Meet the Volunteers: Irene

Meet the Volunteers: Irene

Irene is our longest serving volunteer, she’s been volunteering for 11 years. The photo is of her receiving her long term volunteer award at the Volunteer High Tea earlier this yearIrene

I started volunteering at the old PMI building in High Street in January 2008 with 4/5 others as I had past experience volunteering in school libraries and after retiring I was interested in helping the PMI.

This is a short description of some of our book processing duties…

We cover different books – soft covers with contact, hard covers with clear plastic and dust covers with a combination of brown paper and plastic. Our group prints spine labels attaches them in the correct place, ensures a barcode is placed on the back, a “date due” slip is inside the back and a “secret” tattle inserted.  The tattle triggers an alarm if the book “walks” out the door by-passing the borrowing counter.

Processing books needs much dexterity, precision and patience especially using contact which can eventuate in a very sticky situation in certain weather conditions.

We are among the first to see new acquisitions in the library and the latest periodicals.  However, the most memorable is the “Watson” collection. A bequest, which took several years to process the many books.

Our small book processing group enjoys meeting each week and working while participating in the lively discussions which emanate.

We hope to continue for many more years.

Book Review: Blooms and Brushstrokes by Penelope Curtin and Tansy Curtin

Book Review: Blooms and Brushstrokes by Penelope Curtin and Tansy Curtin

Review by Penny Wooodward


Subtitled A floral history of Australian Art, this glorious book celebrates and identifies the flowers in artworks by Australian artists. An A-Z of flowers, anemone to zinnia, with nearly 100 beautiful reproductions of paintings and photographs by well-known artists such as Tom Roberts, Margaret Olley and Ellis Rowan and less well-known painters such as ex-convict artist WB Gould and his stunning vase of poppies.

A diverse range of both introduced and native flowers are depicted, from a single button hole carnation in a self-portrait by William Dobell, to a huge cottage garden with hollyhocks painted in 1835 by John Glover. It’s hard to pick favourites, but two of mine are photographs. The first by Christian Thompson, a Bidjara man from Mount Tambor, Queensland. Titled Purified by Fire it is a self-portrait, depicting iconic and beautiful Australian flowers and foliage, like everlasting daisies, and banksias, and in the middle we can just see a face with flames in his eyes.  The second is the cover photo, Blinded, by Polixeni Papapetrou. This luscious highly coloured photo is part of a series called Eden.

The text discusses the flower/s and their history, the painting and the artist. Mother and daughter authors Penelope and Tansy Curtin, provide a detailed background story of the chosen flowers and comment on the part each artist has played in Australian art more generally and the relevance of each painting depicted. This gives deep insights into why the art works are important, how they were created and the artist who created them.  If you want to actually look at any of the original works, a comprehensive List of Works is found at the end of the book, including in which gallery each artwork is hung (although some are from private collections).

I have learnt so much about the flowers, the artworks and especially the artists. As a botanist it is usually the flowers that interest me when I see floral art, but dipping into this book has ensured that I will look differently at floral art, every time I visit a gallery in the future. An important, engaging, beautiful book for lovers of gardens, nature, history and art.

Book Review: All Mine by Peter Edwards

Book Review: All Mine by Peter Edwards

Review by Renee Rollestone

All mine

The story opens in a rural New South Wales town in the mid-eighties. We are introduced to the Caruso Family who are a major organised crime family with ties to every government agency in the country.

We are then taken to present day where Carlo Caruso is in hiding in Canada, wanted for a grisly double murder of two undercover policeman. After seven years, it is decided that a risky transfer back home is necessary for Carlo as his mother is dying and wants to see her youngest son one last time.

What follows is an intricately written story with a formerly famous model, a widowed hermit architect and bikie gangs all coming together thanks to the actions of Carlo Caruso in his past and his present form. The Great Ocean Road and inner-city Melbourne are an evocative backdrop to this saga of obsession, crime and inner demons.

Edwards makes a strong point with his characters that it is the actions and choices that they make throughout their life which define their future happiness. Not opportunities, fame or money. Carlo’s inability to fully recognise his family’s efforts and risks in bringing him home are a common theme throughout the book. It is also a great observation on the consequences of obsession, the horrific impact on the object of it and how one person’s single-minded focus can shatter the lives of many, with lasting scars.

Edwards introduces the characters with care, taking the time for the reader to get to know the protagonists and their pasts. The tension picks up throughout the novel, leaving the reader desperate to get to the end and find out what will be the ending for our characters.

An enjoyable read, a bit slow to start but worth pushing through to the end.

