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Stefan Petrow 'Making libraries free for all': the case of Launceston 1929-1945

Published: Tuesday, 11 June 2024

By the 1930s libraries were in a parlous state throughout Australia. They were poorly funded, had small collections and in some places no collections at all. In the 1930s a great social movement, the Free Library Movement, emerged in Australia and sought to encourage municipalities to fund libraries with State government support. In Tasmania, library provision was possibly the worst of all the States and the Cosgrove Labor Government was inspired by the Free Library Movement's cry of Books for the Bookless to do something about it. This rang danger signals for the Launceston Public Library, which since its origins in the Launceston Mechanics' Institute (formed 1842) had been a subscription library and only allowed members to borrow books from what was the finest and best managed collection in Tasmania. This paper traces how the Launceston Public Library responded to the emerging demand from various quarters for free libraries until it finally transferred control to the Launceston City Council in 1945.

To view Stefan's slide presentation while listening to his talk, click here.