City Of Canterbury Library Service

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Our library service has a rich and varied history, with plenty happening over the years since the first library opened in 1884. Over this time, countless people have walked through its front doors, and it is by far one of our most used services by our community. Take a few minutes to read through the timeline below and discover how your library has evolved into the vibrant and dynamic service that it has become.


1884 First Library opened in the Council Chambers, assisted by a State Government grant of 200 pounds. It ceased to exist sometime between 1906 and 1915-1916. It was probably a reference library only.
1939 The State government proclaimed the Free Library Act to encourage local councils to establish free public library services.
1945 Canterbury Municipal Council adopted the Free Library Act.
1946 Canterbury Library Service was one of the first free public library services in Sydney. Miss Nancy Wood was appointed the first Chief Librarian on 25 November 1946. Campsie Library opened in a temporary building at 157 Beamish Street, on 16 December 1946. The library had about 1300 books on the shelves. It was a long, narrow shop-front building with a partition across the back to make a workroom for staff. There was one toilet and one sink for washing hands as well as dishes. Campsie Library was always the main Central Library, as for many years Campsie had been the main shopping centre for the Canterbury Local Government Area. Nancy Wood described the opening: "There was no fanfare of trumpets and no speech-making. The initial collection of about 1,300 books was too small to advertise amongst 100,000 people". The library was an immediate success, and loan statistics for the first year reached 80,223 volumes.
1947 Temporary branch opened at Earlwood at a garage in front of a tile factory, on the corner of William and Homer Streets. The tile factory's van was housed at the front of the garage and there was a curtain hung between it and the library. There was no running water, and staff used the tile factory's toilet. The library had only one chair for the public and there were no children's books.

Temporary branch opened at Canterbury in one room, which was a shopfront in Minter Street, just around the corner from Canterbury Road. It had no running water or toilet, and staff had to lock the library to use a toilet shared with a family around the corner. There was only one staff member, Shirley Cox. There were no books for children apart from a few donations.

Facilities for the public were almost non-existent in the early days. There were only one or two chairs at the branches and very little table space, and they were too cramped for people to sit around and read.

Lakemba branch opened at 35 Croydon Street. It was the first purpose built library, being jointly built as a Baby Health Centre and library. When Lakemba Branch Library opened in 1947 it was the first of the Canterbury libraries to cater for children; before then, there were only adult books in the collections. Campsie did not have children's books until they moved into their new building in 1958. Children became more of a focus with the appointment of the first Children's Librarian at Campsie in about 1959. Children were issued with a separate children's library card, and they could only use the adult collection after they started high school.

1952 Permanent building opened at Canterbury at 201-203 Canterbury Road, next to Canterbury Railway Station. The branch was closed in 1986.

Permanent building opened at Earlwood at the corner of William and Homer Streets, on a site shared with the Earlwood Early Childhood Health Centre. It was officially opened by the Mayor, Alderman HR Thorncraft, on 21 November 1952.

1953 Miss Thurles Thomas appointed Chief Librarian.
1956 Staff numbers had grown over the first ten years from 4 to 20, and the book-stock had grown to 50,000 items.
1957 New Campsie Central Library opened at 137 Beamish Street, to replace the old cramped shop premises.
1959 Miss Judith Rooke appointed Chief Librarian. Punchbowl branch was opened at the corner of Canterbury Road and Bonds Road. The branch closed in 1986, and the building was demolished in about 1991. The site was incorporated into Scott Park.
1961 Belmore branch was opened at 435 Burwood Road on 31 July 1961. It closed in 1990.
1971 Riverwood branch was opened at the corner of Belmore Road and Roosevelt Avenue. It was officially opened on 11 September 1971 by the Mayor, Alderman JR Beaman, and was named after Alderman JM Hale, who was Deputy Mayor at the time.
1977 Book-stock reached 169,000 and there was a branch within two miles of every resident.
1980 Community Language collections expanded to reflect the changing demographics of the Canterbury area, to include collections in all the major languages spoken locally.
1982 Home Library Service began delivering books to the housebound.
1985 Library Bus Service began. It provides transport to and from the library for people who have difficulty using public transport.
1986 New Campsie Central Library opened in the ground floor of the Campsie Centre, a new shopping centre at 14-28 Amy Street. The library was officially opened by Professor Manning Clark on 13 December 1986, the 40th anniversary of modern library services in Canterbury. It includes a Reference Library for quiet study with 60 places.
1987 New Lakemba Branch Library opened at the corner of The Boulevarde and Croydon Street, as part of a complex with the Lakemba Senior Citizens Centre. The new building was officially opened by the Member for Lakemba, Mr Wes Davoren on 5 September 1987. The old library building is now shared between the Lakemba Early Childhood Centre and the Koorana Child and Family Centre.

Ron Saunders appointed Library Manager.

