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More than just books: Community applauds Marrickville Library’s international award nomination

Marrickville Library has been shortlisted for the 2021 International Public Library of the Year Award. Photo: Inner West Council


The Inner West community is celebrating Marrickville Library’s nomination for the 2021 International Public Library of the Year Award.

It is the only library in Australia shortlisted after the International Federation of Library Associations narrowed the list down from 32 to just 5. The finalists include competitors from Norway, Belgium, China, and Holland.

Inner West local Jenna McCallum says the library is well-deserving of international acknowledgment.

“It’s pretty amazing [to be nominated]. You don’t often think of these things as being close to home,” she says.

A beloved community space

Jenna is a mother of two and frequents the library with her family. She says it is the perfect way to spend time with her little one.

“The staff there are so nice. We read books every night, so we probably go if not every week, every second week and probably get about 20 books each time.”

“My son goes to daycare four days a week so getting ready for school-age and learning, but his learning and appreciation of books, reading and just literacy at this age has really motivated him to learn to read and have a love of books,” she says.

The library is also a beloved community space. Jenna says it is the ideal venue to meet up with people and recommends it to friends.

“I’ve certainly told a lot of people to check it out or meet there and made friends with other people we’ve met there. You can sit outside with snacks, watch a baby or have a kid playing around in the garden. It’s a fairly safe space.”

The state of the art facility inhabits the site of the heritage-listed old Marrickville Hospital, built in 1899. Recycled materials have been used wherever possible, along with design features that reduce energy consumption.

“The space is laid out very well and there’s all these little reading nooks,” Jenna says.

Since its grand opening in 2019, Marrickville Library has been home to 85,000 books, including the Inner West Council’s formerly archived historic art book collection. The library is located at Patyegarang Place, named after a Gadigal woman who was one of the first people to teach an Aboriginal language to a colonist.

The library has won numerous awards for national architecture, design, and heritage in Australia. Inner West Councillor Pauline Lockie is however most proud of how community-orientated Marrickville Library is.

“I was able to visit before it opened back in 2019, and you could see even then that this was going to be a really incredible space for our community. Not just from an architecture and design point of view, even though its obviously really impressive from those angles, but just the way it’s designed with people in mind.”

“In every way, the library has been designed to make it a really welcoming and inviting space for the community,” Councillor Lockie says.

The winner of the award will be determined by its superior combination of open and functional architecture with creative IT solutions, including digital developments and local culture. Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne says it’s promising to see so many young people utilise the library’s modern facilities.

“One of the really encouraging things is how it’s been embraced by young people. The busiest time has been during September and October which is the HSC,” he says.

“The fact that it’s such a beautiful space to spend time is what’s really bringing it to the public’s attention.”

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