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Shelf Life: Paul Holdengräber and Susan Orlean on Libraries



Event Status

This event will now take place at Athenaeum 2 Upstairs.

‘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’re presenting 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.

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

This event will be Auslan interpreted.

Dymocks Camberwell will be our bookseller at this event.

Presented in partnership with State Library Victoria.


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)... Read more

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.  In The Library Book she reopens the unsolved mystery of the most catastrophic l... Read more

Kate Torney OAM

Kate Torney has extensive experience in the Australian media, cultural and philanthropic sectors, having spent 20 years at the ABC, including six as News Director, six years as Chief Executive of the State Library of Victoria and now as CEO of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation Opened in 1856, th... Read more


Athenaeum 2 Upstairs

188 Collins Street Melbourne Victoria 3000

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