A Letter to the Library

Courtesy of UTS Library

The letter, a result of 300+ hours of stitching, is now up. I mention the hours because concentrating on one thing for so long has immense value. Try it, whether it’s stitching, swimming, watching a tree grow – anything. See HERE for the UTS Library announcement. Thank you all students and staff who spoke with me over the nine weeks in April-June 2017. We wrote this. Thank you Mal Booth for your vision, thank you Aanya Roennfeldt for your curatorial brilliance and love, thank you Andrew Bassett for the wonderful framing, and thank you all the Library staff who made me welcome! Thank you especially Jackson Mann and Christopher Brew for the many coffees! Jackson Mann shot the beautiful footage in the following video.

Now that the letter is available to the people of the Library, I feel comfortable sharing its text here. We wrote it and I hope I captured our conversations during those nine magical weeks. The odd breaks in text correspond to the shifts from one square to the next. If you are someone in 2117 reading this, thank you. I don’t know if the physical letter still survives when you read this, but the words below do in whatever form it may then be. I won’t be around to hear what you make of the words; I trust you:

 

We began in 1996 as clumsy lovers, often unsure of where everything was supposed to go. Imagine that! Passage of time in countless stamps, aging mementoes of librarians’ labours and readers’ curiosities. Your spirit shines unchanged and you wear your years with lightness and grace. It is pure joy to sit here and greet thousands spiralling up into discovery, enlightenment, wisdom. (We hope) Beware sentimentality in knowing the spiral will be fond history soon enough, for careless sentimentality diminishes what is possible. Yours is a future of immense possibility, born in an extraordinary present. Happy chorus of Strine and a thousand accents with a percussion of thongs; the beauty of all humanity is at the Library today. Perfect match for my two-decades-old memory; may the richness always flourish! Books and bean bags bear fruit in perfect balance, and we cherish our lunchtime jigsaw puzzles. Contemplation, reflection, art appreciation; you reliably provide all. Each nourishes us, expands us, wisens us. With you we build wisdom in the age-old tradition of universities. Are we wiser than the generations before us? The question seems a pertinent one to ask when we take stock of the world in 2017. We should also ask, how do we best empower the generations after us to live and love with ever more wisdom? What legacy do we choose for ourselves? How do

we choose to be known by our family in a century from today? (Consider it a choice, not chance. Consider us one family, not many.) Here lives a powerful conversation for possibility: during these weeks students have shared about inspiring commitments to make a difference in the world, from climate conditions to economic equality to joyous lives after cancer. Such conversations have me be optimistic about the future while writing this letter to you, yet history will reveal how well we supported these bright minds. The time to choose that history is now, don’t you think? Here in ‘the most chill place in the university’ as one student describes the Library, we are well set for choosing our future histories. The task at hand is a formidable challenge. Drawing from the strength of our shared passions I continue to pose the question to our community: What message would you like

to send to the people of the Library in a hundred years from now? Searching for the elusive responses within oneself can be uncomfortable or confronting, and the generosity in earnest attempts is profoundly moving. One student hopes that you won’t suffer from our pollution and another apologises for our disposable nappies. (One of the several design mistakes we made.) We know we have created work for you, to remedy the impacts of some of our choices. Why then do we struggle with the commitment to take on that work now, rather than passing it on to you? That hesitation does not honour the kind of extraordinary people we know ourselves to be. Time to annihilate our collective cynicism with relentless compassion for us and our future family, wouldn’t you say? A profound love of the university and of the library is present here. In whatever form is relevant to you, please

ensure we, the Library, are empowered to flourish. We are valuable. Equally, education is valuable. Please keep (make) education accessible to everyone: it is an investment in us, in humanity, in the present and in our one future. Please value your – our – teachers. We hope the education we received and brought forth elevates your ability to flourish. We can barely imagine how digital and virtual your world will be. No matter: go outside, cherish the world! Climb trees, talk to them, plant more of them, guard them. Water is life. Please protect our one water. Take good care of yourself, of others and of this one awe-inspiring world. Care, actually. We often feel small and overwhelmed as the scope and impacts of the Anthropocene dawn on us. We care about the birds and the bees, and we know we are overcrowding them out of existence. Everything is interconnected: everything

we do to others and the planet ultimately impacts us. We know this yet often our actions do not match that knowledge. Learn from us on this, please. We promise to, too. Here is the perfect place for those lessons. Libraries have always been places of refuge and hope, where we can learn from past follies and find solace in the words that ring true. Here reside wondrous words that spur the geneses of endless new possibilities, springing forth from nurtured, nourished imaginations. Be guardians of imagination: with hope and commitment, it maybe our best chance. Guard the spirit of the UTS Library: more than a place, it is the heart of the university

that brings together all students, all staff, all facilities. Appreciate and enjoy physical library space. Be in it. Meet your community for face-to-face conversations. Relish human contact. Hug each other in the Library. Please be gentle and generous with us when you read this. You have a century on us, perhaps the fastest in the history of human development and hopefully the richest in wisdom building. We are naturally curious about that century’s impact. Can you read handwriting? Do you get hayfever? Do libraries have books? If not, what do libraries smell like? Is money relevant? Why? Do you have inequality? Why? Do you have poverty? Why? Do you have discrimination? Why? Do you have illiteracy? Why? Do you have famine? Why? Do you have genocide? Why? Do you have war? Why? Are you fulfilled? Are you flourishing? Please continue to ask these questions. We love you. We wrote this letter to you on Lenape land and on the ancestral land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. We pay respect to the Elders past, present and future, acknowledging you as the traditional custodians of knowledge for these lands.

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