Today’s libraries are about so much more than just the books, in the latest in our One Small Step guides to better living in South Australia, we take a look at what makes just a few of our local libraries special.
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City of Burnside Library
Staff at Burnside Library are certainly kept busy. It’s the second busiest branch in the state, servicing about 300,000 clients last year. Manager, Libraries, Learning and Volunteers at the City of Burnside, Lindy Burford says while they get lots of people accessing the collections, the past decade has brought with it an increasing trend to visit for other reasons. The library boasts a wide range of programs and events, including one particularly popular regular — Armchair Travel. Each event “visits” a new place around the world.
One of the library’s more delicious events was BBQ and Beers, with tips on techniques for the perfect barbecue and beer tastings. The library also hosts Longest Table dinners, with various themes and cuisines. Story time isn’t just for children, Grown Up Story Time is held each Thursday morning and book discussion groups are popular, with the library hosting more of them than any other library in the state. For the children, there’s Baby Chat and Story Time, Baby Brunch and an impressive toy library. Burnside has hosted author events, with visits from Jimmy Barnes, Alannah Hill, Nick Riewoldt, Richard Fiedler, Jane Caro and Monica McInerney.
While it keeps her busy, Lindy says the events are vital. “It is so important for public libraries to be more than book repositories.”
Lindy says the happiness she sees from customers makes it all worthwhile. “For some, the monthly visit by our home service team is the highlight of their day. By far, the most joy we receive though is seeing the smiles on the faces of people leaving the library after they have visited. My favourite comment ever from a customer is ‘We would be lost without you, the library feels like home’.”
City of Tea Tree Gully Library
More than 1000 people walk through the doors of the City of Tea Tree Gully library each day. Once inside, they find plenty to do, including relaxing in the community lounge room, with reading nooks, comfy chairs, and views of adjoining Civic Park. The library’s foyer is a gallery showcasing local artwork, and a cafe in the same building is a popular spot for a coffee before a browse.
Children get a whole library space to themselves, with an exciting calendar of events held in the area. There’s barely a chair to spare during song time, and Lego Club each Saturday is a great indoor activity, especially when it’s cold and gloomy outside. The Paws n Pages program provides an opportunity for children who need a little extra reading support to sit with a trained therapy dog, who loves listening to stories.
Library events officer Symon Williamson says they are all about breaking the stereotypes and challenging anyone who think libraries are the same as they were 30 years ago. “They believe libraries should be quiet places with dusty old books, and no food or drinks. These stereotypes are what we have to break to maintain relevancy in a changing society.”
Mitcham Memorial Library
Having re-opened last year following a sleek and stylish facelift, the Mitcham Memorial Library also doubled in size. The new library embraces the natural park surrounds and Brownhill Creek. The library welcomes visitors to find their spot on lounge and seating areas, in different configurations for individuals or groups of any size.
The community were happy with the amount of books already at the library, so rather than increasing the number of shelves, the emphasis was put on the spaces and activities. There are five meeting rooms for the public, including after hours, with access to a kitchenette and amenities.
Art is in focus in the gallery space, for amateur and professional artists. The parenting room is for story time, Wriggle and Read, and a school holiday program. The youth zone — the most popular area of the building — was created in consultation with local students.
Just outside the building, visitors can literally stop and smell the roses at the sensory garden, tended to by volunteers.
City of Victor Harbor Library
The City of Victor Harbor Library truly is a community hub, with programs such as Tech Savvy Seniors helping to improve the community’s digital literacy skills. Manager of library and customer service, Vicki Hutchinson says she has seen first hand how the introduction of programs like this, and Tech Help have aided the community. “Something as simple as learning how to make a call on a smartphone or video chat with family can make a significant difference in people’s lives and help them fully participate in and navigate a digital world,” she says.
The library also has a focus on programs that assist in developing creativity, increasing social interaction and providing information learning opportunities. The Let’s Meet at the Library program offers sessions to anyone who would like to try Scrabble, chess or develop French conversational skills. The library is taken over by a dedicated knitting group each Wednesday morning, who knit, chat and watch the resident ducks in the nearby wetland.
The Friends of the Library group help to deliver programs, such as basket weaving, digital photography, tai chi, writing workshops and author events. Outside groups use the building to meet, providing social connections for isolated older people. “It’s lovely to wander through when this group meets to see them enjoying each other’s company while creating beautiful art pieces.”
The children’s area celebrates the 1802 encounter of sea captains Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin in local waters. There’s a nautical theme, complete with a ship, and plenty of tools for literacy, discovery, creative play and construction.
The library partners with others in Alexandrina Council and District Council of Yankalilla each year to run the Mayor’s Short Story Challenge, promoting literacy and creativity among students.
St Peters Library
The digital age is upon us and St Peters Library has embraced it, offering iPads, Xboxes and PlayStations within the library, as well as 3DS consoles for families to borrow and take home. Visitors can learn how to use devices, about cyber safety or how 3D printing works through the digital literacy programs.
The library hosts a reading challenge, asking people to read as many books as possible across 30 categories, including a classic, a book that challenges your opinion and a book with an animal on the cover.
For the kids, there’s the Lego club, Bouncing Babies for the smallest of library-goers and a Little Bang Discovery Club for three to five-year-olds. The wider City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters library network hosts film screenings, an astronomical program and author evenings.
The St Peters Library was originally founded in 1893 as a library for the St Peters Institute, and only opened to the public almost 90 years later.
Port Lincoln Library
The Port Lincoln Library is a hub for the community to get together and enjoy a range of activities, even if it’s just knitting, listening to a story time session or having a chat. On any given day, you might find people playing chess, doing their little part of a jigsaw or accessing the free digital resources.
The library participated in the inaugural SALT Festival, where community members were invited to add leaves to a tree. On each leaf they’ve written a favourite story, author or memorable quote. To this day, the tree continues to grow.
State Library of South AustraliaState Library of South Australia
Although the State Library is not a lending institution, the reference library hosts many exhibitions, events and programs, in addition to preserving the published and archival heritage of South Australia. The library’s collections, treasures and exhibitions are put on show on the Story Wall, a permanent architectural feature. Regular events shine a light on South Australia’s history through objects and photographs. In the library’s collection are about 250,000 digitised photos relating to the state. While there is plenty to see at the North Terrace building, the digitised records are available online in the comfort of your own home. The State Library is also the venue for countless South Australian wedding receptions and other events.
The activities that libraries have on offer these days are endless, but if all you’re after is something to read, street libraries are popping up all over the city and suburbs. It’s the perfect solution if browsing endless aisles of books is a bit overwhelming for you. The little wooden book huts are erected by people in the community, with a small selection of books left inside. Everyone is encouraged to take a book and leave a book as they please — your next read is down to the luck of the draw.
In South Australia, there are currently 71 street libraries, including some in Penola, Port Augusta, Quorn and Crystal Brook. If you want to add one to your neighbourhood, there are detail plans and tips online to build a new library. To find your nearest library, search on the website.
This story first appeared in the May 2019 issue of SALIFE magazine.