Celebrating International Day of People with Disability

Through the International Day of People with Disability, the global community unites to recognise the achievements and challenges faced by individuals with disabilities. This celebration promotes inclusivity and raises awareness about the importance of creating accessible and equitable societies. The day is an opportunity for us all to consider how we can promote equal opportunities and embrace diversity. 

This year the University of Sydney Library has joined the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Initiative, which presents a strong symbol of support and awareness for individuals who may have unseen challenges. Individuals and groups worldwide embrace the initiative, fostering inclusivity by recognising hidden disabilities. This simple yet powerful gesture promotes understanding and encourages a more compassionate and accessible environment for all.

For more information read about Students sharing their experience of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower initiative

Knowledgeable Object Symposium

Last week, Chau Chak Wing Museum and the University of Sydney Library hosted The Knowledgeable Object symposium in partnership with AMaGA NSW. Aimed at connecting object-based learning professionals, attendees were mainly educators working across primary, secondary, or tertiary sectors. Topics focused on teaching and learning with objects in classrooms, museums, and libraries.

Presentations focused on learning objects specific to their collections. These included teaching about place at the Museum of Sydney through sharing traditional Dharawal techniques and materials for making tools, engaging with experiences of war by exploring the personal effects of a WWI veteran at the State Library of NSW, using visual art to teach approaches to communication and empathy to nursing students, and engaging children in hospital with nature using live animals with Georges River Environmental Education Centre.

Leen Rieth, Object Based Learning Coordinator in our Library, discussed how object-based learning can be an opportunity for students to interrogate the values and histories of collections. Object-based learning in the Library has increased undergraduate and community engagement with Rare Books and Special Collections. Keep an eye out for classes open to staff and the general public in 2024.

Transgender Awareness Week 13–19 November, 2023

Transgender Awareness Week is a time to celebrate and recognise the contributions of the transgender community and to raise awareness of the continued issues faced by transgender people everyday. The Library’s LGBTQIA+ Ally group has compiled a reading list which highlights transgender stories, lives and experiences from around the world.

Transgender Awareness Week, observed 13–19 November, is a one-week celebration leading up to the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which memorialises victims of transphobic violence.

Stone Butch Blues: a novel

Author: Leslie Feinberg

Woman or man? This internationally acclaimed novel looks at the world through the eyes of Jess Goldberg, a masculine girl growing up in the “Ozzie and Harriet” McCarthy era and coming out as a young butch lesbian in the pre-Stonewall gay drag bars of a blue-collar town.

Discover this item via our catalogue

Gender Euphoria

Author: Laura Kate Dale

Nineteen trans, non-binary, agender, gender-fluid and intersex writers share their experiences of gender euphoria: an agender dominatrix being called ‘Daddy’, an Arab trans man getting his first tattoos, a trans woman embracing her inner fighter. What they have in common are their feelings of elation, pride, confidence, freedom and ecstasy as a direct result of coming out as non-cisgender, and how coming to terms with their gender has brought unimaginable joy into their lives.

Discover this item via our catalogue

Beyond Gender Binaries

Author: Cindy L. Griffin

Taking readers outside the familiar binary constructions of gender and identity, Cindy L. Griffin addresses—through a feminist intersectional lens—communication, identity, power and privilege, personhood and citizenship, safety in public and private spaces, and hegemony and colonialism.

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Gender Pioneers

Author: Philippa Punchard

This inspiring collection of illustrated portraits celebrates the lives of influential transgender, non-binary and intersex figures throughout history. Showcasing the diversity of gender identities and expressions that have existed in all cultures alongside developments from recent years, the extraordinary stories in this book highlight the achievements and legacies of those who have fought to be themselves, whatever their gender.

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Transgender Resistance: Socialism and the fight for trans liberation

Author: Laura Miles 

Trans rights and trans lives have come under increasingly vicious ideological attack in recent times, from the ‘bathroom wars’ and Donald Trump’s anti-trans edicts in the United States, to attacks on proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act in Britain. Laura Miles’ book brings together key strands in the resistance to these attacks on the streets, in communities, in workplaces and in unions.

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Transgender Warriors: making history from Joan of Arc to RuPaul

Author: Leslie Feinberg

A copiously illustrated survey of historical and contemporary figures who have resisted the gender conventions of their day, from the Welsh peasants who cross-dressed to protest taxes to today’s transsexual parents.

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Redefining realness : my path to womanhood, identity, love & so much more

Author: Janet Mock

In this landmark book, an extraordinary young woman recounts her coming-of-age as a transgender teen. This is a deeply personal and empowering portrait of self-revelation, adversity, and heroism.

