"Who knows what a library is going to look like in 20 years time? With this building at least we have the ability to change." So says Alison Mudgway, library operations co-ordinator for the dazzling new Grove Library in Peppermint Grove.
With dwindling natural resources and the future of public libraries hanging in the balance, so-called ESD (ecologically sustainable development) lighthouse projects such as the Grove, which extend the traditional brief of libraries by making the very building itself a living, evolving book as well as a depository of knowledge, are now essential.
"This project was driven by the community, by what people wanted," Grove Library community development manager Tricia Hill says. "There was always a desire to plan the building as a demonstration site so people could use the same ideas in their own home. It has been a very holistic process from the start."
Designed by Cox Howlett and Bailey Woodlands architects with landscape design by Newforms Landscape Architecture with Josh Byrne and Associates on board as ESD consultants, the Grove precinct, which includes the library, council offices and a community centre, is the result of a collaboration between the Shire of Peppermint Grove and the Towns of Cottesloe and Mosman Park.Opened in March and funded in part by the Federal Government's Green Precincts program, the library features state-of-the-art rainwater and wastewater management and recycling systems. These include the reuse of grey, brown and yellow water, power generation through solar panels and wind turbines and energy-efficient systems such as a thermal maze, an in-ground heat exchange, double glazing, light-sensitive illumination and a large clerestory to maximise the use of natural light.
According to the library's project architect, Christian Wetjen, it's the amount of ESD features combined in one project that make the Grove unique in Australia.
"We've tried to incorporate everything anybody could come up with," Mr Wetjen says. "The main thing is that there are so many initiatives incorporated and working together in one building, right down to the selection of materials, bin and bike storage and passive energy systems."
That's all good - but what happens inside the library?
Well, what doesn't? There are Wii consoles, a sensory outdoor playground, a children's room with a "messy" area for arts and crafts and special school holiday programs. There are plasma televisions with access to more than 40 Foxtel channels, funky multi-purpose recycled furniture including bean bags made from old jeans and a giant sonic chair for your iPod or laptop. There is free WiFi, free access to the latest Adobe Creative Suite, a digital projector and eating is allowed in all areas. There is an emphasis on local history, author readings and workshops.
There is even Grove Classics, a live chamber music series which kicks off this Sunday at 4.30pm when the Impromptu Quintet play the Brahms Clarinet Quintet and Schumann Piano Quintet. And there are, of course, DVDs, CDs, magazines and books, books, and more books which can be checked out via the many self-service stations or, for homebound library members, checked out online and delivered to your door.
According to e-services librarian Linda Papa, the library feels like a genuine public square with fun spaces in which to play.
"When people first walk into the building you can hear a sudden intake of breath," she says. "They just love the newness and the light."Ms Hill says that ultimately it's about community ownership. "We want to make this a place where people feel like it's theirs," she says.
For more information on the Grove library visit thegroveprecinct.com. For more information on Grove Classics visit cappuccino-concerts.com.au