I Love Libraries

Some weeks ago I went to Brunswick Library looking for Spike Milligan’s Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall (it was recommended to me by some members of my non-fiction writers’ group in Edinburgh). The book should have been in the stacks but when a librarian went down to check, he couldn’t find it.

“It’s really unusual for a book to go missing from the stacks,” he said. “There’s not much I can do except reserve it for you and keep an eye out for it.”

Fair enough, I thought, because I don’t have unreasonable expectations about what can and can’t be retrieved from library stacks.

I pretty much thought the book was a lost cause so imagine my surprise when I popped into the library today and the librarian said, “There’s a message here for you: since we couldn’t find the book you were looking for we’ve ordered a new copy.” Then she apologised because that would mean a bit of a delay in me getting it!

I told her not to worry; I thought it was amazing that they were ordering a book for me, just because I requested it. What wonderful customer service!

Yarn Bombing

I moved back to Melbourne last weekend and within only a few hours of being here, I was already convinced that it is the coolest city in the world.

On the way to brunch with some friends we spotted a bike rack on Lygon St that had been yarn bombed. That is, someone had given it a lovely knitted cover. Yarn bombing is like graffiti, but in woollen form. Some people consider this ‘guerrilla knitting’ to be vandalism, others street art. Personally, I think it’s beautiful. I would never buy a can of paint to spray a slogan on a wall, but I’m tempted to learn to knit so that I can make a woollen sleeve for a lamppost.

Perhaps I’m underestimating the political power of yarn bombing, but it just doesn’t seem like a naughty or controversial thing to do in the way that spray painting a wall does. Don’t get me wrong, I like graffiti and I think a spray painted scrawl is just as much a work of art as an image by Banksy, but I can understand why some people dislike it and why councils have it removed. At its best it can be inspiring, challenging and attractive; at its worst it can be ugly, hate filled and offensive. Yarn bombing, well, it just looks nice, doesn’t it? What everyday object cannot be improved by dressing it in a cheerful knitted jacket?

Over brunch in L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe (another one of Melbourne’s hidden cafés, where I had the most beautifully presented and delicious hotcakes ever), Grace, Anna and I decided to go on a yarn trail to discover more of the city’s knitted artworks.

The following Tuesday we went for a walk around Brunswick where we discovered pieces by the Brunswick Bomber, Poppy Tonka and Yarn Corner, along with other untagged works. We started out at Charles Street Market then made our way up Sydney Road. It’s amazing how easy it is to miss these yarn bombed objects if you’ve not got your eyes peeled. Sometimes we walked past one two or three times before we spotted it. All in all, though, it was a successful trail with plenty of yarn bomb sightings.

A few days later, Grace reported back that one of the knitted covers we’d seen on a bike rack in Charles Street had been removed. Only a fringed pink cuff remained. I wondered if the perpetrator was someone who disapproves of yarn bombing in general or who just objected to the combination of pink and teal stripes? Either way, the fact that someone was motivated enough to rip it off suggests that yarn bombing is perhaps more controversial than I initially suspected.