Lake Macquarie History

Lake Macquarie Library History

Library Act 1939

2014 is the 75th anniversary of the Library Act. This legislation led to the provision of free public library services for the people of NSW.

photo: boolaroo school of arts

In 1934 Ralph Munn and E.R. Pitt led an inquiry into Australian libraries. Their report contrasted the regional library network in Australia with that in the United States of America and England. They recommended that further efforts be made to establish and support regional libraries in Australia with the goal to establish public libraries in every local council area.

The result was the implementation of the NSW Library Act, which was passed by State Parliament on 3 November 1939. This landmark legislation led to the provision of free public library services for the people of NSW.

The onset of WWII in September 1939 almost scuttled the Bill as the Government appeared unwilling to commit to extra expenditure in light of the conflict. A compromise was reached and the Bill was passed into law on 3 November 1939.Further delays from the war effort saw the first State Government subsidy payments arrive in 1944/45 to limited councils.

The Library Act was adopted by Lake Macquarie Shire Council on 27th July 1949. With funding from a farthing in the pound Shire rate, a State subsidy of 1 shilling per head of population and a Joint Coal Board subsidy of 60% on establishment costs, an initial collection of 10,000 books was flagged for purchase that year.

Appointing the Librarian

The first librarian appointed to the Lake Macquarie Shire was Miss Margaret Miller. Miss Miller held a Bachelor of Arts from Sydney University, and a Certificate of the Library Association of Australia. She was previously a librarian for Wade Shire in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and City Librarian at Goulburn. In 1949, it was announced that Miss Miller's headquarters will be at a central library at Speers Point, which was to be open in early 1950, (The physical building was actually at Boolaroo). Her duties included organising public libraries throughout the shire. The Newcastle Herald reported “Miss Miller expects that the 10,000 books bought will be doubled by the end of the year. These can be classified under three main headings: novels and general reading; informative or educational; and books for children.

Boolaroo library

photo: boolaroo branch

An announcement on the 22nd of March 1950 by Margaret Miller declared that Boolaroo Free Public Library should be open by the end of June 1950. At this time Margaret Miller also announced that 5000 volumes were accumulated at Sydney Public Library.

This figure was around a quarter of proposed purchases due in 1950. The opening depended on the renovation of the Boolaroo School of Arts, which was the only premises suitable to house the collection. The 5000 volumes would suffice to start the library and bookmobile. Miss Miller recommended that an order be placed for steel shelving at a cost of £274, including installation. A further order for additional books costing £2000, and for filing equipment worth £54 was also proposed and accepted

The Newcastle Herald announced that a free public library service would commence at Boolaroo on July 28 and at Belmont on August 14.

Book Mobile

photo: bookmobile

On 17th of June 1950 it was revealed that the Mobile Library for Lake Macquarie would operate from August that year. It was to be the first Bookmobile library to operate in northern New South Wales and was scheduled to travel up to 200 miles a week throughout Lake Macquarie Shire. The Bookmobile was based at the central library which had only opened two weeks before the Mobile service was due to begin. After a successful trial, the Lake Macquarie Shire Bookmobile commenced regular services on 27th November 1950 and was driven by Mr John Stephenson. Miss Miller described the Bookmobile as “a large vehicle with a five-ton chassis, to carry 2000 books, like a large bus”. Borrowers would walk inside to take books from the shelves as they would in an ordinary library. Routes for the Bookmobile had been planned to provide weekly visits to local centres with a population of 100 or more residents, and twice a week to larger centres of between 1000 and 3000 residents.

The original itinerary as of November 1950 was:

  • Monday November 13 Morisset railway station 10am; Cooranbong Baber's-road 11.10am; Dora Creek opposite the Store 1.10pm; Awaba post-office 2.40; Blackalls post-office 3.25pm; Fassifern post office 4.05pm.
  • Tuesday November 14Young Wallsend Park 10am; West Wallsend Monument 10.50 am; Holmesville main road 1.15; Barnsley Hall 1.55; Killingworth Monument 2.45; Wakefield hall 3.30pm.
  • Wednesday November 15 Wangi Wangi Davis' store 10am; Rathmines post office 10.55; Coal Point 11.40 am -12.20 pm; Carey Bay post office: Toronto opposite Memorial Hall 1.10; Marmong Point post office 2.25pm; Teralba corner Anzac parade and William St 3.15pm.
  • Thursday November 16 Cardiff Public School, children only 10-10.30am; Cardiff opposite hotel 10.40am; Cardiff West (now Glendale East) public school 1.15; Argenton post office 1.55pm.

