Impressions of Melbourne…
Still on Perth time so slept in till 8, then trotted up to a nearby 711 for the essential Myki transport card. Can’t use Public Transport in Melbourne without it.
Took a crowded commuter tram up St Kilda road to the city and made the long hike up Bourke St to Kinfolk cafe for breakfast. Kinfolk have volunteer waitstaff and direct all their profits to four development projects, and the food is delicious.
Once fed and coffee’d it was time to see how many libraries I could visit from the list of Fabulous and Famous Libraries in and Around the Melbourne CBD (a suggested pre or post ALIA2014 Conference activity).
(I did make a little detour into the enticing Wunderkammer on my way)
I began with the august surrounds of the Supreme Court Library. No photography allowed so I’ll have to paint a word picture of this domed and galleried space with two stories of bays of law tomes radiating from the centre like intellectual spokes from a wheel. The casual visitor is impressed by the many portraits of Judges and Justices in their robes and wigs (dead(?) white males with one exception), and amongst them in sombre black an portrait of the first librarian. Also sombre, in one of the display cases, is the judge’s black cap. A more frivolous note could be struck on the grand piano – the staff on duty were relative newcomers and couldn’t tell me when and if it was played.
Crime of a more cheerful sort could be found up the road at the Atheneum Library. From it’s origins in 1839 as a Mechanics Institute Library the Atheneum has survived and grown to fill a unique niche as a successful subscription library with a particular strength in Crime Fiction.
I chatted to Tom about the library’s history and took advantage of their hospitality to conference delegates (otherwise it’s members only) with a cup of coffee and some classic crime.
Survived my departure via one of Melbourne’s oldest working lifts
and headed off to City Library.
Here, behind an unprepossessing facade in Flinders Lane I found a buzzing hub of books, people, study rooms, arts projections, and an art gallery in a friendly rambling warren of a repurposed building.
I also found another piano, this time very much in use with musicians welcome to play at almost any time – I wandered to “Misty” and left listening to “Nature Boy”.
More music accompanied me back to meet and lunch with a colleague at Kinfolk – a cellist in a lane way (with the poignant sign “this cello for sale”) and a violinist serenading Collins Street.
Refreshed by lunch I took a tram back up to Swanston St and the rather overwhelming State Library of Victoria. The facade is modestly swathed for renovations and the entrance and information centre areas don’t strike the eye so it was a shock to pass in to the grand Redmond Barry Reading room
I took some time to look at their collection of art depicting Melbourne, children’s book illustrations, and, in the Dome gallery, Mirror of the World which traces the human urge to write and create from manuscripts and incunabula to pulp fiction and artists books.
I left the Les Miserables exhibition for a later visit. Victor Hugo’s words are emblazoned in French and English on the walls of the information centre.
After that rarefied excursion into the breadth and depth of human knowledge I needed something to bring me back to earth so I crossed the road to The Little Library at Melbourne Central – a funky shop front book exchange in a shopping centre.
Unfortunately I had not saved the best till last, as I found when I dropped in to RMIT library – which looked like your standard tertiary library, functional and visually unexciting, so I moved across the road to see the new and trendy Swanston Academic Building with its many “informal learning spaces” which in my tired state looked a little like dark, uncomfortable and depressing alcoves in the many corridors.
Maybe I needed to see it in the morning.
There were several more libraries on the list but I’d come to the end of my time and headed back to my hotel to have a rest and get ready catch the bus to Brighton to sing with Sing Australia – but that’s another story…