Connection: Libraries after COVID-19
Our communities are constantly changing, and their needs from our library services are ever evolving — especially after the pandemic. To rebuild the library connection to our communities it is essential to listen to and understand what our communities need and expect from their library.
Connection is critical: People are living longer, there are more single-person households than ever before, and new communities are forming all the time. Social isolation increased during the pandemic and more people are looking for opportunities and places to meet and connect with others to overcome social isolation. Balancing the traditions of our collections, to the future of our programs and engagement within our communities is key.
At Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries we want to create places and spaces for people throughout our communities to connect, belong and actively engage with each other. Participation and belonging is a core outcome we want to see from our programs and spaces. In our communities volunteering decreased significantly during the pandemic and here at our libraries we want to create safe opportunities to participate in community life. We also set out to re-build strong links with local communities especially our First Nations and migrant communities. With this explicit focus the teams have allocated time, funding and focus to these communities. Two case studies of this focus are the partnership with The Right Pen Collective and our participation in the Australian Muslim Writers Festival and
Australian Muslim Writers Festival (AMWF): Lalor Library in partnership with The Right Pen Collective was the satellite venue for the AMWF. The event themed — ‘The children’s table’ — provided the opportunity to showcase Muslim children’s writers such as Nazeem Hussien, Ozge Sevindik Alkan and Huda Hayek. In using our space, we created an opportunity to provide writers, publishers, illustrators and community to feel welcomed and safe to explore and promote literacy and writing for young children. The comments and reflections showcased how valuable libraries are in supporting and promoting writers from our communities.
Comment from one of the authors:
‘It was wonderful to see the children so excited and enjoying themselves but what is more valuable is seeing the Muslim writers of the future and them seeing themselves represented here today in the authors who are sharing their stories with them.’
In June 2022 Diamond Valley Library was successful in obtaining a grant of $5000 through the Nillumbik Community Fund. The grant applied for funds to commission an Aboriginal artist to complete a series of works for the library. The library approached Simone Thomson, a Wurundjeri and Yorta-Yorta Traditional Owner and Artist to complete these works. In her letter of support for the grant Simone wrote:
“It is extremely important to have visual elements of Aboriginal Culture present in a place of knowledge and learning and to be accessible for the wider community. Users of the space will feel a sense of ownership to the art as they gain understanding of the Dreaming stories and their symbols. Aboriginal people who use the library will also feel a sense of belonging and inclusiveness and importantly — cultural safety. The art installations will draw a connection to place and be an interactive tool for the children’s story corner for generations to come. Other sections of the art will keep with the library’s sophisticated palette and enhance the natural tones of the bush surrounds”
The major piece of work ‘Bargoongagat Kyinandoo Wilam — Gather at the Clever Hut’ is now installed.
The artist explains her painting for the community: The traditional language of the Wurundjeri People is Woi-Wurrung. In the Woi-Wurrung language, the word Wurundjeri stands for the manna gum tree ‘wurrun’, and ‘djeri’ — the white grub that lives in the tree; the witchetty grub. The gum leaves that drift across the story pay respects to the Wurundjeri People and represent the sacred scar trees that hold the knowledge of the ancestors.
The Birrarung, the majestic river of mist and shadows is known as the Yarra River. It connects with the dark waters of Diamond Creek whose junction was a meeting place for clans for thousands of years. These waterways are represented by the long winding wave that gently weaves across the land, the place where ancient eel traps once lay. The ‘iuk’ (eel) traps are represented in the earthy dots that symbolise stones across the waters.
The rich dark soil of the surrounding mountains and grasslands line the banks of the waterways, they are symbolised by the flowy black arcs, they are Country’s creation and they dance in the wind.
Bands of connecting circles forms links either side of the river. They are the journey tracks of the Wurundjeri and their ongoing guardianship of the land and waters.
The ’n’ shapes along the grasslands signify a person in the sitting position, it is the bird’s eye view, it represents the local community. Large gathering circles connect along the waterways, they are the meeting places of community and all who visit this place by the creek. It represents all who come to gather at this clever hut, Bargoongagat Kyinandoo Wilam — Diamond Valley Library.