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Tag Archives: library

Free Books

The little Free Library in Coburg is along the Upfield bike track between Reynard Street and Moreland Station. It is a very well done; a neat little red school house style with a pitched roof and glass doors

.Little Free Library

The setting is completed with a matching red seat, a sign and a small garden, wedged in between a fence and the bicycle track. Guerrilla street architecture is practical way to help the whole community; public seating may be a useful as free books.

The sign reads: Little Free Library – Borrow, donate or exchange – Have fun – In memory of David J. Cumming – “Uncle Dicky”

I’ve no idea who David J. Cumming was but the little library is fun tribute to his memory.

little free Library

The collective noun for books is a ‘library’ and, although the Little Free Library is not a circulating library that circulates its collection by lending books, nor a research library that holds a collection, it is still a library. It is a street distribution/exchange library, that informally distributes books between people privately without records. Imagine encountering a free library a couple hundred of years ago, or in a totalitarian regime, an anarchic intellectual paradise.

It is an interesting cultural note that books are becoming increasingly difficult to sell new or old. New forms of book swapping are emerging: Book Crossing, Book Mooch and Little Free Libraries. http://www.bookcrossing.com http://bookmooch.com http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_swapping

According to Little Free Library Map there are also ones in Seddon, Kingsville and Hawthorn, and Thornbury. I didn’t find the one that was, according to the map, on Kendall Street in Thornbury near the Merri Creek. I wasn’t surprised, I’m sure that some come and go without being recorded, like many things on the street. http://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/

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The Future Library Service

With the focus on curators, artists are turning themselves into curators, collectors, or a librarian as in Sonja Hornung’s “The Future Library Service” in Vitrine at Platform in June, 2012. The Future Library Service had previously installed amongst the shelves of Melbourne City Library and reviewed by Health, Philosophy, Politics and Other Rants.

The Future Library Service in Vitrine

I met up with the librarian Sonja Hornung on the library’s last day in Vitrine. It was getting its most visitors – 3 including myself cramped in small space of a former second-hand bookshop (and before that urban history runs out –probably a rag trade display given the size).

The Future Library Service has a clearly defined collection of books about the future, or rather given the age, a future that never was. Sonja Hornung had catalogued all of the books and knew them so that she could recommend them to visitors to the library. The library still has an online presence, an essential element to any library, with a complete catalogue of the 100 books about the future.

I asked Sonja Hornung if she would continue with another library theme in her next installation but she said she be doing more “relational aesthetics” or “social practice”.

The French curator Nicholas Bourriaud called it “relational aesthetics”, the art of the institution and their social interactions – basically it is playing shop, museum or library as art. These interactive installations or happenings go back to Claes Oldenburg’s “Store” 1961 or even Marcel Duchamp’s “Monte Carlo Bonds” 1924 with a plan that required 9-5 gambling to earn a clerk’s wage.

Interactive is not an easy thing to achieve – people have to want to interact, there needs to be a reward for interacting and books are a good reward. Trying not to “railroad” the participant by force the direction of the interaction and a collection provides many directions. Many people go to art galleries in part to avoid interactions, to have time to reflect and so interactions are not high on their to do list while they are there, consequently the best of interactive art are not in gallery spaces (the space at Platform falls somewhere in between). The time to facilitate this kind of art is a further complication – the library was open Weds-Fri, 9-6:00, and selected Saturdays – I’d been past earlier and had a look through the glass at this small library but it hadn’t been open.

The  “Free tooth brush with every book borrowed” policy of the library is quirky. Sonja tells me there is a reference to Kaprow in the toothbrushes. I thought that it was about the oral purity of the future or a reference to the Surrealist provocation: “If you read Andre Gide aloud for ten minutes your breath will stink.”


Victoria Street Mall Coburg

This small one-block pedestrian mall on Victoria Street in Coburg is a bustling micro urban environment is centre of Coburg’s shopping precinct. It is very popular, seldom deserted from dawn until dusk. Buskers have been making regular appearances in the mall and it is the location for two award winning sculptures. It makes a change from all the car parks, the major eyesores in Coburg shopping precinct. Waterfield Rd. has large car parks on both sides; the road is nothing but an extended carpark and loading bay.

Victoria St. Mall, Coburg

Victoria St. Mall, Coburg

The mall is almost completely full of tables from the cafes and their customers. Most of the mall is made of cafes (the Half Moon Café does the best falafels) but there is also the public library, the post office and the tobacconist on the corner of Sydney Road. The addition of a large public picnic table in the mall has been very welcomed adding a large public table space. Out the front of the Coburg library the long row of seat are also very popular with a wide range of locals.

Robert Waghorn - Doorstop II

Robert Waghorn – Doorstop II

Robert Waghorn was the winner of the 2007 Moreland Sculpture Show. His winning sculpture, Doorstop II, is on exhibition in the foyer of the Coburg Public Library. The sculpture, Doorstop II is a rather ominous oblong work, with what appears to be a small prison door on a metal plinth. The prison door, with heavy bolts, chalk graffiti marks and a view window is held ajar by a pile of small brightly painted houses, a final optimistic note to the sculpture. The houses holding open the cell door made me think of the nearby conversion of the former Pentridge Prison into Pentridge Village, housing estate. Although the sculpture appears to be made of rusted iron it is painted and oxidized wood. The little houses are painted with bright brushstrokes of colour, contributing to their optimistic note and contrasting to the detail of the prison door. In 2006 Robert Waghorn received two highly commended awards at the Contemporary Art Soc. Annual exhibition for Doorstop and another similar sculpture. Both of these sculptures were earlier versions of the idea for Doorstop II. This demonstrates that there is some consistency in art prize judging in Melbourne and that the Contemporary Art Soc. is still relevant.

Coburg really needs a purpose built Library rather than the remoulded former supermarket currently used as a library. Such a library could accommodate Waghorn’s sculpture better and wouldn’t flood after heavy rain; every night the doors of the Coburg Library are ‘sandbagged’ with bags of old books. (A new drainage system in front of the library has reduced the chances of the library flooding but a purpose built Library is still needed.)

At the corner of Victoria Street and Waterfield Road there is another sculpture, a small bronze house, a simplified but typical of Australian house, on a mild steel plinth. This is Dwelling by Jason Waterhouse, the winner of the 2005 Moreland Sculpture Show. The house has a corridor with a corridor leading straight through it. Unfortunately this corridor is used, as so often these spaces are in public sculpture, as a place to put rubbish (this is known as “wedging”, as the rubbish is wedged in place). It also suffers, like many public sculptures, from pigeon’s droppings.

Jason Waterhouse - Dwelling

Jason Waterhouse – Dwelling

There is obviously a great lack of pedestrian space and other infrastructure in Coburg and as in Waghorn’s Doorstop II, the door to this better life has just been held ajar.


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