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Announcement: Fisher Library roof terrace reopens after over 30 years

From Tuesday 7 November 2023, staff and students can access the roof terrace during opening hours.

We are delighted to announce the reopening of the Fisher Library roof terrace. This once beloved space is now available again for study breaks, socialising and incomparable city views.

Access to the roof terrace

University students and staff will be able to access the roof terrace using their swipe card during opening hours.

The roof terrace is located on level 5 of Fisher Library and has a capacity of 100 people.

“The rooftop was a quiet and sunny spot you could retreat to with friends. I was surprised it had been closed for so long and am delighted the investment has been made to open it to our community again.”

Mark Scott, Vice-Chancellor and President


The roof terrace was part of the original design of the current Fisher Library, which opened in 1963 (the first Fisher Library is now known as MacLaurin Hall). Designed by joint architects  Ken Woolley (NSW Government Architect Office) and Tom O’Mahoney (O’Mahoney, Neville and Morgan), the new Fisher Library was created as a place for students to not only study but to relax and socialise. The roof terrace was one of the most popular places for students to gather and unwind.  

“What would be without Fisher Library? It was the place to gather on the rooftop. I had my first kiss there. Romantic memory. It was the place we studied together… We met to plot and plan everything from cappuccinos to anti-apartheid marches. I did both”.

Susanne, alumna


In early 2022, the student publication Honi Soit led a campaign to re-open the roof terrace. Through the support of the Vice Chancellor, construction work began in late 2022.

Renovations have included essential works such as updated waterproofing, the application of modern safety standards and the installation of large sunshades for year-round comfort.

Ensuring that the roof terrace is accessible has also been a priority. The doors to the roof terrace automatically open and close, the flooring is flat or ramped, and furniture has been installed at a height for easy use with a wheelchair.

The Library has collaborated with IndigiGrow, a 100% Aboriginal owned, run, and staffed, not-for-profit native plant nursery to install the planter boxes on the roof terrace. Twenty species of the local Eastern suburbs banksia family have been planted, including the Clerodendrum floribundum, known as the “lolly bush”, which has not previously been featured in a University garden.

A Gadigal Language name for the roof terrace has been proposed and submitted for consultation, and we look forward to announcing this official name once the process is complete.

“The Indigenous gardens on the Fisher roof terrace will contribute to the health and wellbeing of our community. I hope that birdlife and insects will be attracted to the plantings and revive the past ecosystem.”

Philip Kent, University Librarian

Construction of the roof terrace, c. early 1960s. Photograph from Rare Books and Special Collections, 378.994S M.Li 302.

Fisher Library roof terrace in the 1960s. Students gather to enjoy the sun and a chat. University of Sydney Archives, REF-00009825.

Coming soon: new library website launching January 2024 

The Library website will be changing on 16 January 2024. Learn more about our multi-year project to transform the student and researcher experience of our digital library. 

We’re looking forward to delivering a new and enhanced digital presence for 2024. Some of the benefits you can look forward to include: 

  • An enhanced search box: search the Library catalogue, the Library website, or launch into a database right from our homepage. 
  • A flexible and client-focused structure: easily find and discover resources, services, and support related to your need. You’ll be able to seamlessly connect to Library services through our refreshed self-help content. 
  • A versatile and flexible homepage: learn about upcoming events, highlights from our collections and projects, and discover the Library’s unique and distinctive resources.
  • A new way to browse our unique special collections: explore and discover our digital and physical rare and special collections through a single interface.

The Library’s Digital Presence Project has been guided by extensive user research. Through interviews with staff and students, analytics, usability testing, and other user experience methods, we’ve uncovered a range of ways to build on what is already valued about the current Library website. We’ve also identified great opportunities for improvement. 

What you need to know 

  • The visual design and structure of the Library website has been significantly redeveloped. Content has been organised around what you’re trying to do, rather than what type of client you are.  
  • The Library’s lists of recommended resources have been reorganised and simplified according to the University’s faculty and school structure. For unit coordinators extensively using the current Library subject guides, reach out to the Librarian team for your area to get support. 
  • Searching in the library catalogue (Library Search) remains unchanged. You’ll be able to access our databases directly from the home page, saving several clicks. 
  • Links to the Library website are likely to change. We will set up redirect URLs for the top 100 pages based on usage, but recommend checking any bookmarked links once the new site is live. 

