1965

The Shire of Altona Public Library was officially opened on the 5th June 1965 in front of an estimated crowd of 500.  As a precaution, a section of Queen Street was closed to traffic.

The library’s architects were Howden and McLean, with the project architect being Bryan Glynne.  It was built by a well known Altona builder, L.C. Noordenne.  The library was considered a state of the art facility and the local press reports of the day made much of the fact that the new library had air conditioning. The library cost approximately £71,000 to establish.  This comprised £46,717 for the building, £13,370 for the book stock and £4,000 for staff salaries.  The rest was made up of office equipment and sundries.  Operating expenses for the 1965-1966 year was £17,300.

The Children’s Corner was adorned with a mural executed in oils by Mrs. Marjorie Howden, depicting the early settlers surrounded by the growth of Altona.

The library was equipped with a punch card system, a Regiscope-Rapidex Circulation Control System or photo-charger which recorded borrowings on microfilm.  Altona library was also fortunate enough to have a photocopier.

For the first month of its life the library only had to issue four overdue notices (and one of those was a mistake!)

The first Shire of Altona Librarian was Mr Laurie James. The Deputy Librarian was Mrs Loretta Forsey as well as two additional staff members, Miss Smedley and Mrs Allen, who were employed to catalogue and process the books in readiness for the official opening in 1965. Mr James noted in his 1963-1964 report to council : ”It must be stressed that Mrs. Forsey is second in seniority to the librarian; she is always a most wiling and enthusiastic employee, extremely loyal both to the council and the librarian who would strongly urge a permanent appointment. She regards her work very seriously and has more than fulfilled the obligations of her appointment.”  Mr James was equally enthusiastic about Miss Smedley’s and Mrs Allen’s work performance.  Mr James requested that Council provide him with extra staff, “A youth of about 18-20 to carry out general library duties [and] for sorting the transaction cards a part-time assistant (female) will be required.  He also noted that “The librarian does not act as a censor of books, pamphlets or other material.”

The staff were employed a year before the library opened and 10,000 of the 15,000 books purchased during the year were catalogued and processed at the Homestead which was directly across the road from the library.

Mr James was quoted at the time “There were cases of books everywhere.  Looking around now though, I can smile.  Everything will be ship-shape for next weeks’ opening.”

Over 5,000 people joined the library in its first month of operation.  It had over 16,000 books on its register, but demand was so great at one stage, of the 1,000 beginner (picture) books, only 12 were left on the shelves.

1966