Written by Paul Jewell (Business Librarian, Western Sydney University) @pdjewell
For how to contribute to Library Planet look here:
Marrickville Library main entrance (picture courtesy of Inner West Council Library and History Services)
Acknowledgment of Country
Firstly, we recognise the Library is situated on land which was home to the Gadigal and Wangal Peoples of the Eora Nation. The library site has a fabulous history and visitors are greeted with an acknowledgment of country.
Acknowledgment of country greets library users (picture courtesy of Paul Jewell)
Magic in Marrickville
Marrickville Library is a new community treasure in Sydney’s inner west. It is also my local library. Marrickville Library recently moved location and re-opened in August 2019. I have worked in libraries for over 20 years and to witness this transformation has been a breathtaking pleasure to witness.
Marrickville Library really is an epic library in action. The pictures below are stills from the video of opening day when over 10000 local people visited during the first day. Yes, libraries can be more popular than a Boxing Day sale!
So just why is this Library so magical and why are there so many visitors? I wanted to find this out for myself and this blog is a taste of some of the magic I discovered.
Marrickville Library crowds at opening day (picture courtesy of Inner West Council Library and History Services)
Following consultation with members of the Aboriginal community the site is known as Patyegarang Place. Patyegarang is the name of a strong, intelligent and influential Aboriginal woman associated with language, learning and culture. It also means grey kangaroo in an Aboriginal language which links back to the fact that this area was once known as Kangaroo Grounds due to the large number of kangaroos. It was a popular hunting ground before European settlement.
In collaboration with the Aboriginal community, artist Belinda Smith developed the outdoor installation below which explores the shared knowledge systems – inherent in all great libraries – between First Nation and European people.
Navigating Culture art installation (picture courtesy of Inner West Council Library and History Services)
The Library was designed by architects BVN out of the skeleton of the heritage listed Marrickville Hospital. It has now been transformed into a beautiful and enticing library space for all members of the community.
Marrickville Library is a great example of social infrastructure where well thought out beautiful library buildings provide great spaces for diverse people to interact, learn and spend a shared community vibetogether. The term ‘social infrastructure’ is used in the book ‘Palaces for the People’, by Klinenberg, to refer to libraries, parks, schools and other public facilities that “shape the way people interact.”(see recent articlein The Globe and Mail). At Marrickville Library, everyone is interacting in a fabulous respectful manner and the library oozes a sense of the community as one.
Marrickville Library showcases the seamless interaction of old recycled architecture with the shiny and new. A shared loved space where high school kids chat, parents entertain and explain, twenty somethings meet over coffee and older locals sit and wonder.
Before and after – The first image shows the women’s ward at the hospital circa 1930’s. The image below shows how the ward has now been turned into a popular study space. Photo credit: Inner West Council Library and History Services
The original Marrickville Cottage Hospital opened in 1897 and was built in response to the high number of injuries from the local factories and industrial sites. The hospital operated up until 1991 when it was closed and used by a number of community groups. Following community consultation the local authority formed a partnership with builders, Mirvac, to build the Library as part of the development of the site.
These two pictures above show how the old hospital wards have been transformed into spaces for the book collection (men’s ward level one) and a large communal study room (women’s ward ground level).
Could the stories about ghosts wandering the wards and aisles be true? Some members of the local Greek community talk of some mysterious figures seen at the old hospital. One dedicated nurse who worked after the second world war refused to retire and would often float around the wards changing bed pans until the day she died. Some say she is still wistfully keeping an eye on the place.
Original Marrickville Hospital entrance (picture courtesy of Paul Jewell)
The Library is across three levels. The brick section here shows the edge of old hospital building (picture courtesy of Paul Jewell)
There are many relaxing spaces for library users and the Library entrance is comforted by dappled natural sunlight (picturecourtesy of Inner West Council Library and History Services)
I am an academic Librarian by trade. Marrickville Library is our local library and my family has been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new community hub.
For me and my eight-year-old son; this is now one of our favourite local places to visit. He even brings his mates to do homework (not that he really has that much real homework to do, look at new books and check out the digital football game.
Digital football in the children’s area (picture courtesy of Paul Jewell)
Marrickville Library showcases many architectural wonders and environmentally sustainable design features. The best of these is the abundance of daylight flooding in. Visitors warm to this natural light and I sense this love of the space when I observe the community interactions with the interior and other users.
