In the Dream & Do beginnings, my office was the kitchen table. When the cabin fever kicked in and I caught myself chewing the barista’s ear off for human interaction during my coffee breaks, I realized I needed to get out of the house, pronto. I moved in and around cafés, but there is only so much free wi-fi you can scab before you feel like you should be paying rent. Stuck between a rock and a looming caffeine addiction, I confided in my husband. As always, he had a simple and brilliant solution. The library. For the next three months, Dream & Do had two luxury head offices, Custom’s House Library and The State Library of NSW. I felt like a real person again as I got dressed and travelled into “work”. With a state-of-the-art location and facilities, the library also had free wi-fi (no flat whites needed), focused people, no distracting noise and an abundance of books, magazines and newspapers to inspire.
This is why we pay taxes people – use it!
Spending time in the library made me feel really nostalgic, as I honestly haven’t spared two thoughts for such places since I was at university all those years ago. I remembered my school days (BTI: Before The Internet) when we would have library classes on searching for books and locating them among the shelves. Projects involved borrowing books, reading them and writing notes. And library cards! Remember those? A little manila pocket glued inside the book, with a slip of handwritten notes detailing who had borrowed the book and when it was due back.
As I worked away on my Mac, I also became so aware and excited by the fact that I could read all of these books without buying them. Books on architecture, design, psychology, science, anything my heart felt curious for. We no longer think to borrow books anymore, instead our consumer culture persuades us to buy and our materialism makes us want to own. How often do we even share the books we own?
When I went to borrow a book from Balmain Library, I was astounded by the service and offering. I was told I could borrow up to 42 books for three weeks and renew online up to three times! What!? This is better than Zara’s four-week return policy. Also, if the library didn’t have the book you were after, they could source from another library in your council and transfer for free. I did this and got a text message the next day saying my book was now ready to collect. Even libraries do multi-channel.
I truly hope that our fast-moving, tech-obsessed world does not mean the death of the library. I feel as though it’s more than just books. It is a church for people no matter their beliefs; a safe place in which we’re all kept warm by the friendly librarians and the boundless opportunities to read and learn.
So, to the start-ups out there who are still working from their kitchen table, I urge you to work from a library for the day and see how you like it. To small business owners and even big business owners, I dare you to take a trip down memory lane to the library, join for free and borrow a book you would never buy. You will open your mind and you have to go back to return it, so you might just borrow another one, and so the love affair with the old flame begins.
My library review:
Customs House Library
A very central library, a stone’s throw from Circular Quay. The ground level has all the newspapers and magazines of any great newsagent and Levels 1 and 2 are the library levels. The library doesn’t open until 10, making it perfect to start the day with a coffee on the ground floor and a browse through some magazines. Upstairs you can sit facing the glass hollow of the building or you can work from the reading room. Power plugs for your laptops, so no fear of the dying battery cutting your working day short. Check out the free courses this library has on offer, everything from social media seminars to crocheting. Ask the librarian for the events program.
State Library of NSW
The most stunning library for when you want to feel like you’re working from the ballroom in Beauty & The Beast. There are many different areas to work from and they have lockers for your stuff for a small deposit. My favourite is the Reading Room, which looks like something out of Disney’s Beauty & The Beast. A grand room with high ceilings and covered from floor to ceiling with old encyclopedias and books. It is dead silent so unless you can work well in this condition, bring your IPod. Also, you are only allowed a bottle of water so struggling start-ups, leave your packed lunch at home this time or scoff your sandwich before you enter. I love the vibe in this room. It also backs on to The Domain if you need to take a break in nature.
Surry Hills Library
Surry Hills library is great if you’d like to work in the creative hub in Sydney for the day. Unfortunately, everyone has the same idea. There aren’t many working spaces at this library so I wouldn’t recommend spending the whole day here, but could pop in for a couple of hours. Downstairs there are some meeting rooms with communal tables, however no natural light, so it’s not really for me.
Balmain Library is my local library so it wins for convenience, however it is in a massive need of a re-furb. Note to self, contact council. Nevertheless, there are magazines and newspapers and free wi-fi, but business owners beware, bring your IPod. Children are regular guests and not yet aware of library etiquette. There is also only one (stinky) toilet. Like I said, need of a re-furb but I love it all the same.