What is Rare Books & Special Collections?

Aged book nestled on cushion

Thank you for completing our online survey and interview.

Aged book nestled on cushion
An item from the Library’s Rare Books & Special Collections

When you first heard about Rare Books & Special Collections (RBSC) at the University of Sydney Library, what did you expect it to be? What do you think it is now?

We are looking into how RBSC is perceived and used (or not used!) so that we can provide a better experience for people trying to learn about and access it.

We have been seeking feedback from University of Sydney academic staff via an online survey with the option of a 30-60 minute interview over Zoom. We want to hear from academics who have used Rare Books & Special Collections as well as those who haven’t. We heard from academics across different faculties, including those who have used Rare Books & Special Collections as well as those who haven’t.

What the survey covered

  • what you think Rare Books & Special Collections is
  • where you first heard about it
  • if/how you are using it

There was also an optional section about the East Asian Collection, as part of this is located alongside Rare Books & Special Collections.

The interview will be a conversation about your perceptions and experiences of Rare Books & Special Collections: things people like or find frustrating, what they think it is or should be, and if it is useful or relevant to them.

Thank you so much to everyone who completed or shared the survey.


Survey closed 22 May 2021

Seeing the Unseen exhibition

Image of pregnant woman from seeing the unseen exhibition

Our new exhibition, Seeing the Unseen: A history of imaging the pregnant uterus, sourced from The University Library’s Rare Books & Special Collections, features significant works that aided the professional development of midwifery and the practice of obstetrics between the 16th and 19th centuries.

Intended to assist in the instruction of practising midwives, the works describe and illustrate the anatomy of the gravid (pregnant) uterus, as well as discussing possible treatments during complicated labour.

The exhibition was curated by Ben Higginbotham, a fourth-year student in the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Sydney.

Seeing the Unseen is on display at the SciTech Library and Fisher Library (Level 3) until 30 July 2021.

Image from: Cesare, Giulio (Casserius) (1452-1519). Opera quae extant, omnia. Ex recensione Ioh: Antionidae Vander Linden. Amsterdam; Apud Iohannem Blaev: 1645.

Welcome to the new Law Library Learning Commons

Law Library Lounge

Recent visitors to the Law Library might have noticed some construction taking place in the last couple of months. All of this was to create a new space just for you: the Herbert Smith Freehills Law Library Learning Commons. We are happy to announce that this area is opening on Tuesday 13 April!

This space is a great place to collaborate and relax. There are:

  • Three group meeting rooms
  • A range of comfortable seats – both modern and vintage-style
  • High tables with in-built power points and USB points to charge your laptop, tablet or phone
  • Wi-fi throughout the space
  • A water bottle refill station – so you can keep refreshed while you study
  • Hot and cold Zip taps
  • Four microwaves, so you can reheat your meals … once we are able to allow hot food in the library again (after COVID restrictions lift)
  • A new waste management system – including separate recycling, general waste and organics waste bins

Law Library Learning Commons – in pictures

Next time you’re on campus, come and check out the new Law Library Learning Commons in person. You’ll find it on the lowest level of the Herbert Smith Freehills Law Library, under the Law Building.

Sydney Uni Anthology 2021 – call for submissions

Sydney University Anthology 2021 poster art

Creative folk – we want to hear from you! We’re looking for prose, poems and artwork by students, staff and alumni to publish in the Sydney University Anthology 2021.

The anthology is a great opportunity for you to get published and contribute to the creative exploration of the important issues of our times. The theme of this year’s anthology is ‘Networks’.

Why networks?

We live in a world increasingly defined by networks. The pandemic has simultaneously exposed not just the vulnerability of our physical and social networks, but also their adaptability and resilience.

Despite the incredible upheaval in our lives, we have been reminded how connected we all are. While being isolated, quarantined and separated, we still found ways to virtually network, connect and bond. We have also seen ourselves connecting on a much larger scale, uniting through movements and protests, and shared feelings of grief and loss.

The idea of networking cuts across many areas and has been explored as a concept in botany, philosophy, computer science and art. Networks are our communities, our communications and our neural networks, and they define our incredibly complex natural environment.

About the anthology

Published annually since 2007, the Sydney University Anthology showcases the creative talents of our students, staff and alumni. This student-led project is an opportunity for Master of Publishing students to apply their editing, design, marketing and project management skills to a real-life publication consisting of works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and art by University of Sydney staff, students and alumni.

Each anthology features a foreword written by a renowned literary figure. In past anthologies, this has included Ceridwen Dovey, Kate Forsyth, PM Newton, Mark Tredinnick and Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.


Sydney University Anthology 2021

What you can submit:
Up to 5000 words of prose, five poems or five artistic pieces that focus on the theme of networks.

Deadline for submissions:
Saturday 31 July 2021

Who can contribute:
Students, staff and alumni of the University of Sydney.

How to submit:
Upload your creative work at www.usydanthology.com/submit


For more information, visit usydanthology.com or our Facebook page: @USYDStudentAnthology.

Protocols for cultural safety in our Library

Gadi tree at the University of Sydney

We are very proud to announce the launch of the Library’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Protocols, a sector-leading piece of work that will support our goal of making the Library a welcoming, inclusive and culturally safe space.

The Protocols were written during 2020 by Nathan Sentance, our Cultural Advisor in Residence, in consultation with key Library and University stakeholders, including the Library’s Wingara Mura Project Group, and the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services).

They are now available for anyone to read on the University’s repository.

The Protocols contain a range of commitments by the Library to promote culturally safe practices across services, spaces and resources. We will work to ensure that all staff, students and community members with whom we interact feel safe, respected and valued.

As a site of knowledge production and custodian of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges, and the knowledges of other First Nations peoples, the Library is mindful of Indigenous Cultural Intellectual Property (ICIP) and encourages ethical use of the First Nations cultural knowledge and culturally appropriate research practices.

There is still a lot of work to be done, beginning with the implementation of the policies and processes outlined in these Protocols through a series of specialised projects over the next couple of years. However, with the finalisation and publication of the Protocols, we have taken a major first step on this journey.

Gadi tree at the University of Sydney
Gadi tree on Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus, the University of Sydney

A poem on visibility

To celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility on 31 March 2021, the Library is proud to share this wonderful poem, Visible; to be seen, by University of Sydney student Samantha Baker.

Visible; to be seen

 For us who once hid ourselves
in the backs of dresser drawers
behind opaque personas
longing eyes

Visibility is a threat
          to be seen, declaration
               a radical refutation
a siren song to those who have felt our pain.

To be seen
It is to be a contradiction.

When told no, we say yes
When told we are not, we say I am!

To exist!
          to sit in the halls,
          to ride the buses,
          to speak and to be heard,
          to just be!

Visible
we silently proclaim –
                    “This is me.
               Am I not enough?
          How could I not be what I am?!”

For when all that once was holy,
has now become profane
what is more divine?
          to be seen as one’s self
          to go by another name
          to look into another’s eyes
          to be seen looking,
different but the same.

For those who had their life blood spilt,
daring just to be
you are not forgotten,
your death not in vain.

Copyright reserved, Samantha Baker 2021

Samantha Baker (she/her) is studying a Graduate Diploma in Psychology at the University of Sydney.