History• Victorias first Legislative Council (1851-6) took three decisions that profoundly influenced the course and conduct of parliamentary democracy in Victoria. It drafted a Constitution; it introduced the Secret Ballot; it began the construction of Parliament House. This third decision was not easy. Arguments over the best site in Melbourne for such a building were intense. It was not until April 1854 that Eastern Hill, the current Spring Street site, was agreed upon.
Design History• As importantly, it was not until December 1855 that Colonial Engineer, Charles Pasley, handed responsibility for the design and construction of a building for the new Parliament to two architects in his office Peter Kerr and John George Knight. By 1853 a Parliament House design competition had been held. The entries were judged inadequate. As a result Pasley had himself produced an ordinary design that had been accepted by the Legislative Council.• Kerr in turn adapted and significantly improved Pasleys work transforming it. He laboured over his drawing board, working on the building on and off for the next forty years. In the process he produced more than 600 detailed sketches and designs, while his colleague Knight managed the actual site construction.• From this team effort emerged one of Melbournes most dramatic nineteenth century buildings constructed in distinct stages
No sooner were the Chambers complete than work began on the Library.Construction of this eastern wing began in 1858 and was completed in1860.This had the effect of joining the two legislative chambers at the rear,thereby forming a `U-shaped building.Visitors to the Library remarked on Kerrs rich architectural imagination;on the impact of gas lights and tiers of books, curving staircases and acentral ten-sided table, on the interior dome of the centre chamber andslanting light from the east-facing windows.They were also impressed by the classical architectural detail found onthe east facade. Faced with sandstone and classical in allusion, it was thefirst expression of Peter Kerrs plans for the entire building. Victoriansand their Members of Parliament were pleased.No further construction took place for another 18 years. John GeorgeKnight severed his contact with the Public Works Department, whilePeter Kerr contributed designs and drawings for such buildings asMelbournes Post Office and Government House.
Parliament of Victoria is open to public when members of parliament are not sitting,however it is obvious what is most valued here is its parliamentary members.Security screening ensures the safety of its members (my nail scissors wereconfiscated during the site visit) and parts of the prestigious building are off limits(the public/library staff may dine in the strangers corridor but are not permitted inthe dining room). The specialised library staff are employed to satisfy the requestsand demands of parliamentary members. Reference librarians are on hand to helpclarify information used in speeches, reports etc. The loans enquiries desk is mannedat all times.The intranet is designed to be easy to navigate and meet the needs of its intendedclientele. An associate of mine is employed solely to upload relevant videos andinclude a synopsis of these onto the intranet. Another library staff member isemployed in a similar role this time for uploading print material. Members ofparliament are able to access the intranet from the library and their office/s.
Newspapers are displayed and kept and made available so the elected membersof parliament can access the relevant news of the areas they represent (- seeslide 24).The interiors of the Parliament building/s are impressive. ‘Classical decorations,gold-leaf, columns, statuary, burgundy carpets and seating in the LegislativeCouncil, forest-green in the Legislative Assembly duplicating the Westministercolours, added sophistication to an otherwise callow Melbourne. Its citizenswere overwhelmed’ (Parliament of Victoria, 2010). A rich and indulgent designsuch as this illustrates that its users are of upmost importance. The library isdesigned and staffed in such a way that its sole purpose is to fulfil the needs ofthose most valued – the parliamentary members.Areas still to explore: How many library staff are employed and what are theirspecific roles. What qualifications and experience do the librarians possess?