4 out 5 stars.



Collection Spotlight: The Ragtrade in Melbourne

Collection Spotlight: The Ragtrade in Melbourne

melbourne ragtrade

Hi there I am Katherine Davis, I am studying at Victoria University Footscray and completing my placement at Prahran Mechanics Institute for my library Diploma. I am originally from Melbourne but have lived in Ballarat for the past 10 years, I love the regional lifestyle and Ballarat’s history and streetscape.

Before Ballarat I lived and worked in Abbotsford in the textile and clothing manufacturing industry.

Abbotsford and the Richmond environs were home to many dyehouses that produced fabrics for major stores such as Target, Myer and BigW to smaller labels like Stussy, Ripcurl, Volcom and local school uniform makers. The dyeing of fabric and manufacturing of clothes around Abbotsford and Richmond was a vibrant industry in the 8os and 90s. If you are interested in the history of the ragtrade in Melbourne, our collection at PMI will not disappoint. The story of the clothing and footwear trade in Melbourne is a fascinating one.

Here are a few of my favourites from PMI to start with

My life in the Rag trade By Fred Wilkinson

Fibre and Fabric: the wool, cotton textile and allied industries in Melbourne’s West by Gary Vines

Are you a fan of vintage patterns and sewing?

 Madame Weigel : the woman who clothed the Australasian colonies / Veronica R. Lampkin.

Stories of family businesses.

Not by myself: The Fletcher Jones story. by Fletcher Jones.

Pelaco: a visual history of the Pelaco company and brand, a century down the track.

Woven threads: A family story

Dear reader out there do you have some stories of the ragtrade in Melbourne to share?

Or do you have stories about your favourite source in Melbourne to shop for that special wedding silk or button? Does anyone remember Franke Stuart in Hawthorn or the Job Warehouse in Bourke Street?

Meet The Staff: Chris Moysey-Barker: Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Meet The Staff: Chris Moysey-Barker: Marketing and Communications Coordinator


I’m Chris, I started working here as the Marketing and Communications Coordinator in 2016, having previously worked in public libraries and law (with a short stint in a marketing firm somewhere in between). I am part-time, and work in the library on Mondays and Tuesdays.

I have been working in libraries long enough to vividly remember the day when the library I worked for got its first internet enabled public computer – yes just one, it was a big event! It is amazing to think how much libraries have grown and changed since then.

My very first job was as a Library Shelver at my local library, when I was 15. It was a great job and enabled me to indulge in my love of books. I continued working at the library as a Library Officer after I finished High School. As previously mentioned, I left libraries for a little while and worked in various law firms, but I couldn’t stay away. I returned in 2007 and began studying an information studies degree a couple of years later. I have worked across many different library roles including collections, cataloguing and information services. I moved into library marketing in 2012 and have completed many marketing and design short courses. Library marketing has allowed me to combine my love of books and information with my creative side. I have always loved drawing and designing, so to be able to combine my two interests in my day to day work has been fantastic.

In 2015 I had my daughter and obtained my Associate Degree in Information Studies the same year. Studying with a newborn was certainly a new experience, and not one I would like to repeat!

In my role here, I coordinate our annual events program and the promotion of library services and programs – this is done through a variety of different mediums including our website, social media and other digital media, media releases and printed collateral. I manage our website and design all of the library collateral including brochures, posters, graphics, the Recent Additions and our newsletter. My role also involves analysing and interpreting lots of statistics and data from event and survey evaluations to web traffic.

I am part of the Public Libraries Victoria LibMark Special Interest Group. This group is made up of fellow library marketers from across Victoria. We meet on a bimonthly basis to catch up and discuss anything and everything in the world of library marketing. It is a great opportunity to network and share ideas, helping each of us to better promote our respective libraries.

Like most of the staff here at the PMI, my role has grown since 2016. In addition to the marketing and communications, I also coordinate our library systems – which includes liaising with our library management system vendor to ensure systems are working correctly, or to implement updates or changes. This can often involve large projects, such as the library communications project (which you can read about in our February Newsletter) and updating our membership renewal notice process.

At the moment I am coordinating the redevelopment of our website. This is a project I am very excited about, as it means our website will be more accessible and easier to use for our members and other users. Most importantly the site will be responsive on portable devices, meaning it will display properly on mobile phones and tablets.

While I manage the Facebook page overall, the whole team contributes posts to ensure a variety of content and different interests are presented to our followers. I hope to implement a PMI Instagram next year and look forward to being able to promote the PMI to another audience.

