As the AFL football finals are about to start (and the intense activity around football grows until after the Grand Final) I was pleased to see that we can be acknowledged for more than sport! Don’t get me wrong, I love my football team but I was delighted to read, in an Age article a few weeks ago, that UNESCO has awarded Melbourne a ‘City of Literature’ designation. I didn’t know that we had put in a bid for such a title but I am glad that we did.
I think that it is great news for Melbourne book lovers. I was also surprised to learn that Edinburgh, Scotland, was the only other city to be awarded the title so far. Edinburgh has developed a whole range of good things to support readers, books and writing to celebrate their love of the world of all things bookish.
Our State Government that has committed itself to the centrepiece the establishment of the Centre for Books and Ideas at the State Library of Victoria. We are very fortunate to have this reference and research library, collecting and preserving Victoria’s documentary history. Firstly,it is a wonderful building with an amazing collection. Secondly, the library offers all of us an array of opportunities, for research, to literary events, with travelling exhibitions, literature site for young people to review and engage in many things literary and the list goes on.
The exhibitions that I visited this year, the wonderful Ned Kelly exhibition and the Medieval manuscripts displays, were marvellous. The opportunity to see the exhibitions was taken up by many, going by the length of the queues I saw waiting to view them. The library also offers many other opportunities for those who visit but they are also digitising a lot of the collection. This makes access available to many people who cannot visit in person. There are many services it provides but te one I have been pushing lately is the Ergo site.
This year’s launch of Ergo, a website designed to build secondary student’s skills in research, critical thinking and writing, offered a wonderful resource to all of us in schools. The SLAV publication, Making a difference, was used as the basis for its development. Ergo: research skills and resources online has a variety of features. These include: guides to research and writing; curriculum-focused primary and secondary source material, based on the Library’s collections; section themes including Early Melbourne, Crime and Landscape; drop-down notes that help students to assess resources by highlighting particular issues; interviews with prominent authors, historians and artists. I have had a few students lately working through the site, just looking at their State’s history. They were totally engrossed in learning about aspects of life in Victoria that hitherto they had not known. They also talked about enjoying learning form the site. A wonderful recommendation.
In Melbourne we also have a great many interesting bookshops and, when the football is over, I think that I must spend more time wandering through them.