The Fremantle City Library outdoor reading room was last week announced as the 2012 winner of the Library Board of Western Australia’s Excellence Award for Public Libraries.
The award, which included a cash prize of $5,000, recognises a particular service, event or program with the judges considering the extent of the project, the audience reached, innovation and collaboration with different groups.
The reading room was an outcome of a community place making workshop focused on Kings Square in October 2011, and was inspired by a similar service in New York that has existed since 1933. As well as creating a comfortable place for people to relax and enjoy reading – breaking down barriers to library use, it also encouraged awareness of Fremantle City Library and its role in reading, literacy and creating an informed community.
“The outdoor reading room introduced the library to the wider community and built trust by having no staff present,” said City of Fremantle community development director, Ms Marisa Spaziani. “In conjunction with the Mad Hatter Markets, monthly film evenings, and special outdoor library events, the reading room improved the sense of safety in Kings Square by creating positive activities for the community.
“Library staff are to be commended in the way they managed the reading room, which actually ended up with more books than it started with, thanks to anonymous public donations.
“Sponsorship from Fremantle Press and the West Australian also enhanced the reading material available,” Ms Spaziani added.
The success of the service has inspired plans to make the outdoor reading room a regular event in future summers, with the prize money from the award already earmarked for the purchase of customised trolleys and furniture to further enhance the outdoor reading room experience.