The History of Williamstown Library

Willy library small4 May 1968 - 4 May 2018

Happy 50th birthday to Williamstown Library! The library and site has gone through a few transformations over the years to become the library we currently know and love. 

Here's a blast from the past with a timeline of the library and site. Have a read of memories from locals and past employees at the bottom of the page.

On this site

The rich communal heritage of the Williamstown Library precinct cannot be overstated. 

It was for 40,000 years associated with the Yalukit-Willam tribe. Their land, at the head of Port Phillip Bay that extended from the Werribee River to St Kilda.  

The nineteenth century saw waves of people arriving by sea to Williamstown and the immediate area was utilized in a variety of ways: residential, industrial, agricultural uses.



Hoyts Shore Theatre 1911 - 1964

Changes in the early twentieth century saw the land host recreational and civic pursuits. 

The Williamstown Picture Theatre, built through public subscription opened in 1911, later known as the Shore Theatre stood on this land for more than 50 years.

The council bought the theatre in 1917 with the intention of using it for council offices, but this idea was scrapped and it stayed as a theatre until its demolition in 1964.



Demolition of Shore Theatre Ferguson St 1964-1966

Can you spot the old Milk Bar across the road? How about the old building on the corner? Is that still the same?



Foundation stone 1967

Laying of the Foundation Stone by Mayor Cr. Leo Hoffman. WPE.

This stone is now located on the deck at the front of the library, on Ferguson Street.



Official opening 4 May 1968

The Shore Theatre made way for the City of Williamstown Free Library and Municipal Offices.

They were officially opened on May 4 1968 by the then Minister for Local Government Rupert Hamer.



Embraced by the community

The 1968 library was immediately popular and soon outgrew its premises.

After several further reincarnations permission was granted for a new library in 2009.



Books in adult

Note the sign over the reference desk. How much has language has changed over those 50 years?!



Time capsule opened November 2010

Councillors Bill Tehan and Angela Altair had the honour of opening the time capsule, which had been enshrined behind the 1967 foundation stone for 43 years.

The contents included a scroll and that was it!



Library team bumps out November 2010

It would be fair to say, that over the decades the Williamstown Library team have had lots of fun.

We love a good story and spend our working lives connecting people with them through books, films and music, as often it’s intrinsic to who we are as individuals.



Demolition December 2010

How delighted were of the children of Williamstown with this stage of the development? Very!



Turning the sod 19 April 2011

The then Mayor of Hobsons Bay, Councillor Michael Raffoul and the Hon. Jeanette Powell MP had the honour of turning the first sod.

What type of soil do you think they had to dig?



Library at the Mechanics 2011-2012

The library service relocated temporarily to the Mechanics Institute in Electra Street.

From storytime to Maritime at the Mechanics we have very fond memories of this stage of library life in Williamstown.



The build 2010 - 2012

Sally Draper Architects and Mitsouri Architects, Melbourne

Builder: Devco Constructions, Williamstown

Size: 1399 sq metres of floor space

Cost: $8.1 million from Hobsons Bay City Council and the state government



Library opening 20 September 2012

On a sunny Thursday in September 2012 the new library was officially opened by Hon Jeanette Powell, minister for local government and the Mayor of Hobsons Bay, Councillor Tony Briffa.

The community opening at 12 noon was attended by 100s of locals, eager for the ribbon to be cut so they could finally enjoy their new library.



Happy 50th

Since the opening 100s of thousands of people have visited, each represents a different reason to walk through the door, a different story….

To escape the chaos of home for a quiet place to study

To plan a longed for holiday

To seek respite from the solitude of an empty home

To learn how to run a marathon, bake a pie, use a computer, research family secrets ...and even to rustle the autumn leaves!

The spirit of learning, recreation and information is alive and well at Williamstown Library, as it has been for half a century…..all are welcome here!



Memories of Williamstown and the library

Anne Ramage - Friends of Williamstown and Newport Libraries

Bernadette Thomson - library staff from 1973 to 2013

History of public libraries in Williamstown 1864 to 1975 by Heather Evans

Thank you to Heather Evans who has allowed us to digitise her thesis and make it available online. Heather wrote this during her last year at the RMIT librarianship school while she was also working as a library assistant at Williamstown Library.

Part one

Part two

Part three

Appendices and notes