State Library of Victoria

Raquel and I have an affinity for libraries. Back in my university days, I usually hung out at the De La Salle University library. After university, I would frequently drop by the Filipinas Heritage Library in Makati.

I would spend my free time in a library to read up on all my interests: sciences, European medieval and Renaissance history, Philippine history and mythology, theology, medieval architecture, creative writing, arts and computer science. And when I’m not reading up on those, I was drawing, writing or preparing a Dungeons and Dragons game for the next week’s session with my cousins and friends. I’m such a geek, I know. At least, the two libraries I went to were nice hang outs in the Summer as they were both air-conditioned. Anyway, while in Canberra, Raquel and I would frequent the local libraries there. Hey, they were loaning out the latest DVDs, videos and books for free, after all.

Fast-forward to the present. Although we go to two different libraries in Melbourne at a regular basis (the City Library and the St Kilda Library), none of them made me feel like I could spend the whole day there like the State Library of Victoria did. Well, okay, the Melbourne City Library was close but it had a smaller selection of books and it was more cramped.

On a weekday, we could probably spend it in the City Library because it was closer to our office, but on a weekend, the State Library is the clear winner. The City Library is open 8 am – 8 pm Mondays to Thursdays, 8 am – 6 pm Fridays, 10 am – 1 pm (only!) Saturdays and closed on Sundays. Compare that to the State Library that is open 10 am – 9 pm Mondays to Thursdays and 10 am to 6 pm Fridays to Sundays.

I guess what drew me to visit the library today was due to my feeling nostalgic with my grandfather’s recent death. I remembered that he picked me up from the university and I would wait for him in the university library. Then I thought, maybe Raquel and I could hang out in a library again one weekend. Then I remembered the last time we visited the State Library and we thought it was pretty huge with lots of vacant desks at the reading rooms so we decided to check it out again early today. I figured I could finish a page from my webcomic Lovarian Adventures in the reading room while we’re there.

We took the train (we didn’t want to be bothered with trying to find a cheap parking space for the car) and got off the Melbourne Central station (nearest to the State Library). There was a grass lawn in front of the library where people just lie around to relax. In one area by the grass, somebody had set up a loud speaker box, a podium and a blackboard. On the blackboard was written something like a speaker is allowed 30-minutes to express his views to the public there.

It was a pretty much a soapbox public forum type thing without an actual soap box. When I listened in, the speaker was talking about his views on Christianity and that he was an atheist. He was talking about how Christianity as we know it today was derived mainly from the teachings of St Paul and that the other versions of Christianity disappeared. Pretty interesting stuff although I already knew that. But there was this old lady who was obviously offended by the atheist and she was constantly interrupting him, berating him, telling him he was a blasphemer. The other people in the crowd chimed in their two cents worth saying she should allow him to finish and that she would get her 30-minute turn later. I didn’t really wait around for the outcome of their heated argument.

We went in the library and proceeded to what seemed like the main reading room in the ground floor (actually the second floor) but the guard by the reading room entrance stopped me because, apparently, my bag was bigger than the allowed dimensions. That certainly was a downer. I had to put my bag in a locker ($1 for 6 hours for the small locker, $2 for the bigger locker) and carry my drawing materials by hand. We discovered that the lockers were pretty convenient and that we can re-open and re-close it without having to shell out an addition $1 just as long as it is withing the paid six hours. I thought six hours should be more than enough time.

We didn’t immediately go to one of the desks in the main reading room. We looked around first at the surrounding rooms which included the Experimedia room which is just a room with Power Macs and large screen TVs you can play with for free. One of the rooms were for Art-related books while the other was for journals. Raquel told me that there was an exhibit in the fifth floor (The Changing Face of Victoria exhibit) so we decided to check that out first.

In the lift, we pressed button 5 also labeled as the floor with the exhibit. However, we then saw button 6 labeled as the floor to see the “Skylight in the Dome” area. So we pressed button 6 and decided to just step out on the sixth floor. Well, the Dome wasn’t much of a sight, really. It’s just a dome. We took a couple of snaps of it then walked down the stairs to the exhibit.

The exhibit was at least more interesting with its items, drawings and photos of early Melbourne. There was a section devoted to Australia’s famous bushranger and folk hero, Ned Kelly. The most common depiction of Ned Kelly in Oz is with him wearing his distinctive homemade armour. At the exhibit, I saw the real deal and there was even a video describing the armour’s history and how it comes together.

There were some ViewMaster-like viewfinders where you can see old black and white 3D photos of Victoria. Amazing stuff. It made me feel like I was there (if you can forget the fact that the photos weren’t in colour). There was also this interactive computer that allowed you to view a 360-degree view of Melbourne by rolling the trackball controls. Apparently, somebody from the 1800’s drew a 360-degree scene of Melbourne from one of vantage point in the city. This was before there were tall buildings in the city. So scrolling the image sideways makes you feel like you were standing in the same spot the artist was that drew the panoramic drawing. There was also a coloured painting done the same way but maybe a few years later on because there were noticeably more structures. Again, amazing stuff.

I was still enjoying the other items in the exhibit when the guard told us that the area was about to close. It was 5 pm already. We then just headed to the Cowen Art Gallery just outside the Redmond Barry reading room on the third floor (I think). After having looked at the different paintings at the gallery, we decided to take a look at the adjacent Redmond Barry reading room. That room was huge!

We were curious as to what type of books they had on offer there so we walked the room’s perimeter and browsed the books. After circling the room and the mezzanine floor above it, we decided to finally take a seat at one of the desks. I took out my pencils and started to draw. The lighting of the desk was acceptable and here in the library, I didn’t have a lot of distractions unlike in the apartment. I was able to finish a panel of the comic when I felt pain in my neck again. I should’ve adjusted the seat’s height first.

Ah well. The PA system announced that the library was about to close anyway. We picked up my bag from the locker and went home. I can image myself doing that again on another weekend. I could maybe, finally, be able to get some comics or writing done. And on a weekday, I could hang out in the City Library more. I already said I was a geek, didn’t I?

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Published in: on April 17, 2005 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment