This week is National Library and Information Week in Australia — a week-long celebration of library and information professionals across the country. To celebrate the wonderful work of Australian libraries and librarians, here are a few thoughts on why libraries are so important, from those at the very heart of them. Also this week, a selection of articles from our resources about Australia are available to read online for free.
“I’ve always had a love of libraries and being raised in NYC allowed me access to some of the most well recognized and memorable ones; Ghostbusters anyone? However, the public libraries here in Melbourne are a little different from what I knew. One of my favourite public libraries is the City Library in the CBD. It has the most casual feel; very reflective of the general Australian demeanour. There are portals and nooks to cater to everyone, not to mention a cornucopia of information on hand in a myriad of formats. They’ve developed different methods to attract patrons and appeal to more than your common bibliophile; from video game consoles to a bar/café, from corners to nap in to an upright piano that you can play or just leave to the experts. You just can’t beat being lulled to sleep, whilst listening to a beautiful rendition of Moonlight Sonata, as you curl up with the newest book from your favourite author. Oh bliss.”
—Nami Thompson, Oxford University Press, Australia
“I had just started working in my current role at a public library after many years on the reference desk at a big university library when an elderly lady came to the desk to borrow a handful of books. After I had finished issuing them she looked up and said with a heartfelt sigh ‘I don’t know where I’d be without this library’ and I thought ‘I can’t remember hearing the students saying anything like that before!’”
—Sarah Hopkins, Bayside Library Service, Victoria, Australia
“What I love most about libraries are the surprises. You never know just what you will find. I am always excited to find what treasures have been found in collections from all over the world as well as my own library. It is this that makes libraries what they are – not just a place to find a book or to get an answer – but a place to explore and discover!”
—Karen Stone, State Library of Queensland, Australia
“I’ve loved libraries since I learned to read. My mother let me take books out on my own library card as well as those of my three brothers who had different priorities. This big reading habit has persisted all my life and the library allows me to read huge numbers of books and try out new authors and find ‘mystery’ reads. It’s great fun! The public library is an oasis of calm and just the thing to relieve stress. I wonder how many people realise that it is also a place where you can find free wifi, DVDs, CDs, ebooks, audio books and online resources of all kinds.”
—Marika Whitfield, Oxford University Press, Australia
“I’m fortunate enough to have worked across the Library service in Public, Academic, School and Tafe Libraries. I find the Library to be one of those integral services we all take for granted until it’s not there. Librarians are not usually the most outspoken or visible people in society, but most who I know are committed and hard working professionals who always strive to be available and willing to provide the best possible service to their customers. If you want evidence of the popularity of Libraries, go to any public library’s story time session. I remember when I worked at Moreland Library Service at the Coburg branch, as Community Liaison Librarian. All staff would get rostered during these sessions, and one point of service was being on ‘pram duty’. That’s right, we had to help the public park prams in a confined space. Up to 50 prams was not unusual.
“Academic Libraries are different, but again are highly valued by both staff and students. One of my favourite experiences recently was talking to a group of Grade 5 students, who visited the Library during a day on campus. I took them on a tour and then read a story for Halloween – I loved seeing their enthralled and eager faces – the next bunch of university graduates, assuming any of us can afford higher education in 10 years’ time!”
—June Frost, RMIT University Library, Melbourne, Australia
“Last night after work I went to see a person about buying some antique opera glasses. His house was in Hughesdale which is two suburbs along from where my library service is, about a 20-minute drive. After we concluded our transaction we chatted for a bit and he asked me where I worked after I said I had travelled from Brighton. When I told him I managed the library service he broke into a very broad smile and said he goes there all the time and to one of my other branches and that it was the best library around. Even though there is a library about 1km away he would rather travel to us because we have what he wants. This is why I like public libraries, they make people happy!”
—Karen Siegmann, Bayside Library Service, Victoria, Australia
“What an open ended question is the one that asks why do you love libraries. It nudges memories long buried; pleasure afforded by books borrowed in childhood from the local library; landscapes, towns, animals, and lifestyles different to my own revealed through National Geographic magazines in the school library, idle time spent searching for the oldest books in the stacks of the University Library and long afternoons of silent study.
“In the school libraries I have worked in I learnt the meaning of serendipity in unexpected finds on the shelves and in websites as I planned research activities for classes; I have learnt the pleasure of finding the unfindable, sharing favourite authors and novels with students and staff and I have learnt that change is constant as the library adapts to technologies and the demands of different approaches to teaching and learning.
“I read somewhere that the best thing about libraries is the sense of community they evoke and the opportunities they make available for those who choose to use them. A visit to any of the public libraries in my area would prove the accuracy of this. Libraries are vibrant points of connection where people of all ages and from all backgrounds come together to use resources, communicate or find a safe haven.
“Long may I ponder why I love libraries and long may they exist for others to do likewise.”
—Di Wilson, Caulfield Grammar School, Victoria, Australia
“I love libraries. My local library, a QLD library (who shall remain anonymous) and the State Library are still considered my favourites. I am fortunate in my role as I visit so many libraries around Australia and see they have changed and embarked technology and developed some very creative ways to drive patrons to the library.
“I used to visit the library to do my studies, or quickly borrow a book because I knew it was available. Librarians were always so helpful I knew I could always rely on whatever they told or showed me. My fondest memories were meeting with my friends after school at the local library. We would all sit by the round table with books laid out as far as the table could stretch busily trying to complete our assignment and wait in line for the printer.
“Today my library is different. I can engage and find out all sorts including the wonderful events that help bring my local community together which is so relevant and important to me. I can now access online resources that were previously only available through my University to do my own professional / personal research.
“It’s a different kind of library, my retreat, one I can always rely upon and even though the internet has expanded, one thing remains for me: ‘Librarians are still the original search engine’.”
—Tina Argyros, Oxford University Press, Australia
Celebrate Australian National Library and Information Week with a selection of articles about Australia available to read online for free.