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Shelf Life: Paul Holdengräber and Susan Orlean on Libraries

Listen to Shelf Life: Paul Holdengräber and Susan Orlean on Libraries

Photograph of Kate Torney, Susan Orlean and Paul Holdengräber

Kate Torney, Susan Orlean and Paul Holdengräber at the Athenaeum Theatre

'The boundary between society and the library is porous,' Susan Orlean has written. 'Nothing good is kept out of the library, and nothing bad.'

What do libraries mean to us – as public places and civic institutions? Why do attacks on libraries evoke a special kind of horror? And what do libraries represent in the collective imagination and in literary history?

In partnership with State Library Victoria, we brought together two great American thinkers who have spent years of their lives immersed in the world of libraries. Paul Holdengräber was the former curator of conversations at the New York Public Library, and is the founding executive director of the Onassis Foundation LA, a centre for dialogue in Los Angeles which is an outpost of the Onassis headquarters in Athens. Susan Orlean is a bestselling author and New Yorker staff writer whose latest work, The Library Book, combines memoir with an investigation of the unsolved 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire.

In an extravagantly nerdy conversation, they discuss the past, present and future of public libraries; why we love them, and why we can’t do without them. Hosted by Kate Torney.

Who?

Portrait of Kate Torney

Kate Torney

Kate Torney was announced as the new Chief Executive Officer of the State Library of Victoria in July 2015. State Library Victoria is Victoria’s oldest cultural institution and Australia’s busiest public library, with over 2 million visitors each year and more than 4 million visits online.

From April 2009 Kate was Director of News at the ABC, leading 1400 journalists and production staff around Australia and in 11 international bureaus. Kate was a member of the ABC’s executive leadership team and reported to the Managing Director. She managed a $200 million divisional budget and was in charge of programme teams including 7.30Four Corners and Australian Story, along with ABC’s reporting teams across the country and around the world.

Portrait of Paul Holdengräber

Paul Holdengräber

Paul Holdengräber is the Founding Executive Director of the Onassis Foundation LA (OLA), an outpost of the Onassis headquarters in Athens that began its work as a ‘center of dialogue’ earlier this year. Prior to working at OLA, he was the founder and director of New York Public Library (NYPL)’s Public Programming, and the host of LIVE from the NYPL.  

Portrait of Susan Orlean

Susan Orlean

Hailed a 'national treasure' by the Washington Post, Susan Orlean is the acclaimed, bestselling author of Rin Tin Tin and The Orchid Thief, which was made into the Academy Award-winning film Adaptation

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