I spent time last week in a brilliant library – Double Bay Library in Woollahra, Sydney, and the experience was too good not to share. I had to find somewhere to dial into a board meeting in Hong Kong, and so I was on the hunt for good WiFi in the area – which indeed I found, but with so much more on top. I often say that I think schools should be at the heart of communities – well, so should libraries, and this one most definitely was. I have no idea how it was funded, nor what wasn’t built so that it could be built, nor how it compares to other libraries in the district or city (apart from the NSW State Library, which is fab) … I just want to celebrate what I found, and let others experience a bit of my delight!
Opened in 2016, the library is spread over 3 floors and is marked by its hanging greenery, the multitude of different work spaces (including a stepped area which does dual duty as an auditorium), and what looked to my eagerly browsing eye like excellent children’s and adult fiction sections (I didn’t have time to look at the non-fiction section – this was at the very top of the building in the quiet zone). There was also an indoor slide for children … who would have thought that? The architects’ website describes it better than I ever could – with pictures – so check this out here – bvn website. They must have done something clever with the sound absorption too, because somehow, despite people talking and the fact that there were a lot of people using it, it seemed calm, yet warmly welcoming – a very facilitating place.
Anyway, what I really, really liked about this library was precisely the fact that it was being used! People were returning books, borrowing books, reading books, working on their laptops, researching on the many computers and iPads that were available, playing games in the Tech zone, and – essentially – engaging in lots and lots of learning. What a marvellous experience! Surrounded by and immersed in learning!
Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying ‘All I have learned, I learned from books’. Today’s books are more than paper and ink (although nothing quite replaces the touch and feel of the physical object …) and civilised societies, which is what we surely aspire to be, are learning societies; societies which invest in learning and in libraries are wise.
Wouldn’t it be great if all our decision-makers had the same vision …?
It was so nice to read your piece on our local library in Woollahra. It is indeed a beautiful space. We send students there from time to time for all day leadership workshops with one of the teachers. My favourite public library is in Aarhus Denmark where their new library on the waterfront has a strong emphasis on community centre and ‘citizen services’. Check it out if you’re ever in that part of the world!
Principal – Montessori East, Bondi
I shall! And we really must meet up again when I am next in Sydney!