A quick squiz at the newly renovated Brunswick Public Library

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After being closed for renovations for about 18 months, the Brunswick branch of Moreland Libraries reopened on the 21st August. This was exciting for me on a few levels, not the least of which being because I’m shocking at getting books returned on time and the temporary location didn’t have an after hours returns chute.

"Read More": if loving a bit of library wordplay is wrong, I don't want to be right

“Read More”: if loving a bit of library wordplay is wrong, I don’t want to be right

Situated within what was once a theatre attached to Town Hall, the gorgeous Art Deco building has clearly received some love and attention as part of the library’s makeover. I’m at a bit of a disadvantage as I didn’t see the library before it closed for renovations, but I’m going to assume that it didn’t formerly contain anything heroically bizarre like a reader’s advisory squid or a lava pit for discarded books.[1]

What follows are some brief observations about the space, illustrated with images that may seem oddly bereft of people, given that the Brunswick branch is a bustling urban library. In reality the place was quite busy, but I took pains to avoid photographing other patrons because hey, that’s weird.

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Some David Sedaris through the returns chute. Fun fact: I snorted loudly on the tram from the effort of trying to suppress laughter while reading this book, which then (predictably) created a vicious cycle

If you’ve seen that show The Librarians (and I won’t ask you if you have, because if you are a librarian you’ll have been asked this question many times already), then you’ll remember the running joke about non-book items being posted through the returns chute. This is absolutely A Thing Which Happens – highlights from my own public library experience include an avocado and a sizable collection of VHS pornography. So I love these fancy returns chutes which require that an item be scanned in order to release the chute’s handle. Strictly speaking I guess this doesn’t prevent miscellaneous ephemera from being shared with library staff, but I imagine it cuts it back a fair bit.

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Detail from Geoff Hogg’s “Phoenix” mural (1992) – inspired by people and events from Brunswick’s local history

Geoff Hogg‘s mural (painted in what I have just now learned is known as the proscenium arch) draws the eye straight through the main space of the library. The mural includes a portrait of painter/print maker/activist Noel Counihan,for whom the gallery in Town Hall is also named. I think it could overwhelm the space had Brunswick Library not made thoughtful choices with respect to the colours on the walls and in their furnishings. Neutrals keep the focus on Hogg’s large and expressive mural, while soft furnishings pick out certain colours to give the space a pleasing visual unity. I notice too that none of the shelving is particularly tall – it works well to preserve the feeling of light and space within the library, and to allow the eye to roam the various areas from almost any vantage point.

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Some of the upper gallery seating remains, creating a theatrical vibe which allows you to pretend you’re browsing a library in a David Lynch film, if you like

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OPAC on the end of shelving: practical for users and a great space-saver for the library. Also, look at that shelving – it has wheels. As someone who has moved a fair number of library shelves around, I feel like I’m seeing sliced bread for the first time

Walking around it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into providing a pleasant browsing experience for borrowers. A central reading area (with a variety of kinds of seats) is surrounded by the collections which are generally high-circulation: e.g. fiction, DVDs, junior fiction, picture books. Collections like non fiction and local history are in a quieter, less trafficked portion of the library, offering a different type browsing environment (one better suited to concentration than discussion).

Computer chair and children's area furniture. I try not to be the sort of lady who finds chairs interesting but I can't fight my nature

Computer chair and children’s area furniture. I try not to be the sort of lady who finds chairs interesting but I can’t fight my nature

Brunswick Library has also managed to create a surprisingly large number of hidden spaces for quiet activities like reading or studying. Most of these would be suitable for a group of 2 – 6 people, offering a more private and inviting environment for study or group work than having one large dedicated area. I particularly liked the study space tucked in the back of non fiction (which was in use while I was visiting, hence no photograph).

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Low, clearly labelled shelves improve the experience of browsing, while seating at the ends of rows encourages borrowers to linger and examine the items they’ve found. The use of Slatwall (or Slatwall-esque product… I am not a Slatwall spotter) means the library can reconfigure the space or add additional display shelving very easily

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I’ve seen this kind of magazine display used at other public libraries as well, and it is *such* a good idea. Better to look at, easier for borrowers to use and much quicker for shelving

Self Check units

I appreciated this stool at the self-check terminals – it means that children will be able to borrow their own books, something which  increases their engagement with the library

I expected the renovation would be quite gorgeous and I wasn’t disappointed. Brunswick Library has managed to achieve the very delicate balancing act of providing a space which is both restful and conducive to reflection, while also being vibrant, engaging and stimulating. It’s been my experience that a lot of hard work goes into making the organisation of a space feel natural and intuitive, so congratulations to the staff in charge of determining the layout.

Hogg’s mural works beautifully as a centrepiece for the space, and I’m impressed by the way in which the library has taken a number of visual cues from it. Conceptually I’m enjoying it too – the mural’s subject matter is Brunswick’s people and history, so what better place to showcase these things than the wonderful civic space of Brunswick’s public library?

[1] I mean, I’m pretty sure I would have heard about a ‘Save the Brunswick Library Squid’ campaign if this was the case  

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6 responses to “A quick squiz at the newly renovated Brunswick Public Library

  1. the scan-to-return chute is interesting

    if it’s implemented properly, by which i mean, if it will only open in response to scanning an item that is currently on loan, then it means any time the returns box contains optional extras, the culprit is (probably) the borrower of one of the items in the box

    if they’re a repeat offender, the library will be able to narrow down their identity over time by looking for patterns in who borrowed/returned the other items

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    • When a borrower’s own books turn up in the chute, the sleuthing you describe is what usually happens in order to figure out who has returned their own book by mistake. How easy it is to do this depends on how busy the returns have been (e.g. if it’s after the library has been closed for a few days, it’s pretty much impossible). I’d expect that the automated returns chute does cut back on the “optional extras” as you call them, although there will always still be the weird things people use as bookmarks…

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  2. Wow, the library looks great! I can’t wait to see it. I did my library prac at Brunwick Library in 1994, twenty years ago. Oh my stars, time flies when you’re a librarian…

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    • Wow! I bet it has changed a bit since then. I can’t imagine how different the world of public libraries is now compared with 20 years ago. Perhaps I could talk to you about it some more and make a post? 🙂

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  3. Coincidentally I just went there yesterday for the first time, no idea it had been renovated recently. It is very nice though, the space is so airy and large, love the Deco look of the place and that huge mural is amazing.

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