copy of the Folio, it is already looking very promising. The presence of “stop-press” corrections in the copy, where either the printer or the author changed text in between individual printings, indicates that our copy was produced later in the print run.

As the Library already owns a partial copy of the 1616 Folio, the value for our researchers is enhanced by the ability to make comparisons. Differences in the text will teach us how books like this were put together, and the involvement of printing houses (and potentially authors) in correcting text during a print run.

The Jonson Folio, Shakespeare volumes and other books from the donation can be viewed in our Rare Books & Special Collections reading room by appointment.

You can also listen to an interview about the Folio with Professor Liam Semler on ABC Drive with Richard Glover (commencing around 42 minutes into the program).

Photographs: Sarah Lorien and Kim Wilson

Celebrating LGBT History Month with Peter de Waal AM


In celebration of LGBT History Month, the University of Sydney Library and the Pride Network are proud to be co-hosting a presentation by a trailblazing activist of the Sydney LGBTQIA+ community, Peter de Waal AM.

The presentation will be held online, via Zoom, on Thursday 29 October from 2 to 3pm.


Register for the talk here.

Peter de Waal (left) with his partner
Peter Bonsall-Boone

Peter will speak about what it was like being a homosexual couple in the 1960s and 1970s and the challenge of being ‘out’ in that era. After sharing this personal story, Peter will participate in a 30-minute Q and A session about his work as an activist.

Don’t miss this opportunity to meet a true pioneer of LGBTQIA+ rights as we commemorate the fighting spirit of all those, like Peter, who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of so many.

About the speaker

Peter de Waal AM is a long-term LGBTQIA+ rights activist and author. Among his many achievements, he was a foundation member of CAMP Inc (Campaign Against Moral Persecution) in 1970, the first national homosexual rights organisation in Australia and publisher of the monthly magazine CAMP INK, from 1970 to 1977.

Peter was involved in the first homosexual rights demonstration in Sydney in 1971 in support of law reform. In 1972, he appeared on the ABC program Chequerboard, together with his partner Peter Bonsall-Boone. In 1973, they established the first Australian volunteer homosexual telephone help line, Phone-A-Friend, now called Twenty10 – Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service.

A few years later, Peter’s initiation of the first-ever Tribunal on Homosexuals and Discrimination resulted in the NSW State Government developing anti-discrimination legislation. Peter became a member of the Sydney-based Gay Task Force in the late 1970s, and participated in the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 1978.

During the 1980s, Peter was a health promotion coordinator at the Bankstown Community Health Centre, and a volunteer immigration advisor with the NSW Gay and Lesbian Immigration Task Force from 1989 to 1998.


How should we manage our collections? Have your say

Students in library looking at a computer

The Library is in the process of redeveloping our collections framework. This is a set of guidelines to inform a wide range of decisions about how we manage our collections. It will cover questions such as how we:

  • increase the diversity of resources in our collections
  • represent global ideas and new ways of thinking
  • choose what types of materials to purchase (for example, journals, books, films, music, theses, rare books, subject databases)
  • choose what formats to invest in (print or electronic)
  • assess and decide what resources to retain in our collections
  • enable our clients to access our resources
  • order textbooks for a course
  • accept donations
  • collect non-traditional research outputs
  • respond to suggestions for our collections.

The framework will also guide the way we communicate our decision-making criteria and other information about our collections to the public.

We are seeking feedback from everyone who uses the Library – staff, students, alumni and community borrowers – to ensure the new collections framework is clear, accessible and adapts to your research and learning needs.

Your participation in this survey will directly influence the framework. We want it to reflect the real needs and preferences of our clients, not just now but well into the future. How can we better serve you in the next few years? What about those who come after you? What should the University of Sydney Library look like in 2030 or 2040?

Please share your ideas by completing our online survey. It should only take about 5-10 minutes. Your feedback will make a real difference to the future of the Library and everyone who uses it.

Strategic Publishing Toolkit

old style typewriter

We’re excited to announce that the Strategic Publishing Toolkit is now live on the Library website. The Toolkit has been designed to support HDR students and newer researchers to make informed decisions about their publishing strategy.

It contains information, tips, resources, and details of where to find help and support in one easy-to-use resource. You may also notice some slight changes to the website’s research menu to reflect the content changes. If you have linked to the old Research Impact LibGuide in your own guides, please update your links.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to provide feedback and help us develop this resource.