|Description of this FunctionDescription of this Function|
The first libraries in Victoria were Mechanics Institutes. Mechanics Institutes began in England in the early 1800s in an attempt to raise educational standards. They were the first Adult Education schools usually consisting of a library, lecture room and a hall. The word mechanic meant Artisan or Craftsman.
The Melbourne Mechanics Institute, founded in 1839, provided a library that displayed every leading journal from Britain and the Australian colonies. Gradually mechanics institutes and other subscription libraries were established in most suburbs and country towns. Although they were not free public lending libraries until 1856, the rapidly increasing population and the thirst for knowledge was so great that the Institutes and other subscription libraries did well for some years.
The establishment of the Melbourne Public Library in 1856
From 1852 Redmond Barry, the first chancellor of the University of Melbourne, began lobbying for the establishment of what was then unknown in the Australian colonies: a well-organised and well-stocked free library open to general readers.
The Legislative Council of 1853 agreed with him and granted a two acre site bounded by Swanston, LaTrobe, Russell and Little Lonsdale streets for the first free government public library. Barry became chairman of a board of five trustees. Augustus Tulk an Englishman who had arrived in Melbourne in 1854 was appointed the first Chief Librarian. He was appointed just in time to help unpack crates of nearly 4,000 new volumes that had just arrived from England.
The embryonic library was opened, after two years of construction work, by the Administrator of Victoria, Major-General Sir Edward Macarthur, in February 1856.
Nearly 24,000 visitors used the library during 1856. This increased to 50,000 in 1857; 78,000 in 1858; and 128,000 in 1859: more than the numbers that frequented the British Museum in London.
Administration of the Library (1856 1944)
From the period of its establishment in 1856 through to 1944, the library was administered by a Board of Trustees who were responsible for managing and controlling the Public Library. The Trustees were a body corporate with an official seal, capable of acquiring, holding and disposing of property, and of doing anything that a body corporate may by law do. The Trustees also acted as a supervisor of money and other property. In performing its functions the Board of Trustees represented the Crown. The Trustees were subject to the general direction and control of the Victorian Chief Secretarys Department (VA 475) and were appointed by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Minister.
From the period 1863 to 1869 the Melbourne Public Library along with the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art, was administered by the Trustees of the Melbourne Public Library and the Fine Arts Commission.
Under the provisions of the Library Museums and National Gallery Act 1869, the Melbourne Public Library became the Public Library of Victoria and was incorporated with the National Gallery and Museum. The Trustees subsequently were to have the management and control of the Public Library, the National Museum of Victoria (VA 431), the National Gallery of Victoria (VA 930) and the Industrial and Technological Museum (VA 1411). This arrangement lasted until 1944.
Travelling Libraries (1869 1920)
From the beginning the Library was financed by the Colonial Government, and the early trustees attempted to serve the whole of Victoria, not just the city area. Thus, in 1859 Victoria became a pioneer in the use of travelling libraries, whereby cases of books were sent to mechanics institutes and other centres on extended loans. This service was confined to institutions within ten miles of Melbourne until 1867 when this limit was abolished. In 1892 a separate lending library was opened for metropolitan residents and extended to country areas in 1920.
In the 1920s professional organisations of librarians and later, persons such as the late Sir John Latham, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, began a campaign against deficiencies in the library services, and the Munn-Pitt Report in 1935 created enough interest for action to be taken.
In 1940 the Library Service Board was established and following its report in 1944 the State Library underwent some administrative changes. Under the provisions of the Public Library National Gallery and Museums Act, the Public Library was separated from its affiliated bodies and became subject to the management and control of the Trustees of the Public Library of Victoria.
By the 1940s less than 15% of Victorias population was served by free public libraries. The lack of library services within both metropolitan and regional districts of Victoria prompted the gradual establishment of municipal libraries. As a consequence State Library created the Library Training School in 1948.
State Library National Gallery National Museum and Institute of Applied Science Act 1960
Established in 1960 by the State Library National Gallery National Museum and Institute of Applied Science Act, the State Library (VA 2923) assumed responsibility for all functions previously undertaken by the Public Library of Victoria (VA 913) became the State Library of Victoria.
The establishment of the Library Council of Victoria 1965
In 1963 the Governor in Council appointed Sir John Jungwirth to sit as a Board of Inquiry to assess the library situation in Victoria and to make recommendations for future development. The subsequent report, published in 1964, stressed the need for cooperation and coordination to develop library services in Victoria. Accordingly the Library Council of Victoria Act 1965 created the Library Council of Victoria to carry out the functions of the State Library Trustees.
The Council was to consist of a president and eight members appointed by the Governor in Council. The Act provided that of the eight other members, six should meet certain qualifications. One should be a person distinguished in the field of education; one should represent municipalities within the Melbourne metropolitan area defined under the Act; another, the municipalities outside the metropolitan area; and one of the members should be a professional librarian appointed from a panel of names submitted by the Victorian Branch of the Library Association of Australia.
