State Library of Victoria - history

How to research the history, development, architecture, collections and management of the State Library of Victoria.

Establishing a Lending Library

From the mid-19th century, free public lending libraries had begun to be established in the United States and England, and in April 1883, Head Librarian Thomas Bride produced a report urging the establishment of a lending library, with a collection separate from that of the Reference Library.

I am of the opinion that an important function of the library will be left unfulfilled if a lending library be not established ... If the aim of public libraries be not only to preserve but to diffuse knowledge as widely as possible, every facility should be afforded for the encouragement of healthy reading and it would seem that the system of lending libraries is a most potent agent to this end.  Argus 24 April 1883 p.6

Bride pursued this project tenaciously, and finally, on 8 August 1892, the Lending Library opened. It was an immediate success. In 1893, there were 93,608 loans. Concerns about the safety of books were dispelled: during that year only six books were lost, of which four were paid for. Report of Trustees....1893 p.10

Initially Library users didn't have access to the book shelves. There was an indicator which was a wooden frame, containing small oblong pigeon holes, into which are fitted numbered blocks representing the books in the Library. One end is red (book on loan), the other white (available). (See  Australasian library conference Conference proceedings, 1896 p.51)

The indicator was removed in 1899 (see The book of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, 1856-1906. pp.79 and 80) when the books were classified by Dewey and the public could access the shelves directly. The item appears to have been discarded at the time of its removal.

The Lending Library continued for nearly 80 years, closing on 27 February 1971

Lending Library 1955

Interior view of lending library 1955 H40290

Lending Library 1955

Interior view of lending library 1955 H40292

Lending Library 1955

Interior view of lending library 1955 H40293

Interior of the Lending Library, State Library of Victoria c1910

Interior of the Lending Library ca, 1910 H4664

Book from Lending Library

Lending Library notice
Pocket for book loan in back of book
Date stamp page for book loan