The North Fitzroy community have waited 25 years for the opening of the Bargoonga Nganjin North Fitzroy Library, so as you can imagine anticipation was high, as well as expectations. Prior to the opening of the new library, North Fitzroy Library operated out of a shopfront in St Georges Road.
Bargoonga Nganjin means ‘Gather Everybody’ in Woiwurrung, the language of the Wurundjeri people. My initial impressions of the library is that it is a warm, welcoming and inviting space with many gathering points both on the outside of the building along St Georges Road with window seats, within the library in reading rooms, study areas, seminar rooms and the gorgeous roof terrace. The building also has spaces for maternal and child health services, and a large multipurpose community activity space.
The grand opening of the library was on 8 April. Leonee Derr, Library Team Leader Children’s and Youth Services and Branch Team Leader for Bargoonga Nganjin, gave newCardigan members a tour on 21 April, with her insights after two weeks of operations. Following the tour, Leonee shared her thoughts on what it takes to deliver a new library to a community.
Bargoonga Nganjin is a 6 star building, featuring circular motifs in its design – for instance it’s gorgeous round windows, signage, tables, and patterns on walls. Leonee pointed out the 1960s style circulation desk which is also Yarra City Council’s customer service desk. It is a wide low desk, which is not ideal for staff interacting with customers.
Leonee posed the question, ‘How do you set up a space so people feel it belongs to them?’ One example of this is the junior readers which have now been taken from the Children’s Reading Space, which is for toddlers, and moved to Young Adult literature, so that junior readers have a more suitable space to read for their age group. Furniture is also moved by visitors to the library. Within the first two weeks of operation children had made towers from the soft furnishings which caused a bit of a safety risk for adventurous types climbing and jumping off. The furnishings have now been removed from the Children’s Reading Room.
Join Leonee Derr, Library Team Leader Children’s & Youth Services and branch team leader for Bargoonga Nganjin, North Fitzroy Library, for a tour of this beautiful space and a discussion about what it takes to deliver a new library to a community.
The ground floor is the home of the junior collection. Leonne, as well as being Branch Team Leader, is also Team Leader Children’s and Youth Services. She is often asked how to develop programs to engage young people. Her response is that ‘engaging with the space is a type of engagement’. The library features many lovely reading nooks, and places where young people can feel comfortable in the space. Leonee stated, ‘You build relationships that lead to engagement, if you get the physical space right’.
As we meander our way up to level 1, we notice the space is sound proofed well, so well that Leonee mentioned they almost needed to install white noise, but managed to stay within regulation. The adult collection and computer rooms occupy level 1, within the gorgeously designed space again featuring lovely reading nooks and copper plating along the window frames. The new library collection is extremely inviting, all those new books waiting to be read.
The rooftop terrace is a lovely space to visit on a fine day – unfortunately the night of the tour was windy and wet, but I can imagine it will be a lovely space on a sunny day. Power points are available for visitors who would like to write on their laptops out in the sun. Neon artwork and the garden beautifies the space. Solar panels and water catchment on the roof is instrumental in the 6 star rating of the building. A commercial kitchen and conference space is available to the community.
From 12 to 28 April the Talking Difference Portable Studio at the library is available for visitors to ‘get creative with ideas about cultural diversity, difference and racism’. Multimedia is available to ‘watch, create and share’ online.
Leonee has participated in opening three new libraries, previously for the Melbourne Library Services’ Library at the Dock and Kathleen Syme Library. One important observation she shared was the three main stakeholders in making decisions about the new library, i.e. the architects, designers and money holders, often make decisions based on aesthetics over practicalities and functionality. Placemaking, a concept which has emerged over the past decade, is ‘about making a desirable space for the community’, and can be overlooked when considering aesthetics over functionality.
During the planning stage, the local community protested against the concept of the new library development in the Edinburgh Gardens. The green space is important to the local community, and the idea of a library taking a large proportion of that green space was fought against. Interestingly the new library has a prominent green space on the roof terrace, which is responding to the needs of the community.
The contrast between the library in a shopfront on St Georges Road, which was an intimate space, and the new library occupying a larger space, has required staff to work with the community about their interaction and behaviour in the new larger library space. The library is packed from 10am when it opens. Leonee believes in the customer service model, but also empowers her staff to feel safe in the space through the setting of boundaries. ‘The library is a share house’, declared Leonee. Perhaps everyone interacting in the space, staff and patrons, need time to feel right at home and to fall into a rhythm of engagement in their new home.
Friday 21 April
Bargoonga Nganjin, North Fitzroy Library
182 St Georges Rd, North Fitzroy
North Fitzroy Arms
296 Rae St, North Fitzroy
Tram: Route 11, stop 21; Route 96, stop 20.
Train: South Morang Line, Rushall Station.
Bus: 250, 251, (Park Pde) 504 (St Georges Rd)
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