The vibrant living reality of the Carmelite Library today is due to many things. The Library offers a vast range of works in spirituality and life experience that meet the needs of the people of Melbourne. New visitors regularly express their amazement that such a rich collection is right here in Middle Park, readily available for borrowing. There is no other place like it in this city, where similar kinds of collections are hidden away and usually cost prohibitive. The Library has a staunch core of regular users - students, researchers and readers – who swear by the excellence and variety of materials on offer.
Location is an advantage for residents of bayside and inner Melbourne, who treat the Carmelite Library as another local library where they can escape, read, take time out, and find books they will never find in their public libraries. It is one of the best kept secrets of the neighbourhood, though the librarians wish it became more generally public knowledge. The Library has well-established connections with the community and with the City of Port Phillip and its council, which has been generous in its grants and its support of our initiatives.
In particular, the Library is part of the City’s Multifaith Network. It promotes interfaith dialogue and makes available the best collection of spiritual writings in all the major faith traditions. It is a contemporary library with its own history, representing the spiritualities of every period and, of course, preeminent in this case the great tradition of Carmelite spirituality. This necessarily means making available all the best and latest expressions of spirituality, too.
The value of the Carmelite Library for people today cannot be gauged by statistics. It brings to its users the necessary sustenance for their life journey, the Word that brings life, the means to make sense of God, the world and themselves. By making such a growing collection openly available, the Carmelites are offering to everyone an invaluable gift the working of the spirit in our lives and sure directions for the future.
As well as the materials, the Library increases each year its program of events. A spiritual reading group meets monthly, Library lectures are well-attended, and sacred writing courses are available. This year will see exhibitions in the Library to coincide with seminars on icons and calligraphy, as well as displays of the book arts. All of this activity reinforces and complements the central ambitions of the Library in making available a place of spiritual life and growth. This is more easily achieved by the Library’s positive collaboration with the Carmelite Centre. Indeed, the Carmelite Hall itself has become a by-word for quality and excellence with these endeavours, a place of welcome.
My main message is that you come to the Library and see for yourself what is on offer. The staff is trained to sound out your interests and provide the works you need on your own spiritual journey. Our policy is hospitality first. Come in and introduce yourself.
This is the original version of an article written for Carmel Contact by Philip Harvey. It appears in slightly edited form in the April 2013 issue, No. 92, p. 1.