Engadine is on the edge of the Royal National Park. From the station, however, the view of the bushland is interrupted by a reminder of the state of the world.
Then, once you are in the Engadine shopping area it is more like being in the 1970s. This is not to do with the nature of the shops, which are fairly normal suburban retailers, but more to do with the layout of the streets, the style of the buildings and the odd remaining detail. Engadine Palace Chinese Restaurant, for example, had bead curtains in every window.
I had expected the library to be obviously positioned, but I forgot my Sutherland Shire curse: once I’m over the Georges River my sense of direction becomes scrambled. I found the library eventually, set back from the street and housed in an 80s brick building with a heritage green roof.
I noticed that the returns chute had been retrofitted with locks, due to “vandalism”. There would be so many other places you could vandalise in Engadine before the library chute, I thought, but I guess the attraction of putting objects through a chute is irresistible to some. Now the chute serves little purpose, apart from saving you a few extra steps into the library itself.
The library entrance had a sign for the Sutherland Library Open Day, which happens to be Valentines Day. Lucky door prizes! Sausage sizzle! It could be a good place for a date, although you’d have to make sure your Valentine was enthusiastic. I can imagine overhearing a conversation in which the Valentine was relating to their friends how they were taken to Sutherland library instead of somewhere more traditionally romantic.
The walls were pink! At least half of the walls were painted this colour. Other areas were painted mauve and the kids’ area had yellow walls. How does a library get painted pink, I wondered. I was curious about what emotions the colour pink triggers, so I went over to the computer catalogue and typed in “colour theory”. What I really should have typed in was “colour psychology”, but I had confused the terms (maybe pink makes you confused). All the books on colour theory were borrowed anyway. Most of these books were guides to being an artist, and I imagined people at home in Engadine, wearing berets and mixing up paint on easels, or sketching their fruit bowls.
As I sat at the computer I could hear the librarians talking at the front desk. One was discussing a relative or friend who was “going into the city”. She said this as if it was a major undertaking. Engadine is at the edge of the city, but probably only an hour or so on the train from the centre. Her friend was going into the city to have something done to her “Pandora Bracelet”, which I imagined as being some kind of Pandora’s Box concept jewellery, or perhaps some form of gastric banding. I looked over at the silhouettes of the librarians which were visible through the striped mirror glass behind the information desk, but didn’t like how they could see me but I couldn’t see them. I don’t think they were looking, they had gone on to discuss their jobs for the afternoon, in particular, the large pile of CDs that needed to be cleaned.
It was around midday and the library was occupied by retirees browsing the popular fiction section. As it was no long school holidays, the kids’ section was deserted. This section had some lovingly constructed paper mushrooms stuck to the walls.
Back out in the pink section of the library, the old folk were happily browsing. A man looked through biographies, whistling through his teeth while I examined a book about writing in cards. Yours Truly: Everything you Need for Writing Cards. It can be hard to write in cards, and once you’ve written it in there you have to stick with it. I noted some of the suggestions in the romance section. I couldn’t imagine writing “I watch people smile as they encounter you, as if the weather has suddenly improved”. As far as romantic sentiments go, it seems kind of prosaic, yet also unusual.
I like the reminder that you need to change the descriptions of specific situations to something appropriate for you, just in case people copied the whole thing out. Imagine if you got card with the same wording from two different people who had both read this book.
I put the card book down and looked through the non-fiction section. There was a section of car repair guides, for the kinds of cars that once were regular sights on the road but now look surprisingly old. I picked out the guide for the Ford Meteor. The pages were grubby, especially in the middle, from where oily hands must have flipped through them while trying to fix their Meteors. I like the look of these books, with the photos of the cars on the front, like this Laser, pictured on a gloomy day in a paddock.
All around men with pulled-up white ankle socks, holding their glasses cases in one hand and paperbacks in the other browsed the shelves. Many were wearing belted shorts with their shirts tucked in, the kind of outfit that makes them look ready to go out to the shed and slowly start sanding something down. But really they were going to go home and get stuck into some novels. The signs on the fiction section were arranged encyclopaedia style:
Though at first I read it as a word and wondered what’s BURKDERS? The combination of pink and green I found particularly pleasant. Still curious when I got home, I looked up the psychological response to pink. It is meant to be a calming colour, so much so that it has been used in some prisons. Sources vary as to the reasons for this, some saying that pink is used to deter people from committing crimes and thus having to return to the pink walled prison. Pink everywhere, all the time would perhaps make you feel unbalanced, but so would any strong colour I think.
For example, there was almost too much pink in the Mills and Boon section.
I escaped the pink for a little while by entering the Quiet Zone, an enclosed study room which houses the reference section. There was no one in here, although a few books were left out on the tables, as well as a half drunk bottle of Passiona next to a pile of atlases and a folded-up striped singlet, a tableau I stared at, trying to construct the story behind it.
On the reference shelves were collections of newspaper clippings photocopied into booklets of environmental issues and social issues, for school students. I looked at the most recent social issues booklet:
Sexting is something that didn’t exist ten years ago, that’s for sure. It is one of the many new things to worry about in the world these days which make me glad I am no longer a teenager.
Before I left the Quiet Zone I noticed an old poster for libraries in the corner of the noticeboard.
The poster’s stark text coupling with the impressionistic drawn-in-pastels look of the image creates the particular feeling of 90s-ness which is being lost in a graphic design desert. It must have been on the wall for at least fifteen years, poor forgotten thing.
I left the Quiet Room and went out past the librarian sitting with a large pile of CDs, polishing them with a cloth. It looked like not unpleasant work if you had something good to think about while you were doing it.
Outside I walked down along the building to the street behind, past the entrance to the toy library and then past a kind of graveyard for broken and unwanted library equipment, which was in a fenced area that would have looked more natural as a playground. This is where old shelves come to die.