If you’re a budding artist, tech-savvy entrepreneur or crafty hobbyist, you need to go to a studio, a start-up incubator or a creative workshop, right? What if we told you you could find all those things at the library?
Yes, according to Public Libraries Victoria Network president Patti Manolis, libraries are becoming more important – and cooler – than ever.
“What we’re seeing is actually a public library renaissance. Around Victoria there have been so many new libraries built in recognition of the fact that they’re really vital contributors to community life,” Patti says.
These days librarians are there not only to help you find books, but to find reliable information – whether it comes from a physical or digital source.
“There’s this false belief really that everything you need is available on the internet,” Patti says. “People talked about the demise of the public library and that the need for these spaces would diminish, but what we’ve found is that people want more space.”
From providing a location for budding entrepreneurs to meet, to teaching kids (and adults for that matter) how to use 3D printers, libraries are giving people the opportunity to learn, create and connect.
As Hermione Granger once said, “when in doubt, go to the library”. Here are some of the free things to get into at some of Victoria’s best libraries – besides, you know, a good book.
Marvel at the architecture at Bargoonga Nganjin, North Fitzroy Library
- 182 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North
Since it opened in April this year, Bargoonga Nganjin (meaning “Gather Everybody” in Woiwurrung, the language of the Wurundjeri people) has become not just a library, but a community hub.
The gleaming perforated-brass cladding is striking and modern, while the recycled brickwork harks back to the heritage of this well-established area.
Inside, there are seminar rooms, a maternal and child health care centre, an exhibition wall and – in true inner-north style – even a rooftop garden.
“Our councils are putting a lot of thought into the design and actually making them iconic and special,” Patti says. “It’s really important that they’re landmark buildings, and that they signify that this is a space of lifelong learning and culture.”
Get crafty at the Makerspace at Kathleen Syme Library
- 251 Faraday Street, Carlton
The 139-year-old building got a revamp in 2015, keeping its heritage facade but reinvigorating the interior space to include modern training rooms, a recording studio and the Makerspace.
The latter lets you try your hand at everything from 3D printing and vinyl cutting to electronics and robotics – just book into the Makerspace on Tuesday afternoons and get creative.
“It’s about creativity and digital resources, access to things like 3D printing and actually making them accessible so that everybody can have a taster and learn how to use them,” Patti says.
Lay down some tracks at The Dock Library
- 107 Victoria Harbour Promenade, Docklands
If you’re a budding musician, voiceover artist or podcast maker, you can book the editing suite and recording studio at The Dock Library. The updated facility includes high-quality gear including microphones for voice and instruments, computers with editing software, speakers and headphones.
Patti says this is a good example of how people are using libraries differently. “People are using them to experiment with new technologies,” she says.
Start a business at The State Library of Victoria
- 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Budding entrepreneurs, get your thinking caps on, because in two years’ time The State Library will allow you to have free access to resources, services and mentors to get your ideas off the ground.
As a part of its Vision 2020 redevelopment, the library will introduce Start Space in 2019 thanks to a $2 million donation from businesswoman Christine Christian.
“There might be a creative person wanting to start their own business and they just need a bit of assistance getting that off the ground,” Patti says.
Discover the past at Geelong Library and Heritage Centre
- 51 Little Malop Street, Geelong
The recently opened library is certainly impressive inside and out. More than just a state-of-the-art community centre, its a treasure trove of records from the past. An interactive digital display allows you to search through archives with ease, while the heritage reading room will let you research in comfort.
Patti says the centre has been extremely popular since its opening. “We’ve found with the new Geelong Library and Heritage Centre we’re now getting three times the visits that we used to get previously, and it’s a real drawcard and icon.”
Meet new friends at your local library
Whether you’re there to borrow a book, take a class, see some art or hear a talk, libraries give you the opportunity to connect with people in your area.
“There’s no beating human connection. Digital resources are fantastic for accessing information and getting in touch with people quickly – but the value of public spaces is that people can get together in person, and that reduces social isolation,” Patti says.
“People would do very well to visit their local library and I think they would be very pleasantly surprised.”
- Related: The Forum is back, and better than ever
- Related: Behind the designs with Eat Drink Design awards nominees
- Related: 10 books to snuggle up with this winter