FOBL visits Marrickville and Ashfield Libraries

On June 20th, the Balmain Community Bus took a bus load of FOBL members on an outing to two of the Inner West libraries, accompanied by Kathy Kalaizis (Senior Library Programming and Events Officer) and Lisa Mantle (Library Programming and Events Officer) from Balmain library.

Our first stop was Marrickville Library, built on the old site of the Marrickville hospital. We were greeted by Joanne Shaw, Library Content and Community Manager who gave us a history of the site and told us about the construction of the new library and surrounds. The site is now named after a young Aboriginal woman, Patyegarang, who was the first teacher of Aboriginal languages in the 1780s.

We started outside the library by Ralf Kempken’s Brickyard Night School, an artwork which celebrates Richard Guile who advocated for children who were being removed from his schools in Newtown and Marrickville in the 1800s to work in the brickyards nearby this site. As we went into the library we were struck by the building itself, the open space and the light and, indeed, the library has won a number of architectural awards.

As we toured the library, we saw how contemporary design has been cleverly integrated with the conserved, heritage elements of the original hospital building. There was much use of recycled materials with 42 of the 52 pillars being recycled Cyprus wood and many of the bricks used were also recycled.

The space allows for an impressive collection of 85,000 books. Additionally, there is a collection of historic art books in a dedicated space, which gives much easier access than previously available.

The library has become a hub for the community, not surprisingly given there is a café as well as meeting rooms and a welcoming outside space near the children’s area. There we found a big yellow kangaroo who represents the animals which used to roam the Marrickville plains. 14000 people pass through this space every week, with 3 staff members on the floor at any one time to help them with all matters relating to books and accessing information. There are other staff members working behind the scenes.

Our next stop was Ashfield library – in the heart of Ashfield Shopping Centre. Whilst it is not as impressive in terms of looks, it is highly valued by the people of Ashfield. We were especially impressed by the home library service that they provide for library members who cannot get to the library. We also very taken with the children’s room which is a cheerful, colourful sanctuary for local children.

Particular thanks from FOBL to Kathy Kalaizis for her enthusiasm in organising this outing for us, to Lisa Mantle for coming along and giving us insights into both Marrickville and Ashfield libraries, to Joanne Shaw for sharing her knowledge about Marrickville library as well as history of the area. Thanks to John Boyle for his patience and cheeriness as he drove the community bus for us.


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