Current Issue #488

Drawn to the City:
Ben Harrison, the librarian

With Adelaide’s City Library temporarily closed to the public, librarian Ben Harrison walks us through a typical, pre-COVID-19 day in the life of the Rundle Mall institution.

“Libraries have changed significantly from what they were 30 to 40 years ago however they are still about connections,” Harrison says. “The way in which we do this now is not just by connecting people to information and resources, but libraries today also act as community hubs. They are wonderful spaces with innovative programs and services that promote continuous learning and creativity.” 

This atmosphere is evident as soon as you step inside City Library or browse their online program. “We extend our service beyond the library walls through our Virtual Library which provides resources that people can access from home and our Out and About and Home Library programs head out into the community, allowing us to offer resources and promote our services in their spaces.” 

Harrison’s official title is Library Centre Coordinator and he explains this role as one that allows him to support and motivate the library staff and volunteers towards supplying the best possible customer service. “I facilitate and support engagement of the community through the Out and About and Home Library Programs to foster a sense of community value and gather positive stories from these interactions,” says Harrison. 

Originally from Adelaide, Harrison has been working for Adelaide City Libraries for over four years and started his current role at the City Library in 2017. Having been keen to work as a librarian since completing year 12, it wasn’t until 2003 that Harrison began his training with a TAFE Diploma. These studies allowed him to go on to a Masters in 2015; this education combined with volunteering led to working for the City of Adelaide as a Library Centre Coordinator where he was responsible for the operations of a Library Centre and the staff based there. “As I moved locations my responsibilities have changed to include training, work experience and volunteer coordination.” 

A typical day for Harrison starts with meetings between the library team and running through what is happening in the library for the day; he and the team prepare and set up the library spaces and get set to welcome the visitors. “The day is diverse and will often include spending time engaging and interacting with customers on the library floor. I might then have a catch-up meeting with my team such as the Out and About team, discussing opportunities for us to go out and engage with the community.” 

The City Library is particularly unique in terms of libraries in Adelaide due to its location above the Mall and the way it incorporates technology and innovation into the library, supplying creative space and services, such as 3D printing, green screens and video and music editing facilities. “Our programs are diverse and include for example the ‘Philosophy Café’ in partnership with University of Adelaide, giving the community the opportunity to discuss a range of philosophical topics; and ‘What’s Art Got To Do With It’ with UniSA, providing another forum for discussion. Our excellent partnerships also result in exciting exhibitions such as during SALA, or hosting a Nutritionist in Residence, author talks, a presentation series with State Records and a festival for writers with Writers SA.” 

When asked about important skills for his role, Harrison notes that being a good communicator is vital. “Listening to and engaging with customers is a key part of my role so it is important to have fantastic customer service skills. The interactions with people, hearing the stories of how we have been able to provide something unexpected and valuable to them. For example, we recently received a hand-made card from the MacKinnon Parade Childcare Centre where each child had included a drawing thanking us for visiting and reading to them. 

“It’s rewarding to hear how the library has made a difference.” 

Leo Greenfield

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Leo Greenfield is freelance illustrator. His work can be found at

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