Wild Dog Books, 2022
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Sharing a book called “Our Library” on networks dominated by teacher librarians seems to be like preaching to the converted but…
Although libraries for the public have their roots deep into history – they have been traced back to the Assyrian Empire in Mesopotamia in 700BCE and the Library of Alexandria in Egypt in 300BCE and down through the centuries and civilisations although they were only for the exclusive use of royalty and scholars as a symbol of wealth, position and power- it wasn’t until the 17th century with the development of the printing press and paper that their transformation to what we know now began, although they were still only accessible to those with the income to pay the subscription. And then along came wealthy but philanthropic Andrew Carnegie…
And he would have been delighted to see the 21st century realisation of his vision which is captured in this delightful book for little people who adore their public library and its librarian, Suzy. Every day, Monday to Saturday, she has a special session planned for them including Make-new-friends-Monday, Dinosaur Tuesday, I-can-do-it Wednesday, Wiggle and Jiggle Thursday, Nature Day on Friday and Everyone and Everything Day on Saturday. With Librarian Suzy’s rich array of books and resources, her imagination and her unfrazzled nature she welcomes the children to new adventures every day and parents and pre-schoolers alike not only value what she offers but sees their visit to the library as the highlight of their day. Suzy is that librarian we all saw ourselves being until bureaucracy, curriculum, ignorant principals and paperwork got in the way.
It celebrates the communal nature of the library where there is so much more than books and reading (although they are central) and while it might seem a million miles from the precepts of the founders of the first public library in Australia, the Melbourne Library (now the State Library of Victoria ) in 1854 who believed ” that access to knowledge was critical for the development of a civil and prosperous community, and [they] created the library as ‘the people’s university,’ nevertheless Suzy is laying those critical concepts in the children’s minds of the library being the place to go to find out about what you don’t know, of it being a fun place to learn where there are people who will help you and new pathways stretch into the future at the turning of a cover… Her space is the epitome of the recommendations of the Horton Report commissioned in the 70s by then prime minister Gough Whitlam which was that libraries should be community hubs, one of more than 1600 public library outlets now in this country.
When I did my Master of Information Studies in 2011 I viewed it through the lens of how my expertise and experience of being a teacher librarian could enrich and enhance a Children’s Services Librarian role, but this book offers the opportunity for us to look at that CSL role and envision how that could enrich and enhance the position of the TL. What can we learn from Suzy? At the very least we can teach our littlies about the local public library and what it offers, that there is a facility in their neighbourhood or nearby that offers an even wider range of resources than the school library, that is a great place to discover new reads, do new things and meet new friends, and that it is all free! We could even team up with the local CSL and make sure that students have the application for their very own library card in their hands by the time you have shared this book.