Historical information

The new Eltham Library was opened 22 May 1994 and celebrates its 30th anniversay in 2024.

This audio recording, presented by Harry Gilham, President of Eltham District Historical Society at the time of the opening is a summarised history of the Eltham Library service to 1994.

Eltham Library Service
1930s - 1994
Originally collated by Harry Gilham, President, Eltham District Historical Society Inc (1993-2009) (edited 2022)

In the Eltham township area, in the early 1930s, library books for adults were available from E J Andrew's newsagency in Main Road. In the newsagency come haberdashery, some shelves were set aside for a lending library of adults' books.

In 1935, Mr & Mrs JC Rains purchased the newsagency and continued the lending service until the late 1940s. At this time the business was extended from haberdashery to sell ladies' and men's clothing. The library section was discontinued. In the 1930s a mobile book library was also run by a Mr Foster of Bible Street, Eltham.

In the 1950s adult books were available from racks in the foyer of the Eltham Shire Offices which was then located beside the Eltham Hall on the comer of Arthur Street and Main Road.

In the early 1950s a referendum of ratepayers was called to seek public opinion on the issue of raising money for a public library for which the rates would have to be increased - the motion was defeated.

On 11 November 1965 Eltham Shire Council, in conjunction with the City of Heidelberg and the Shire of Diamond Valley, met to form the Heidelberg Regional Library Service. Eltham was represented by Councillors Charis Pelling and John Lewis.

The first library service for the Shire of Eltham from this group came in the shape of a bookmobile van which had, amongst others, a central stopover near the Shillinglaw trees outside the newly opened Shire offices at 895 Main Road, the original site of Shillinglaw Cottage and the former Shillinglaw farm. Present-day Wingrove Park was another stopover and the many recorded requests for this service can be read as denoting the areas of population or gathering points at that period throughout the Shire.

1968 saw the Shire convert the ‘Brinkkotter’ house in Dudley Street to house both adult and children's books. This library was originally staffed from the City of Heidelberg Library and records of committee meetings range from borrowing Heidelberg's old library shelving to trying to increase the Government's subsidy to a dollar for dollar basis. Book loans in the period 1966-67 totalled 30,400 and the following year ran to 52,113. With 2 books plus 1 paperback the limit per person, it was overcrowded and unable to house the range of other services which had become common library stock. Planning to extend the Shire Offices by the addition of the south wing was an opportunity to re-house the Shire's Library.

The opening of the library in the extension was carried out on 17th August 1971 by the Hon R J Hamer ED, MP, Chief Secretary of Victoria. Cr Geoffrey Dreverman officiated as the Shire President.

The Heidelberg Regional Library Service continued until September 1985 when it disbanded. On 21 November 1985 the Yarra Plenty Regional Library Service was established. At that time Eltham was represented by Councillors Mary Grant and Robert Manuell.

By 1987, over-crowding of the Eltham Library and an inability to house the range of other services yet again rose to prominence.

At a Council meeting held on 1 June 1987, the Councillors supported a resolution which threatened to close the library on 30 September 1987.

Council's frustration arose from yet another re-run of the annual State Government versus Council Library funding and records show first arose in Eltham Council in 1967 with the Government of 1he day.

After prolonged public anger and petitions the motion to close the library was rescinded in August 1987.

Council, considering the community's concern, set up a ‘Library Review Working Party’ which a year later became the Library Occasional Committee with direct access to Council. This Committee investigated the workings of the 386 square metre library and found inadequate space for storage and display, lack of equipment, out-of-date furniture together with an increasing patronage which resulted in queues of borrowers becoming longer no matter when the library was open. Community consultation took the form of 1,000 questionnaires sent to users and non-users along with noticeboard reminders of what was planned. Council developed a strategy to set aside capital funds from 1988 on an annual basis so that preliminary planning and consultative expenses could be met, and construction could be completed early 1997.

The Committee visited metropolitan libraries which were catering for a similar population as was projected for Eltham.

Australia-wide Federal Government funding grants under the Local Capital Works Program became available from October 1992 for community projects endorsed by local Councils. The Eltham Council submitted a proposal, based on library findings and requirements accumulated by the Library Occasional Committee, to the Federal Grants Committee to build a new Eltham Library. The Federal Grants Committee supported the funding request allowing commencement of the library project three years earlier than planned.

With finance finalised, the Council set up its Eltham Library Re-development Special Committee which was given the task of overseeing what could be the last major expansion of the Shire's Library Service as Eltham's population nears its projected maximum.

The new library was designed by Gregory Burgess and Peter Ryan of Gregory Burgess Pty Ltd. Construction of the library commenced in 1993 and was officially opened May 22nd, 1994.

The library building was designed to reflect its parkland setting. External features include: the roof which includes interesting aspects when viewed from Main Road; verandahs which provide ramp access and give a sheltered entrance to the building; walls which feature locally made mudbricks, conventional bricks and copper panels; and space for an outdoor courtyard/reading area which will be developed later.

Internally there are several features. The building includes a foyer with a fireplace suitable for displays including artwork, a community multi-purpose room suitable for meetings or functions and an outdoor cafeteria.

The ceilings are lined with Victorian Ash. The shapes for the ceiling give a free-flowing form to the building. Brush Box has been used for the circulation and information desks.

The tree trunk columns are Grey lronbark from New South Wales. Arches and various-shaped windows add interest to the internal structure. The carpet design reflects the Eltham environment and compliments the natural colours and timbers used in the building. Tiles by artist Felix Bosari feature in the building and additional art by local artists added externally and internally to the building.

Since 1994 the library has undergone a major extension to cater for children’s services and others.

See also EDHS_02111

Physical description

Digital file only recorded from Audio Cassette tape on loan
Converted to MP3 file; 11.1MB, 0:08:49