Thursday, 22 August 2013

History of Lending Services

Below is an interesting summary of the history of the State Library of SA's lending services, along with some key milestones in the growth of the independent public library network.

This chronology is based on work done by State Library staff, with some degree of State Library-centric focus.  Much of this chronology is based on a set of references shown at the bottom of this post.
1860: The South Australian Institute moves into the Institute Building, which is officially opened on 29 January 1861.
South Australian Institute between 1860 and 1863 (Building still standing corner of North Tce & Kintore Ave)
Across the State there are 27 Institute circulating libraries, increasing to a maximum of 306 by 1930.
1874/5: A free reference library is established within the Institute Library, funded by the government.

On 1 July, the South Australian Institute is replaced by the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery. A number of the books from the Institute go to the Public Library in the new Jervois Building, which is opened on 18 December. The rest of the books become the Adelaide Circulating Library and remain in the Institute Building.
Jervois Building c1880
 1898: The Free Libraries Act allows councils to establish free libraries after a poll of rate payers. No free public libraries are established.

The "Public Library" on North Tce 1908

1915: On 16 February, the Public Library opens the Children’s Library, in the 1884 Public Library building in the room on the ground floor overlooking North Terrace.

1938: Country Lending Service of Public Library is established 1 October with just over 4,000 volumes.

Country Lending Building 1942
1941: A school box service is introduced, sending boxes to schools and kindergartens. A library service for the Navy, Army and Air Forces is provided through the Country Lending Services.

 The Packing Room of Country Lending Services
1946: On 19 March, the Public Library establishes the Adelaide Lending Service.

1954: Lending commences from the Children’s Library, to meet the needs of the children bedridden by the polio epidemic.

 Children’s Library
MP for Norwood Don Dunstan calls for free libraries in a speech to the Estimates debates in Parliament in November.

1955: The Libraries (Subsidies) Act is passed, which provides State Government support to libraries funded and run by municipal councils. The Act does not require that the libraries be free for the public to access.

1957: On 9 August, the Public Library establishes Youth Lending Service.

On 11 December, the Premier Sir Thomas Playford opens the first free council rate-supported public library in the Elizabeth South Shopping Centre. The land and building were provided by the South Australian Housing Trust and the council provides the staff and operating costs.

On 6 April, Public Library of South Australia is renamed the State Library of South Australia. The Bastyan Wing is officially opened 25 May, at a cost of over $3 million.

"Public Library" front entrance
Local public libraries serve 48% of the population of the State. The rest are dependent on services provided by the Country Lending Service and Adelaide Lending Services.

1970: The Mander-Jones Report The future role of the Institutes Association and Institutes Libraries in South Australia is published. The Dunstan Government rejects the report in favour of free, government subsidised libraries for the State.  A Public Libraries Branch is established within the State Library to support the growth and development of local government public libraries.

1973: Country Lending Services split from Subsidised Libraries Branch and amalgamate with Adelaide Lending Service to become Adult Lending Services. 

Children’s Library, Country Children’s Book Service and Youth Lending Service amalgamate to become Juvenile Services Branch within the State Library. 

Youth Lending Services

1974: Adult Lending Services to prisons commences.

From the Annual Report of the Libraries Board of South Australia, 1978-79

1975: South Australia becomes the first State to introduce a model of public library service utilising local school libraries; particularly in small rural communities of less than 3,000 people where local councils are unlikely to be able to fund a "main street" public library. These libraries became known as School Community Libraries.

1976: Adult Lending Services commences services to homes, hospitals throughout the state in areas not served by public libraries and to homes, hospitals and housebound individuals in the Adelaide City Council area.

From the Annual Report of the Libraries Board of South Australia, 1982-83
1977: The Dunstan Government sets up an enquiry into library services, chaired by Board Chairman Jim Crawford. 

The 1st School Community Library opens on 7 October at Pinnaroo.

The State Library develops a demonstration mobile library. 

