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Address at the opening of the ground floor extensions to Mosman Library, Sydney, 29 August 1997.

Madam Mayor, Mr Deputy Mayor, Councillors, Mr Abbott, Ladies and Gentlemen, Girls and Boys.

Let me say at the outset what a delight it is for Helen and me to be with you this afternoon for the opening of the extensions to Mosman Library.

Strictly speaking, we are outsiders to Mosman Municipality in the sense that we have never actually paid any rates to Mosman Council. Yet we certainly think of ourselves as locals since for many years we enjoyed many of the benefits of the Municipality. Our first matrimonial home was in Shellbank Parade, Cremorne which was within the Municipality of North Sydney. Nonetheless, our children's first school was the Blessed Sacrament Convent at Clifton Gardens in Mosman Municipality. Our Church was Sacred Heart, Mosman. We did our shopping mainly at Spit Junction. Our children learnt to swim at Balmoral. And, let me admit it, somehow - I'm not too sure how - we managed to borrow books from Mosman Library. In a way, we are doing no more than saying thank you by being here with you today.

This is the second library function I have been involved in within the current week. Last Saturday, I was privileged to launch a new Australian National Islamic Library project in Canberra. According to the latest census, there are some 200,000 Australians who profess the Islamic faith. The National Islamic Library, which is to be built in Canberra, will be the largest collection of Islamic literature and other works in the Southern Hemisphere. It will incorporate the most modern electronic systems and will be available throughout Australia through the Australian Bibliographic network. It is a major contribution by the members of the Australian Islamic Community to the multicultural Australia of which they are proud to be part. They made the launch of the project, which was attended by leaders of the Muslim community from all around Australia, an eloquent tribute to our multiculturalism. I mention those things this afternoon for the reason that no fair-minded person could have been present at that function without realising what integral parts of our nation the Islamic community and other racial, cultural and religious groups are. Our multiculturalism is not only our Australian way but it is what we are. Those who attack and denigrate it, attack and denigrate us all.

Your Mayor, Councillor Howard, has outlined the long history of the Mosman Library through its different homes. That history is indeed a proud one. The Library has, for well over half a century, played a most important role in helping educate, inform and entertain the residents - both the children and the adults - of this area and, as I have indicated, some outsiders - quite independently of the contribution it makes to the wider library network. And, of course, a library such as the Mosman Library, by spreading knowledge, spreads understanding and tolerance.

A survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistic some years ago established the fundamental role played by libraries in this country as the most heavily patronised form of cultural pursuit. Perhaps I am prejudiced, but I would venture the view that the importance of that role is a fortiori in this Municipality where, I believe, interest in books and reading is exceptionally high.

The extension to Mosman Library which is being officially opened this afternoon will help it provide even greater access to information through the adoption of modern innovations in technology and education. I'm told that the Information Technology area utilises CD-ROMs, Outline Public Access Catalogues and INTERNET access to create pathways to information. This, coupled with a comprehensive monograph reference section, will ensure that all sections of the Municipality's needs are met.

Sometimes new technology can appear somewhat daunting, especially to us older members of the community. That is why the human element remains so vital. Library staff are there to provide the link between technology and information.

I also understand that the ground floor extension caters for a larger local studies room, providing a service designed to celebrate the past, present and future of the Mosman community. Such a celebration of Mosman's heritage is particularly appropriate in our lead up to the year 2000 and to the centenary of Federation. It highlights Mosman's role within the overall context of Australian history, and emphasises an increasing awareness of the need to safeguard evidence of our past.

Finally, Helen and I wish Mosman Council every success in its endeavours to continue to provide an excellent library service to the community it serves. I am sure that this extension will make the task much easier and the community will enjoy even greater access to information. We also offer our congratulations and best wishes to every resident of the Municipality.

And now, with very great pleasure I declare the Ground Floor extension to the Mosman Library to be officially open.