We are a small team here at the PMI but we are always collaborating and constantly discussing the best way we can promote the wonderful resources and programs we have to offer.

Meet The Volunteers: Jake

Meet The Volunteers: Jake


I’m Jake MacDonald and a relative newcomer to the library-  and indeed Australia. My first library volunteer shift was at the end of June and I’ve been in the country since February 2018. My wife Clare was recruited to fill a role in a local high street fashion retailer. She had lived for a few months in Melbourne back in 2000 and we had stayed here for a few days in 2015 while on a five month trip round South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. So it was a relatively easy decision to take up her job offer and move over for two or three years. Mind you the visa application process was fairly onerous!

We really like the city. Such a great lifestyle. Our UK home is Edinburgh and I can see many parallels between there and here- galleries, museums, cinemas, restaurants abound. But we don’t have quite as many coffee places and the weather is certainly different! I have to laugh when Melbournians complain about  the weather being cold!

I have developed a tendency for serial volunteering since I first applied for a role as a volunteer guide in the newly opened National Museum of Scotland in 2006. I had the privilege of showing groups of visitors some of the treasures of the Museum for a few years. In 2010 I retired early from my career in financial services and we moved down south to Hertford north of London. Clare is from north London and the move meant she was nearer family and friends and it was much easier finding a job.

I entered the volunteering world again working front of house at the local theatre/cinema. This was fun as the volunteers of course get to see the production/show/film or whatever happens to be on. Books and reading have always been a passion- I studied English language and literature at university. So my other volunteer role in Hertford was in the local Oxfam bookshop. This was  a bit of a dream job, surrounded by books, handling books, selling books etc. A nice triple whammy for Oxfam too. As well as working for free, volunteers also tend to donate books and buy books!

The book theme continued when I found a part time job- in a local public library. Surrounded by books again. But as we all know, libraries these days are about so much more than just books so a large part of each working day was spent dealing with customer enquiries and providing assistance with the use of the public PCs.

We returned to Edinburgh in 2015 and my next volunteering opportunity was in a local community (not for profit) greengrocer. No books but plenty of fruit and veggies.

I’d been looking for a volunteering slot for a while here in Melbourne before spotting the PMI library website. I’d never heard of Mechanics Institutes but was delighted to find out that  according to Wikipedia the first one was established in Edinburgh in 1821. The original idea of providing educational opportunities for working people really resonates with me.

During my time here in the library I’ve spent quite a few hours shelving of course, which I don’t personally mind, but my knees don’t much like it especially in amongst the bottom shelves of the 994 sections. I re-arranged the folio section in the stacks which was fun- some great photo and art books down there. I’ve set out a couple of the displays- a general one on sport and the recent AFL final display (lots of Richmond material but nothing for GWS). In recent weeks I’ve been involved with the project to re-box the periodicals in the stacks. I also helped out at the launch of Judith’s latest book on Greville Street. That was a really buzzy occasion with  an excellent turnout and  great vibe.

I look forward to coming into the library each week, contributing to a fine institution and working with some great people.

There’s your quote, mate. An anthology of outrageous interviews from the mixed-up, muddled up music scene / Antonino Tati (New Holland, 2019)

There’s your quote, mate. An anthology of outrageous interviews from the mixed-up, muddled up music scene / Antonino Tati (New Holland, 2019)

A review by Steven Haby, Secretary Librarian


there's your quote mate

Cream magazine established in 1997 by the author of this book soon developed a reputation for scoring some pretty decent interviews from bands, songwriters, producers and others in the music scene. Many interviews were with Australian talent but also Antonino was able to sit down or call some of the more famous overseas people in the business as well.

This book is a collection, selected by the author, of some of the more memorable (or in some cases less so – ‘train wreck’ comes to mind) interviews. Many of the interviews include a postscript by the author which presents a reflective perspective on the session with the person in question.

Nick Cave is the first artist on the playlist so to speak and the interview was indeed a ‘train wreck’ of epic proportions. Nick was at his difficult best and the author comes across as completely flummoxed by the Prince of Darkness. To Nick’s credit he was very positive about Kylie Minogue!

Other artists who get a run include Meat Loaf, Simon Le Bon, Dave Grohl and Delta Goodrem. Kath and Kim and Dame Edna Everage are included and are at their acerbic and intellectual best.

The interviews are interspersed with chapters on various musical trivia relating to the Australian scene. An interesting and quick read which can be one of those books you can ‘dip into’ from time to time. A downside was the author’s cataloguing of their imbibing of various illicit drugs which perhaps helped (and hindered) their journalistic abilities which becomes rather tiresome after a while.