Feature: National Library of Australia celebrates 50th birthday

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CANBERRA, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) — Visitors were greeted with gifts such as balloons and books as well as exploration tours in the National Library of Australia as the grand building celebrates its 50th birthday on Sunday.

Sitting on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, the marble building is the largest reference library in the country. With columns all around, it echoes the appearance of the Parthenon in Athens.

While the National Library remained an iconic building in Canberra throughout the years, Margaret Goode, a 64-year-old volunteer in the library, noted that it changed so much.

History of the library could be dated back to the early years after the Australian Federation in 1901, when the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library served both the Parliament and ordinary citizens.

The library was moved from Melbourne to Canberra in 1927, and 33 years later, an Act formally separated the Parliament library and the national one.

Today, the national library is home to more than 10 million items in the collection, including more than 3 million books and 600,000 photographs. If lined up one after another, books in the library could stretch to more than 300 km from Canberra to Sydney.

Goode, who led free tours on Sunday to tell visitors stories about the library, has been working as a volunteer here for eight years.

“I was trained in the university as librarian,” she told Xinhua. She later worked in the consulting business, but use the national library quite often.

“When I was going to retire, I wanted to find myself something to do,” she said.

During the past eight years, she observed that the trove grew bigger and digital materials were shared by more people.

Anna Gressier, a media officer with the library, noted that each year there are half a million visitors entering the library through the door, but many others outside Canberra use the digital library.

“Because we are a national library, we need to make sure people elsewhere have access to the materials,” she said to Xinhua reporter.

Another change is the use of robots.

A man who only gave his first name as Chris has used the library for 15 years. He visited on Sunday especially to see the robots.

According to the Canberra Times, the library has four delivery robots sending material to and from the stacks and the reading rooms. Stack attendant Paul Nordern was quoted as saying that he believed “we are the only library in the world using these robots.”

Apart from the improvement of technology, Goode also saw changes in the readers.

“There are now a lot of small children, and more foreign students using it,” she said.

Dong Daoyi, a 40-year-old man originally from China, visited the library on Sunday with his wife and two children.

“I have lived in Canberra for 10 years, and I always take my children here because there are always events for the children,” he said.

Dong has an eight-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter.

“Maybe this is what some Chinese libraries could learn from,” he said, “to have more children’s activities so that they could fall in love with books from an early age.”

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