Adult Lending Services introduces cassette books.

From the Annual Report of the Libraries Board of South Australia, 1975-76

1978: The Crawford Report is published, recommending a bipartisan funding model for local government libraries. The recommendation is accepted by the state government.

1979: Public Libraries Division expands to support ongoing library growth and moves from North Terrace to The Parade Norwood.

From the Annual Report of the Libraries Board of South Australia, 1960-61
1980: Public Libraries Division splits from the State Library Division.

1982: The Libraries Act (1982) codifies much of the practices which shape the State's public library network.

The Reference Library stops lending its materials.

Lending Services begin Automated Circulation.

The first day of computers in the State Library
1983: Managements of Institutes transfers from the Council of Institutes Association of South Australia to the Libraries Board.

1986: On 16 December the Hon. Barbara Wiese, Minister of Local Government, officially opened Lending Services.

Lending Services has an information literacy, technology and lifelong learning focus, and offers specialised multilingual and multimedia collections. 

A Computer Resource Centre is established at the State Library, with the aim of assisting customers develop or increase their computing skills. Six PCs are lent by local computer firms, and Macs, scanners and printers are purchased. The CRC charges for printing, and over the next few years will earn enough revenue that all equipment, consumables, software and PC replacement will be self-funded.

Customers using the Computer Resource Centre 1996
1988: Public Libraries Automated Information Network (PLAIN) - a computerised Inter-Library Loan & e-procurement system - is established, providing public libraries with online selection of new materials and access to materials across the state in an automated ILL system.

1989: Jill Gael is appointed as Acting Manager, Lending Services to delineate the role of Lending Services, without replicating the services provided by local libraries. Public Libraries Branch (re-named PLAIN Central Services) moves from Norwood to Hindmarsh.

PLAIN Central Services offices at 7 Milner St Hindmarsh
1990: A Report on the Development of a South Australian Library and Information Service recommends that metropolitan lending services be taken over by the City of Adelaide. A Memorandum of Understanding is signed by the Premier and the President of the Local Government Association giving responsibility for public library support services to the Local Government Services Support Bureau.

1991: An agreement is reached between the Board and the City of Adelaide for the delivery of a Lending Library. State Library Lending Services are then close, and the City of Adelaide Lending Library opens, operating from within the State Library.

1994: On 20 December, The City of Adelaide Lending Library transfers from joint to sole ownership by the City of Adelaide.

2001: In April, construction of the Building Redevelopment project begins. The Bastyan Wing is closed for public use in August, and temporary services are provided from the Institute and Jervois Buildings. The City of Adelaide Lending Library operates out of what is now the Hetzel Lecture theatre in the Institute Building.

2003: Towards 2010: Developing the Public Library Network of South Australia is released; recommending changes to the governance and role of PLAIN Central Services.

In July, after significant reforms and staff reductions Public Library Services (renamed from PLAIN Central Services) moves to the State Library after 30 years at Norwood and Hindmarsh.

2011: A 10 year funding and governance agreement for the public library network is agreed to and signed by the State Government and the Local Government Association.

2012: In May the One Card consortium - which connects all libraries on one shared Library Management System - commences with Mitcham & Onkaparinga being the 1st 2 libraries connected.

The Adelaide City Council Library will leave the State Library building and move to new premises in Rundle Mall.

Some sources used as the basis of this post are:
  • Samuels, B, 1989. The Evolution of the State Library: An Historical Chronology. Bibliophile, Vol 2 No 3, 17
  • Samuels, B, 1990. The Evolution of the State Library: An Historical Chronology Part II: 1900-1965. Bibliophile, Vol 3 No 1, 14
  • Samuels, B, 1990. The Evolution of the State Library: An Historical Chronology Part III: 1967-1987. Bibliophile, Vol 3 No 2, 8
  • Spooner, C and Bell, M, 2011. A selective chronology of the State Library of South Australia and its forerunners, accessible online at 


  1. Love the photos! Great post.

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