21 April 2012

Super Supreme

My new(ish) job as a researcher with the Aboriginal Interpreter Service does on occasion require me to do research. Most of the time I can do this just fine with a combination of Google, Wikipedia and … making it up and finding a source somewhere who agrees with me. But every now and again I actually have to go and look something up properly like a big boy. This week was one of those weeks.

In my capacity as legal interpreting team researcher, I’ve been granted access to the NT Supreme Court Library. That doesn’t sound very impressive, mainly because it isn’t, but the weird part is that you can’t just wander in there and use it any old time. Your name has to be on a list of approved library users. My name is now on that list. How exciting.

I presented myself at the Supreme Court lobby for an introduction to the library systems. My first challenge was getting past security; Supreme Court lawyers can smell an arts graduate a block and a half away, and won’t hesitate to press the button that releases the hounds. I showed my ID to the security guard, passed my bag through the X-ray scanner and sprayed myself with the specially made salve that would help to prevent me from catching fire once I was inside the library itself.

The security guard waved his swipe card over the lift controls and I was transported into a magical world of academic nirvana, where the walls were made of wood panels and the floor was made of gold. It was hard to believe it was the same building, just three floors up. But here, suspended high above the rabble of the public gallery, even the quiet hum of the air conditioner seemed to whisper “You don’t belong here.”

I prised open the enormous wooden doors and approached the front desk. The record keeper from the Jedi archive, or possibly her sister, greeted me with a stare that could have frozen a bottle of vodka. I introduced myself and apologised for existing, but explained that I needed a tour of the research facilities.

She was kind enough to point out which shelves held dusty old books that hadn’t been touched for centuries, and which shelves held different dusty old books that hadn’t been touched for centuries (Yes, I know the Supreme Court building is only twenty years old. These books were here before we were, I’m sure of it.) Then she introduced me to the SC online catalogue.

SC computers do not have direct access to the internet at large for whatever reason, but have access to what would probably be a very impressive list of research databases if I had any idea what they did. The librarian was very excited to show me the Lexis Nexis database, but unfortunately it wasn’t working that day due to a problem with a login script, so she decided to show me AGIS instead. That wasn’t working either. Instead she showed me how to use the simple SC internal catalogue, which was much more interesting until she pointed out that you can access that externally via the commoners’ intertron. Eventually even that logged me off and asked for more passwords, which I wasn’t going to give anyone the satisfaction of being asked for. Even the computer system seemed convinced that I really wasn’t supposed to be there. Fortunately I had written the details of my article down, so I just went and found the book on the shelves myself. Sometimes (actually, most of the time) that’s easier.

I thanked the lady for her time and got myself the hell out of there. I had passed my initiation, and strode from the lobby with my head held a little higher with the knowledge that I was one of the elite now. I was a library user. Fear me. And while it may not have been particularly useful, my visit to the elite world of exclusive libraries has at least given me something to write about, which is, I suppose, what libraries are for after all.

Make of that what you will.



Garry with 2 Rs
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