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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Am I reading too much into it?

Images courtesy of the ever-inspiring Maybe Next Week

School holidays are finally over so last week we spent some time ticking a few things off our 'oh, we should do that on the holidays' list. On Saturday we braved the heat and made for the cool confines of the truly amazing State Library of Victoria. It's hard to remember a time when I didn't know and love the Library. When I was small the building was shared by the Museum of Victoria and the Planetarium two of the most wonderful places on earth to a small child fascinated by history and the natural world. When I was a uni student I spent countless hours in the Library's magnificent Reading Room devouring books on everything from Etruscan archaeology to World War II in Melbourne.

I've been waiting until my own children were old enough to experience the 'wow' factor provided by the Library and the Look! The Art of Australian Picture Books Today exhibition gave me just the pretext I needed (here are just some of the 100 or so lovely images in the show). Once the kids had finished admiring the illustrations from their favourite books we strolled across the foyer for a quick browse in the Readings bookshop before indulging in a delicious brunch at Mr Tulk, the Library's very cool cafe.

Now the Reading Room was beckoning... As so often happens in life the Room was not at all as I had remembered it. It was a bright, hot day so the Room was flooded with natural light bouncing off the pristine white walls. It was spectacular in its own way, of course, but for some reason it seemed so much more clinical than I'd remembered it. When I got back home I 'googled' the Library and was reminded that before the recent renovations the dome was actually covered with copper sheets. That explained it all! The Room used to be quite dark with the green reading lights glowing softly throughout the Room. It was always crowded and you always felt a sense of history sitting at those amazing 1850s desks.

Sadly, on that bright, sunny day there were only three people there while in the Information Centre below (with no natural light and lots of computers) the place was jumping. Maybe things are different during the week and, of course, all the uni students are still on holiday but I had that strange melancholy feeling you get when you feel you may well be witnessing the end of an era...


  1. Such a beautiful library! I went to the picture book exhibition last week too, as well as the permanent exhibitions upstairs. And the reading room was packed when I was there, so hopefully not the end of an era!

  2. Oh that's lovely to hear Francesca. It is a special place isn't it? Thanks for letting me use your photos and congrats on the Freshly Pressed shout out.

  3. What an amazing building to study in...a real temple to literature....

    It reminds me of time spent in Manchester in the circular central library. I loved the top floor with glass ceiling panels and lovely wooden desks with little lamps for studying....or was that in Harry Potter......I'm sure my memory is accurate....

    Unfortunately it's closed for refurbishment until 2013 ...I hope the renovation is sensitively executed.

    This post is quite poignant as today local authors like Phillip Pullman have staged a day of protest over threats to close hundreds of libraries by the new coalition government.....It will be a sad day if the government succeeds....

  4. Tha't very sad to hear Deb. I've been following the terrible situation that is facing British museums and historic collections but for some reason I didn't realise that libraries would be affected as well. It's never a good sign when governments start hacking into cultural spending is it. God bless Phillip Pullman!

  5. I loved my visit to the State Library of Victoria a few years back ... I was in Melbourne for a holiday and spent a few hours looking through the rooms and taking LOTS and LOTS of photos ... I was there on a week day and it was PACKED with people ... so hopefully it continues to be just as popular on the right kind of day! :)