Sunday, 17 March 2013

Opening Night Speech for the Carmelite Library

Philip Harvey
In sorting through some computer files I stumbled over my Opening Night Speech for the Re-opening of the Carmelite Library, after the renovations to the building done through most of 2006. This speech was given to a large audience of Library well-wishers on Thursday evening the 10th of May 2007.

  When I worked at the theology library at Ormond College there was an older lady on the staff who wanted borrowers banned from the Library because they only interfered with the work of the librarians. Her name was Pamela Carswell and some of you will remember her from the old days when she helped run the Catholic Library Bookshop Library in Elizabeth Street. Early in the morning, as the first people entered the Library, she would say, “Oh look! More of them!” or “Who forgot to lock the door?” She regarded the users as a nuisance, an interruption to the agreeable silence and the steady tap of the keyboard.

 Fortunately hers is a minority opinion. It is certainly not the case at the Carmelite Library, where everyone is welcome. Indeed, hospitality in this place is not only a value but a practice.

Most of us don’t need reminding either, that the Library is not the librarian’s possession. This is the Library of the Carmelite Province and the librarian is entrusted with a duty of care for the collection, the staff, and the users. The librarian is given the serious job of building up what is a very special collection. The needs of the Library are those of the members of the Order and of those who use the Library. Perhaps primary amongst those users are those aware that they are on the spiritual journey and those for whom the collection meets their sometimes specialised research interests.

For me personally though, making this Library run is not just a duty, it’s a pleasure. Take the building, for example. Those of you who remember how the ceiling used to look will appreciate Fr Paul Chandler’s remark that butterscotch and dove-grey were not his favourite colour combination. In the daytime this room is filled with natural light and we now have a lustrous space brought about by the design arrangement and the good use of white walls and large windows. I know that those who use the Library are going to find it likewise – a place of reflection, of learning, of retreat and refreshment.

Although the Library has always been in a sense a public library, when it was at Donvale Monastery there weren’t many who knew of its existence or would use it constantly. Now that the Library is situated in Middle Park, with a street frontage, we suddenly have a theology library that has a real public presence. It can be said that the Library is open to everyone. That said, I would like to identify four groups that the Library caters for primarily.

(1)Carmelites and the Carmelite family. With the best collection of Carmelite writings in Australia and one of the best in the world, this Library is the source for those following the Carmelite way of spiritual growth and mysticism.

(2)Researchers and students. An essential policy is that we are buying for the study needs of those at a tertiary and post-graduate level. Access via the Library website to the catalogue has improved awareness of these rich holdings, and MCDcat, the MCD’s online union list, is also solving search questions.

(3)Parishioners and the local community. It has been commented that Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish now has the largest parish library in the Archdiocese. Whatever you make of that, the Library is certainly now a book service to all of those in Middle Park and nearby neighbourhoods. Churchgoers are especially invited to be part of the new arrangement and to feel comfortable here. It has become a kind of public access that turns the Library into a feature of local life.

(4)Those on the spiritual journey. The word ‘Spirituality’ is in the Library’s name. The collection has been built up with this as its main buying area. So spiritual groups and all individuals who know themselves to be on the journey may seek out this place, knowing they will have questions answered and needs supported. Let it also be known, the Library is aware of all the great spiritual traditions, meaning its represents the writings of the several great Christian traditions, as well as representing those of other faith traditions: Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and so forth. The interfaith dialogue is an essential part of any contemporary learning.

The poet W. H. Auden once put it pithily, “may all my last thinks be thanks.”

I wish to thank the architects, builders and planners who have left this Library much improved on how they found it.

I wish to thank Fr Paul Chandler for his incredible job of forming this Library as we now have it and for his grounding the staff in the true nature of its operations and future.

This evening it is a great pleasure to thank the musicians: Marty Welch and Tim Hennessy on strings, and the choir of St Peter’s Eastern Hill.

The artists of J-Studio in North Fitzroy are long-time friends of the Carmelite Library and it is great to see them and their work tonight.

This evening would not have happened without the work of Anna Welch and our team of volunteers, some of them parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Lastly, I would like to thank Fr Austin Cooper, who has kindly agreed to officially open the renovated and refurbished Library. And I now invite Austin to do just that.

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