The principal functions of the Council regarding the State Library were to:
manage and control the State Library;
maintain and develop the State collection of library material
make library material within the State collection available to users as freely as possible, consistent with considerations of preservation;
carry out and make available such other services in relation to library matters and library material as the council sees fit;
publish and reproduce for sale material from the State Collection;
encourage library cooperation and coordination within and outside Victoria;
manage and control the Library Training School;
manage and control the preservation of public records.
The La Trobe Library, 1965
Under the legal deposit provisions of the Copyright Act of 1869 and subsequent legislation, one copy of all works published in the State must be deposited in the Library. This collection of books, newspapers, maps, pictures and objects of historical interest, together with other Australiana and material on New Guinea, the South Pacific, New Zealand, and the Antarctic, was housed in a special wing called the La Trobe Library which was opened in 1965.
Separation of the Public Record Office from the State Library in 1972
The responsibility originally vested in the Council to manage and control the preservation of public
records passed to the Public Record Office following the passage of the Public Records Act 1972.
Closure of the Lending Branch of the State Library
The Lending Branch of the State Library, established in 1892, was closed in 1971 because of the increasing numbers of municipal libraries being established around Victoria. However, persons not living in areas served by a municipal library were still able to borrow. To supplement the services of municipal libraries, the Library Council established a Municipal Support Service that began operating in March 1971.This service made available the stock of the State Library to persons throughout Victoria through local municipal libraries.
At the same time, the Library Training School was being phased out in 1971 when courses became available elsewhere.
Under the provisions of the Ministry for the Arts Act 1972, the State Library became administered by Victorias first Ministry for the Arts. The Ministry was established in an effort to advise and cooperate with other bodies concerned with the promotion and practice of the arts in Victoria.
Libraries Act 1988
As part of a government initiative to bring greater efficiency to the library network by providing a more focussed approach to the development of library policies the Libraries Act 1988 established the Council of the State Library of Victoria.
The Council of the State Library of Victoria was established to be responsible for the development and operational matters of the State Library of Victoria including the custodianship of the State collection of library material ensuring that it was managed, preserved, accommodated, maintained and developed in an efficient and economic manner.
The functions of the Council were to:
ensure maintenance, preservation and development of the State Collection, with special attention to the collection of material relating to Victoria and its people;
make sure that the collection is available to users as freely as possible, consistent with considerations of preservation;
provide all necessary services and facilities to enhance the effectiveness of the Library;
publish and reproduce for sale material from the State Collection;
exhibit material from the collection for information, education and entertainment.
The Libraries (Amendment) Act 1992 added a further function:
manage the land and buildings on the Swanston Street site currently occupied by the Library and Museum of Victoria.
Arts Institutions (Amendment) Act 1996
In February 1997 the Victorian Government proclaimed the sections of the Arts Institutions (Amendment) Act 1996 that created the Library Board of Victoria, which replaced the former Libraries Board of Victoria and Council of the State Library of Victoria. The new Board was to combine the state-wide policy role of the Libraries Board with the State Library governance responsibility of the Council. The new act conferred greater responsibility and accountability on the Board, while also providing opportunities for the Library to play a more vital leadership role in the state-wide network of libraries and information providers.
The Board was subject to the direction and control of the Minister for the Arts.
The functions of the Board in relation to the State Library were to:
ensure the maintenance, preservation and development of a State collection of library material including a comprehensive collection of library material relating to a Victoria and the people of Victoria;
ensure that library material in the State collection is available to persons and institutions;
ensure the availability of such other services and facilities in relation to library matters and library material (including bibliographical services);
arrange the publication and sale of reproductions of any library material in the State collection;
oversee the exhibition of material from the State collection for information, education and entertainment;
oversee cooperation in programs with libraries and information organisations to promote access to library and information services and resources;
exercise leadership and promote high standards in the provision of library and information services;
Cannon, M., Melbourne after the Gold Rush, Loch Haven Books, Main Ridge, Victoria, 1993
Cannon, M., Old Melbourne Town Before the Gold Rush, Loch Haven Books, Main Ridge, Victoria, 1991
The Cyclopedia of Victoria, Volume 1, The Cyclopedia Company, Melbourne, 1903
Victorian Yearbook 1973, 1981
Victorian Parliamentary Debates, 1944 - 1996
Council of the State Library Victoria, Annual Reports, 1988 1996
Library Council of Victoria, Annual Reports, 1965 - 1988
Council of the State Library Victoria, Annual Reports, 1988-1996
Libraries Board of Victoria, Annual Reports, 1996 - 1998
Victorian Government Directory, 1983 - 1996
Library Museums and National Gallery Act 1869 (No.86) (22 Vic.)
Public Library National Gallery and Museums Act 1944 (No.5053) (Vic.)
Public Library National Gallery and Museum Act 1949 (No.5447) (Vic.)
State Library National Gallery National Museum and Institute of Applied Science Act 1960 (No.6688) (Vic.)
Library Council of Victoria Act 1965 (No.7364) (Vic.)
Ministry for the Arts 1972 (No.8357) (Vic.)
Libraries Act 1988 (No.80) (Vic.)
Arts Institutions (Amendment) Act 1996 (No. 61) (Vic.)