Announcement: Library Acquires First Edition of Vesalius’ 16th Century Anatomical Masterpiece

This book has been digitised and is now available to view on the Library’s Digital Collections.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of our much loved Fisher Library. Since opening its doors in 1963, Fisher has been at the heart of the University of Sydney community and has had a profound impact on education, research, and the pursuit of knowledge.

To celebrate this milestone occasion, the Library has acquired a first edition copy of a rare book that is considered by scholars to be one of the most influential works in the history of western medicine, De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (On the Fabric of the Human Body in seven books) by Andreas Vesalius.

Andreas Vesalius, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Padua, was only 29 years old when he published this monumental work in 1543. At this time, the ancient texts of Aristotle and Galen were still standards in the medical schools of Europe, with physicians reading the texts aloud as barber-surgeons performed the dissections on animals.

By taking the revolutionary steps of performing his own dissections – and on the human body – Vesalius discovered errors in the ancient authors’ teachings. The Metropolitan Museum, New York, notes that the Fabrica, “which drew attention to these flaws, initially threatened the academic medical establishment but ultimately won Vesalius admiration and a post as court physician to Charles V, to whom he dedicated the volume.” It is impossible to overestimate the place this book has in medical history as part of the discarding of dogmas and the establishment of scientific observation and thinking.

Select pages from De humani corporis fabrica libri septem

For these reasons, Vesalius is often referred to as the founder of modern human anatomy, but what is it that makes this book so enduring and important? Associate Professor Catherine Storey explains:

“This was a revolutionary masterpiece of anatomical art and science, which epitomised the spirit of the Renaissance. Vesalius turned the practice of anatomy from a simple repetition of facts, laid down by Galen in antiquity and unchanged for centuries, to an enquiring science. He recognised the power of illustration and used art to best advantage to ensure the reader engaged with the text.”

He employed an exceptional artist, Jan Stefan van Kalkar from the school of Titian, to bring Vesalius’ own anatomical dissections ‘to life’.  These prints were meticulously engraved on woodblocks and expertly printed by Oporinus in Basel. The Metropolitan Museum observes that, “no text on anatomy before the Fabrica had ever been illustrated so completely or so well, and although the plates are didactic in intent, they are also rich in aesthetic merit.” 

Select pages from De humani corporis fabrica libri septem

The iconic series of fourteen ‘muscle men’ in the Fabrica shows the human body in various states of dissection, often depicted in allegorical poses. In many instances, layers of tissue artfully fall away to reveal the muscles and ligaments which lie beneath. The figures pose in front of landscape backgrounds that have been identified as joining up to depict a panorama in the Euganean hills near Venice and Padua, Italy. Storey states:

“The final product became the benchmark for all future anatomical illustration, that few anatomists have challenged. The illustrations are still recognised today for their extraordinary beauty.  This work of genius is a true milestone of medical history.’’

In its original 16th century binding, our copy features extensive annotations throughout from the first owner, German physician Caspar Neefe. Neefe, who later served as personal physician to Duke Albert I of Saxony, acquired the precious volume only a year after its publication and obviously consulted it extensively throughout his career as a medical practitioner, and all woodcut illustrations and decorated initials up to page 165 are in full contemporary hand colour.

Line engraving of Caspar Neefe, the first owner of this edition of De humani corporis fabrica libri septem. Wikimedia Commons

Julie Sommerfeldt, Manager of Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) at the Library summarises:

“This is a unique opportunity to obtain a fine first edition of this seminal work. Vesalius’ magnificent illustrations of the human body have influenced medical and surgical teaching and practice for hundreds of years. This book takes its place as a pivotal item in Rare Books and Special Collections, alongside our annotated first edition copy of Isaac Newton’s Principia, as seminal works in the fields of Medicine and Science.The copy-specific features of this book plus the extensive hand annotations by the physician who first owned it bring enormous potential for original research, and opportunities for using this book in educational and outreach activities are enduring. It is an extraordinary and noteworthy asset to the University’s cultural heritage collections.”

Like many other significant items in our collection, this acquisition was enabled by the generosity of our benefactors. We would like to acknowledge the Margaret Lundie Fund, and the B & A Osborn Book Fund, for making this purchase possible. 

The book has been digitised and will be available to view through the Library’s Digital Collections from Monday 6 November 2023, the Library’s day of festivities celebrating Fisher Library’s anniversary. You can also book a Virtual Reading Room (VRR) session with a Librarian to browse the item in real time over Zoom. Details on how to view the physical item in the RBSC Reading Room are on our website.

Select pages from De humani corporis fabrica libri septem