Quick growth

On Saturday the 21 October 1950, during the official opening of Boolaroo Library, the librarian Margaret Miller reported that the Boolaroo and Belmont Libraries now had over 3000 members. The President of Lake Macquarie Shire Council Cr. Johnston performed the official opening. Speakers included the Secretary of the Library Board of New South Wales, Mr R .McGreal, Mr R. Dean, M.H.R, Mr Simpson, M..L.A.,the District Mining Engineer of the Joint Coal Board, Mr S. Flower, Councillors Buss and Parsons, and Mr Henry Aubin, on behalf of the former Belmont School of Arts Board of Trustees. Miss Miller revealed that half the 3000 members were children. Since the service began at Boolaroo on July 28 and at Belmont on August 21 the combined borrowings amounted to 18,000 books. The Bookmobile, which holds 2000 books, was on display as part of the celebrations. A former trustee of Boolaroo School of Arts, Mr R. Dick, presented a clock and a children's encyclopaedia to the library on behalf of the School of Arts Committee.

Branch Timeline

  • The Lake Macquarie Shire Library (Boolaroo Branch) opened in Third Street Boolaroo on 28th July 1950. After 11 years of temporary residence at Boolaroo, the operational centre of Lake Mac library transferred to a new building on Main Road Speers Point.
  • The Speers Point Branch was a lending branch and the administrative headquarters for the service which continues today. The building was officially opened by the Minister for Local Government, Mr Hills, On Saturday 24th February 1962. Construction was described as being built from red Cessnock brick, decked out with horizontal louvring and large panoramic windows.
  • Belmont Branch commenced service on the 14th August 1950 in the Community Hall, Pacific Highway Belmont. It transferred to the pacific highway in 1956.
  • The Mobile Library Service began on 25th September 1950.
  • Cardiff Branch began service in the former School of Arts building and the lending of books began on Monday, September 10 1951. It moved to 266 Main Road Cardiff on the 30th November1957.
  • Morisset Branch opened on the 13thJanuary 1953 at the School of Arts/Community Hall at Morisset. It transferred to Station St, Morisset on 2th February 1961
  • Kahibah Branch opened in the community hall in July 1953. This branch closed in the late 1960’s.
  • West Wallsend Branch opened on the 4th August 1954 and closed on 28th June 1986. It then operated as a community run library.
  • Mirraview (Balcolyn) Library opened in 1954 and closed in May 1965.
  • Redhead Branch opened in 1954 at the School of Arts. A new library was built and funded through a public conscription and donated to council. This library opened on the 23rd July 1958. The Redhead library closed on the 31st December 1985 and operated as a community run library from 1986.
  • Wangi Wangi Branch opened in February 1955 at the baby health clinic and soon after moved into the present building on Watkins Road.
  • Swansea Branch opened in Josephson Street on the 19th August 1956.
  • Toronto Branch opened on the 6th April 1957. It was located on The Boulevarde, Toronto. A new branch building was constructed and it opened on the 6th of May 1991.
  • Charlestown Branch Opened in Smart Street on the 26th of March 1958.
  • Teralba Branch opened on 5th May 1964 and closed in May 1965.
  • Windale Branch opened in March 1966 in the community hall on Lake Street Windale.
  • Edgeworth Branch began service on the 23rd July 1966 and was located on Minmi Road.
  • Belmont Library moved to Ernest Street in 1996
  • Swansea Library opened at 228 Pacific Highway in 2006

Lake Mac Libraries today

photo: cardiff library 2014

2013-2014 Snapshot

Sixty fours years later, Lake Mac Libraries are going strong.

  • 10 branches plus Mobile library
  • 61831 active library members
  • 732 184 visits
  • 1 416 765 loans
  • 2002 programs attended by 28 203 people
  • Over 1 million page views across &
  • Opening new Cardiff library 25 March 2014


Library Act 1939 NSW

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