Book Well

Book Well is “evocative”.

That is the conclusion that I have come to after being immersed in the Get Into Reading training sessions held at the State Library of Victoria last week.

There are so many other descriptions I could offer telling you what I think it is and what it is not. But even then you would be no closer to knowing the importance of this work and how it affects people.

It is a unique process that has profound impact on the well being of the individual. Research continues to try to identify how this reading aloud process affects the human brain.

It is surprising to feel the effects of listening to someone read great literature aloud. It sounds simple but it is not.

Aside from learning about the process, the other benefit of this week was the bonding of the group – real friendships blossomed immediately. There was a generosity of spirit that cocooned the whole experience. The experienced trainers from the UK set the tone for this I think.

We also shared a group task that took many of us well out of our comfort zones. We were to give a performance of Romeo and Juliet. Every one of us was to contribute in some way. And we were to use the text from the play; but could shape the play however we chose. It was to be 20 minutes long.

I, who has never performed before at all, was Mercutio. We performed a brief fight scene with Romeo, Tybalt, Benvolio and Mercutio. And of course, Mercutio and Tybalt both die.

Our performance was in the heritage listed Queens Hall of the State Library of Victoria to a small invitation-only audience. We had props, lighting, backdrops, music, costumes and a new script. This was all achieved in 4 days with only 1 hour at each end of the day for preparation. It was a lot of fun and a really positive experience.

Linking this task to the Get Into Reading program is difficult. I can only assume that by reading Shakespeare plays out loud in this way it gives us the confidence to read anything aloud to groups of people.

It is exciting to have shared this experience of Book Well with this group of amazing people and to be at the cusp of something new and exciting. I feel privileged to have been involved.

A little, aloud” edited by The Reader Organisation will be available later this year.

On the radio

Ray Jones is a radio commentator on the local community radio station 3RPCFM in the Western districts of Victoria Australia. He is an older guy who has been around Portland his whole life.

Yesterday he interviewed me for his program. The purpose of the interview was to advertise an upcoming event. Maura the Clairvoyant Librarian is touring Victoria as part of the Victorian Public Libraries Summer Read program organised and sponsored by the State Library of Victoria. Maura will predict your next great book to read. She will be in Portland on the Town Green on Friday 15th January from 11:00am until 2:00pm. The pre-recorded radio interview goes to air on Sunday 10th January and Wednesday 13th January during Ray’s program.

It was an interesting interview and Ray posed some tricky questions, that I was unprepared for. He posed the problem of the possibility of the internet crashing with far-reaching effects, and how our community depends so heavily on its functions. He talked about the deterioration of the English language and asked me who was to blame. He asked if I remembered Cuisenaire. I do.

I responded as the thoughts came to me. I told him (and the listener) that I had recently listened to the talk by Bill Thompson at The Big Issues conference held at the State Library of Victoria. Bill is a journalist from the UK and a commentator on technology and future trends. He stated that the current wave of online based technology is just in its infancy and no-one can predict what or how we will be using this type of technology in five years time.

I commented that the changes we see in English language usage – the deterioration of spelling and grammar (and perhaps our ability to express ourselves and communicate effectively) will only continue to get worse in my opinion. This is mainly due to the growing popularity and accessibility of online writing and conversations, such as this blog. I know my English language skills are not great and I do in fact blame the schooling system in the Victorian public schools in the 1970’s. Grammar was scrapped from the curriculum. (At least it was at the school I attended). I have had to work hard since then to try to bring my writing skills to an acceptable standard.

But further to that we all see how people abbreviate words for SMSing and the sentence constructions when using Twitter and Facebook. How long will it be before teachers start seeing this type of spelling appearing in school work? Maybe it is already.

By the way, Maura is not really clairvoyant, but a performer!! I think so anyway. I have been asked by customers if she is really a clairvoyant.

I have just finished reading The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson. It is the second in the trilogy and I loved it as much as the first one The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I can imagine the movie with Bruce Willis playing the role of Mikael Blomkvist. What do you think?

Our State Library

The scene before me was mesmerizing. I stood at the entrance to a cavernous room: circular in plan, the walls soared upwards on all sides towards a domed ceiling; shelves of books lining the walls. Ladders were propped intermittently against the shelves on various levels. There was a hush over the interior; this was a library – the State Library of Victoria. People sat studying at wooden desks that were arranged in rows like spokes of a cartwheel converging at a central hub. Green reading lamps glowed across the room illuminating the study areas and softly lighting the gloomy interior. This first memory of mine was when I was about five or six years old and already having a love of books and reading, this cathedral of books validated my own obsession. This awesome vision planted the seed of my desire to become an architect. It is ironic that becoming a librarian did not occur to me.


I had cause to visit the State Library of Victoria again this week and it never ceases to inspire me. The thoughtful and spectacular renovations have brought the library into the 21st century. I could not resist a visit to the domed reading room that is no longer gloomy as the skylights have been rebuilt. The Redmond Barry Reading Room is such an inviting place I wished I could stay all day. Their approach to their collections and exhibitions also send out firm messages that this is not an old stuffy and irrelevant institution. With offerings such as Inside a Dog for teenagers, Mirror of the World for book lovers, SLV21 for electronic media, and their new Ergo site for student researchers, they truly do try to engage and inspire us all. I looked in at the Medieval Books exhibition that was so busy it was difficult to squeeze in between other people to see the rare books on display.