1988 Canterbury Local Studies Centre opened at the old Campsie Central Library building, at 139 Beamish Street.
1991 Canterbury Local Studies Centre moved to Lakemba Branch Library.
1994 Campsie Library's Technology Access Centre opened in October.
1995 The Canterbury Local Studies collection was dedicated to the memory of Miss Judith Rooke, who served Council as Librarian, Chief Librarian and Municipal Historian from 10 September 1951 to 10 September 1993. Miss Rooke was Chief Librarian from 1959 to 1986. A plaque was unveiled by the Mayor, Councillor John Gorrie, and the General Manager, Mr Jim Montague.
1996 Canterbury City Council launches Internet presence with Canterbury City Council homepage created by Canterbury City Library.

Internet training commenced, with the library acting as a training centre of the Internet Training Institute. The first training course was held on November 14th. The Canterbury Library Service celebrated 50 years of service, with a day of celebrations on 30 November 1996.

1997 Canterbury Local Studies Centre returns to Campsie Central Library.
1998 Canterbury City Council's Home Page, prepared by the library, wins the Asian Libraries Library Website Competition.
1999 Library stock (including videos, cassettes, compact discs, magazines and books) reached 224,000 items.

Homework Assistance Program commences in July, offering study assistance to pupils in years 3 - 12.

2000 Continued provision of a free and accessible library service.

Local History publishes Canterbury City Cemeteries Online Project on Canterbury City Council's Home Page becoming the first in Australia to publish complete burial registers together with photographs of every surviving headstone in a cemetery.

2001 Amlib Automated Library Management System replaces VTLS LMS. Amlib NetOpacs Web-accessible catalogue replaces VTLS WebOpac Gateway as the Library's online gateway to the library catalogue.

Michelle Mashman appointed Library Manager.

A major review of the library service was undertaken by Dr. Veronica Lunn, helping to develop strategies and future directions for the service.

2002 Official launch of Amlib Automated Library Management System and Amlib NetOpacs online catalogue gateway.

Earlwood Branch Library underwent extensive refurbishments.

2003 Furthering the recommendations of the 2001 Review of Library Services, a staffing restructure saw the creation of new positions within the library service, including an Aged and Disability Access Librarian and the transferral of cataloguing positions to other areas within the library.

This year also completed the transition to acquiring shelf ready library materials. All stock received at the library now arrives pre catalogued and processed, ready to go on the shelves.

2004 Library awarded Local Government Cultural Awards for outstanding youth program. Library Service took the honours for its innovative Youth Education Support Program. Photos: Page 1 >> Page 2

The library service also received the MPLA Multicultural Excellence Award as recognition of the outstanding collections and services delivered to our diverse community. This year saw an increase of public space at Campsie Library to allow for increased community language collections and facilities, made possible by a Library Development Grant.

Overdue fines were introduced in the latter part of the year to manage our collections better, encouraging prompt return of library materials to provide a better customer service.

2005 Lakemba Library undergoes major refurbishments. Re-opening celebration takes place on Saturday 30 July 2005 with the Mayor of Canterbury, Councillor Robert Furolo, in attendance.

Campsie Library hosts the Library Service's first author talk on 16 November, 2005 when Mahboba Rawi speaks about her first book titled Mahboba’s Promise.

Introduced NetLoan Pro automated computer booking system to manage public-access computers within the central and branch libraries.

Campsie Library receives a new circulation desk incorporating the information desk and circulation desk. Existing information desk removed.

2008 Local History online photograph database Pictorial Canterbury receives Highly Commended at the Energy Australia National Trust Heritage Awards 2008 in the Corporate / Government category. The citation reads: Pictorial Canterbury is an online database of over 10,000 photographs charting over 150 years in the history of the local area. This is a commendable example of making images available to a wider audience.
2009 Proud to be the first library in the world to install 'Libero V6', a new Library Management System which will enhance our community's experience at our libraries.
2010 Campsie Library went live with RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technology, allowing patrons to check out their own items and manage their own loans, resulting in shorter waiting times, faster loans, increased loan limits and increased privacy.
2013 Local History wiki, Canterbury Commons, receives Highly Commended at the National Trust Heritage Awards 2013 in the Education, interpretation and community engagement category. The citation reads: This projects uses all the advantages of on-line participation and collaboration so that the local community can share their stories and engage in their own local history based on the well known ‘wiki’ model. This project spreads and shares knowledge, fostering pride and interest in the local area, something that other local libraries and history centres may wish to emulate.
2016 Campsie Library closed for renovations from 1 June until September. A temporary pop-up library is opened at Shop 34 in the Campsie Centre. The new library will feature increased community spaces, improved event and meeting rooms, exciting youth spaces, new furniture, enhanced technology and accessible facilities. During the renovations Lakemba Library is opened extended hours.