First NSW council library celebrates 75 years

The 75th anniversary of the state’s first council library is proof that libraries remain as relevant as ever despite predictions of their demise, the Mayor of Ku-ring-gai says.

Ku-ring-gai Council set up its first library at Council Chambers in the NSW suburb of Gordon in 1945 following passage of the 1939 NSW Library Act, which enabled the provision of free public library services to the people of NSW.

Mayor Jennifer Anderson

“The Council has always been one historically that has looked to be innovative,” Mayor Jennifer Anderson told Government News.

“When the opportunity came up through the Library Act, we certainly recognised that our community was one that valued education and literacy.”

Cr Anderson says the library has been through many changes over the years.

“I think on the opening day there were about 102 books loaned. Of course, that’s an amazing first start on the first day, but today it averages up to 10,000 items per day.”

Since then, Ku-ring-gai Libraries has opened up more branches and offers more services, including 3D printing spaces, internet zones and technology classes.

It’s also launching a free digital newsstand to celebrate the anniversary with the latest issues of 7,000 newspapers and magazines in over 60 languages.

Libraries as community centres

Cr Anderson, who has worked in librarianship in Australia and England, says libraries remain relevant today and will continue to be relevant, despite earlier fears that they would be overtaken by technology.

“When the transition to technology and ebooks came in, there was some thought that libraries may fall by the wayside, but I think that’s far from the reality,” she says.

For libraries to survive and thrive they need to be innovative, adaptable and responsive to their communities, she says.

A key factor in their survival has been the evolution of libraries into community centres, Cr Anderson says.

When the library moved from the council chambers into its own building in 1965 (Photo: Ku-ring-gai Council)

“It’s wonderful to see the sense of community spirit, which was evident in the 1970s when I started working in libraries, still continues to this day.

“Those features of the library will remain no matter what the technology is.”

Libraries also exist to serve the community, and their role remains very important, she says.

“I know our residents have certainly sent me emails saying how much they appreciate their local librarians who’ve helped them so much throughout the year.”

Mobile library service

Ku-ring-gai is most proud of its Home Library Service, a mobile library that delivers library items to residents permanently or temporarily struggling with mobility.

“Having a mobile library has been one of those innovations over the years to help housebound residents, and that sort of mobile library is still very highly embraced today,” Cr Anderson says.

The council also provides a Libraribus service, which transports residents to the library from their homes.

“We’ve certainly improved opportunity to transfer residents from their home to the libraries if they’re able,” Cr Anderson says.

“And we’ve got vehicles now that can load wheelchairs easily and make it more user friendly for those residents.”

Ku-ring-gai Library is an important community centre today, Council says. (Photo: Ku-ring-gai Council)

Challenges to meet demands for space

As the population grows, there will be more demands for library space, and the library is already struggling to meet this demand, Cr Anderson says.

Ku-ring-gai is currently looking at longer term plans to update its smaller library branches and build new hubs, which will be used to store materials and resources for the library.

“The demand for spaces is something that our community realises is needed, and we’re hopefully going to see that through the hubs, but there’s a lot of planning that has to go on to achieve that,” Cr Anderson says.

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