17 August, 2015

Mise-en-scène: Library Express Frankston Railway Station

I set the alarm for 4.30am, just enough time to make a cup of tea, get dressed, ‘put on my face’ and exit the house. It’s mid-autumn … cool and windy. After the darkness and hurtling speed of the freeway, it’s warming to see the first signs of life. I arrive at the Frankston railway station at 5.45am to the daily performance of work and life, starting with the street sweepers and the lights of Frankston railway station. Here I push my trolley which holds the ‘brains’ of Frankston library in a laptop, some bags for the book returns and some books which have been reserved for customers.  Rugged up in my coat and scarf I am relieved that no-one notices me as I push the ‘old-ladies’ trolley pass the street sweepers and up the ramp. Apart from the fact that there are not many people around and it’s dark I notice another lone peddler -an elderly gentleman, possibly a war veteran who has occupied a space at the start of the ramp, a small table set up to sell ANZAC badges and poppies for upcoming Anzac day, I feel less alone and more like a character in a movie, a peddler amongst other peddlers in a Dickensian novel…instead of calling out flowers for the ladies in a cockney accent, I could call out paperbacks, CDS and DVDs for all age groups, all genres - crime, non-fiction, erotic fiction… Read, read consumer, be entertained….read, read…then I pass the hole-in-the- wall kiosk, more light, activity and staff are plenty considering the time of day.

Mollie, the railway customer service officer emerges from the darkness to warmly greet me, offering to buy me a coffee once I’ve unpacked. Mollie is special – the following anecdote will explain how… One day I observe a lady standing a few metres in front of me. She stands out simply because she is not following the movement patterns of commuters. The rhythms of commuters are like the ebb and flow of the tides.  Every now and then a variation occurs – a blind man taps and weaves his way through, then more commuters, then a blind woman taps her way less proficiently, her stick accidentally prods first a lady and then a man’s trousers. Through one of these hurried surges of heels and suits, wafts of after-shave, deodorant and perfumes….a sole figure is washed upon the shore, she emerges a little dazed… for a few seconds she is still, she looks around herself as if she knows she isn’t part of this slice of life. Then she momentarily looks up at me, I would have asked her if she needed some help, but she is not close enough. She looks familiar to me, middle-aged, middle-class … She walks a few steps further and I see her hugging Mollie as if she is a long lost friend. At this point I realise who she is… of course it is Rosie Batty, recently awarded Australian of the Year for bravely turning the tragic loss of her son into a call for awareness and action on domestic violence.

Mollie brings me a coffee and explains. One day Rosie Batty had appeared at the railway station, crying, grieving over the sudden loss of her young son who had been killed by her mentally ill ex-husband.   Mollie had instantly recognised her and instinctively comforted her, giving her a big hug….she felt comfortable in doing so as Rosie’s presence had been plastered all over the media. Since then Rosie and Mollie are friends. They have a lot in common -Rosie through this tragedy has emerged with post traumatic growth - rather than stress disorder.  She is a positive spokeswoman for many silent women in similar circumstances. Today Mollie has excitedly announced that she has been awarded the role of Trauma Support Officer – both women enjoy sharing their life-experience, making things better for others, both women are using their brains to assist in achieving the humane existence they feel we all deserve. Mollie does not share the high profile position that Rosie has walked into and nor is her new role a paid position, but nevertheless it adds a notch to her ‘career’- by that I mean the achievements which give our life meaning. What all of us can actually give to life, our footprint, not just in terms of sustainability but what we leave when we return to dust.

I muse on how spoilt the modern customer is, in this case the library patron.  Anne who is the original and the regular express staff member and has been getting up at dawn every Tuesday and Thursday for the last ten years, for whom the act of giving is compulsory, is responsible for that. Patrons no longer need to come to visit the large Frankston library on Playne St. Anne brings the library to them with a few trolleys, a makeshift table, a laptop on which is adhered a blu tacked sign - Join the library now, it’s free. The library is a perfect microtopia – a space outside capitalism. A lady asks me if she can buy a book and I explain that she can’t buy it but she can lend it as it is a library. Anyone can join on the spot – there is no cost, I add quickly. I point to Frankston library, the large grey building visible from the station to reassure her that this is a legitimate library service.

Patrons are quick to use these readily available services targeted to their imminent needs, and I mean quick, they pass by on their way to their trains, demand and expect fast service and we oblige. I take a breath in between the train departures and arrivals to chat to the less rushed commuters, those who don’t have deadlines, the usual rowdy, bunch of students waiting for their group excursion, very young single mothers each with a pram in tow on a trip to the zoo.  In front of my stall I observe two men obtaining cash from the Myki machine. I am curious to see the guts of this machine that can cause so much frustration to customers. The men walk away, nodding a greeting in my direction. I must be staring as I am thinking how the guns and holsters I associate with the Westerns of my youth are so masculine and how even the balding, older man with a paunch becomes attractive in this ‘cowboy’ outfit. As an older woman I surprise myself at such thoughts, but then reflect that the main readers of crime, mystery and suspense genres are often women. And I wonder if women are drawn to such genres because they need an escape from the drudgery of their lives or because they are using these more extreme scenarios to understand or avoid the dramas of their own lives…the family secrets, the unresolved relationship tensions, the dysfunctional family…

My work day at Frankston library express now ends as it is 9.00am. I push my workplace, the empty bags are now full of book returns, the laptop all in the old ladies trolley, The streetscape is a noisy cacophony of seagulls competing with traffic and people - shopkeepers, bus commuters, taxis and as well as the drug users and the elderly homeless who have hijacked the bus stop seats. And as I pass by this final mise-en-scène of the morning Frankston streetscape I can’t helping musing that one day I will inevitably be old and my library express trolley may be my walker and I hope not my home.
by Irene

12 August, 2015



Happy International Youth Day - August 12

Happy International Youth Day everyone!

Our support to the youth of Frankston City has come on leaps and bounds this year. 

Here is a little snippet of what we have done:

*  Introduced a Games Development Program
*  Produced and published a webpage to promote youth resources. 
*  Rolled out teen careers support.
*  Bringing our Graphic Novels out of the collection.
*  One-on-one careers advice session
*  Parents as careers transition support workshop.

The good news is, there is much, much more to come!