Informed Librarian Online -- Featured Library --

Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide, South Australia
by Jennifer Osborn

The Barr Smith Library is the University of Adelaide’s main library, and the largest research library in South Australia. We are as old as the university itself; founded in 1874, early in the state’s life as a European settlement. Our heritage is a proud one: South Australia was the first Australian state to give women the right to vote and in 1881 we became the first university in Australia (only the second in the world), to admit women to academic courses. We were also the first Australian university to establish a Conservatorium of Music.

The Library is named after our generous benefactors, a Scottish pioneer family who arrived in Adelaide in 1855. As far as architecture goes, the jewel in our crown is the beautiful classical Barr Smith Reading Room, built in 1930 to house our growing library collections. It is still a very popular study area for students and is a heritage-listed building.

Along with our four branch libraries, we now provide library services for 25,000 students and over 3,500 members of staff across three campuses. In 2011, we opened our building space to share facilities with the new student hub, and are currently working on a Collection Revitalisation project that will enable the library to increase its off-site storage, broaden its services and raise the range of study spaces available to students. New services include support for academic Virtual Reality projects and a state-of-the-art audiovisual recording studio.
Jennifer Osborn and Ainsley Painter in the BSL studio

I am one of the Research Librarians; we liaise with specific disciplines and faculties to support the university’s learning, teaching and research. Like my colleagues, I work closely with undergraduate and post-graduate students, teaching library information literacy and digital literacy skills; we also participate in the university’s researcher training programme, giving sessions on data management and research metrics. Our teaching sessions usually take place outside the library, as we co-teach with academic staff in seminar rooms and lecture theatres across campus. We have a Research Librarian Learning and Teaching Community of Practice, which helps us to develop our teaching skills and knowledge of pedagogy.


While most of my work involves face-to-face contact with students, I am also a member of the University’s MOOC team, as we develop a massive open online course on Shakespearean studies with AdelaideX (English Literature and Creative Writing is my major portfolio). As well as curating and accessing open sources for this course, I rely on the Special Collections and Rare Book section of the Barr Smith Library, particularly the Theatre Collection.

Like many academic libraries, we are facing challenges and opportunities in the future, and the recently-commissioned Library of the Future report is guiding us through these changes.

Copyright 2017 by Jennifer Osborn.

About the author:
Jennifer Osborn was appointed English & Creative Writing Research Librarian at the University of Adelaide in 2007, with an ensuing expansion of her subject portfolio to other disciplines in the Arts. A graduate of the university, Jennifer has over twenty years experience working in professional positions in academic libraries.
Her email address is