Staff confirm there is a 25% reduction in energy use compared to other traditional buildings. There has been a fabulous effort put into blending the heritage features with the new building. Old style delights have been retained such as sash windows, floorboards, brickwork, slate roof tiles and exposed stunning ceiling beams. Amazingly 27000 bricks from the old hospital site were cleaned and reused as part of the new community space. Also, many of the gorgeous wooden balustrades on the first floorbalcony were rescued from recently demolished bridges (one dated 1911) and highlight the great sustainable reuse of old timber.
Slate tile roof blends into the new library space (picturecourtesy of Philip Noller and Inner West Council Library and History Services)
I have recently spent some pleasurable moments writing and working in the Library. Users are immersed in a mix of sounds: café machines clatter, babies mumble, the lift voice announces a new level, DVD’s flip and flap with a touch, keyboards tapped and students chatter. The noise is pleasantly part of a background and never really feels distracting.
In the north-eastern corner of the building there is a popular indoor/outdoor café providing drinks and food from the outside counter or from inside the library to go with your read.
Refreshments and reading (picture courtesy of Paul Jewell)
Exhibition spaces are located all around the Library. At the time of writing (December 2019) these are being used for historical photo displays and a local ceramics exhibition.
Exhibition and display cases provide learning experiences throughout the Library (picture courtesy of Paul Jewell)
There is a fabulous area connected to the Library known as the Pavilion where local residents and organisations can hire for events and presentations.
Marrickville Library Pavilion (picture courtesy of Paul Jewell)
One of the most popular areas is the children’s library. Young library visitors have the option to get cosy in a padded shelf with a book or enjoy the outdoor courtyard, accessed through bi-fold doors, to take in some fresh air and down-time.
Special reading spaces for children (picturecourtesy of Paul Jewell)
The courtyard garden is also home to the Kangaroo sculpture by Joanna Rhodes. As children of all backgrounds climb and cuddle the great marsupial, we are reminded of the site history when the local area was known as the Kangaroo Grounds.
Kangaroo sculpture in the outside area attached to the children’s library (picture courtesy of Philip Noller and Inner West Council Library and History Services).
Huge shiny water tanks guard our kangaroo. Precious rainwater is captured and redirected to toilets and watering the plants.
There is a great mix of study spaces to choose from for all learners, workers and day-dreamers. The choices include a fabulous large balcony (Florence Nightingale inspired) to take in some fresh air while you’re reading, studying or having a coffee.
Library balcony showing reused timber struts from old bridge (picture courtesy of Paul Jewell)
Marrickville Library service desk and a warm welcome from staff (picture courtesy of Paul Jewell)
One of my favourite things about the new Library has been the Library staff. I am so amazed at the friendly advice and way they have patiently explained how to work the fab new book return device or how to request a DVD from another library; my son desperately wanted to watch The Lorax after seeing at a school event (it isn’t available on a big name streaming service yet).
Talking to Library staff they have said the response from the local community since the Library opened has been amazing.
Visiting the Library with my son is always a treat (picturecourtesy of Paul Jewell)
Opening Day and Beyond
Our Aboriginal custodians have a special attachment and affinity to places. Seeing happy huge crowds in the new library demonstrates how we as humans value and appreciate a new fondness and experience with place. Marrickville Library and all our libraries are that special place.
Marrickville Library crowds at opening day (picturecourtesy of Inner West Council Library and History Services)
Magic in Marrickville
Over the last few weeks I have spent many hours in and around the fabulous Marrickville Library precinct, not only researching for this blog but also quietly working on my own writing adventure for a children’s book (another story for another time).
Studying in various areas of the Library, I am lucky enough to overhear many conversations celebrating the space. Sitting in the entrance lobby on a sofa I notice a mother and daughter enter with books tucked under their arms. The six-year-old breezily says to her Mum ‘I love coming to the Library’ and her Mum replies ‘yes, it’s pretty special isn’t it’. And many local people would certainly agree with that.
Sydney is experiencing a real renaissance with many new cool libraries such as the awe inspiring Darling Square Library. Marrickville Library is another new treat on the Library Planet trail. It shows us how awesome libraries can and should be.
If you are ever in the neighbourhood, pop in for visit and feel the magic.
Marrickville Library entrance at night (picture courtesy of Paul Jewell)
Written by Paul Jewell (Business Librarian, Western Sydney University) @pdjewell
With thanks: Inner West Council Library and History Service @IWCLibraries
Special thanks: Claire Macready (Library Promotions Specialist, Inner West Council Library and History Service), Shane Teehan (History and Archives, Inner West Council Library and History Service) and Amie Zar (History and Archives, Inner West Council Library and History Service)
Dr Claire Urbach (Academic Literacy Advisor) Western Sydney University