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    History of the Benalla Library

In October 2014 Benalla's New Library opened.

There is information of this Momentous Occasion below. But first...

Library #1 - Mechanics Institute

Mechanics' Institutes were formed to provide adult education, particularly in technical subjects, to working men. They were used as libraries for the working class, and provided them with a chance to better themselves.

On 28th January 1870, the Benalla Mechanics Institute was opened. In 1900, Benalla is reported as boasting three banks, and a Mechanics Institute housing 2,100 volumes in its library (Benalla Cavalcade, p.82)

Libraries #2 - Private & Public

Benalla Cavalcade reports that after The Second World War the old Mechanics Institute Library was been replaced by a Municipal Library.

In 1921, Mrs. Ellen Greenwood took over a private Library, thought to be somewhere near the current Post Office.

1941 ad for library

Advertisement from April 1941

In May 1965, the Borough Council invited the Benalla Free Library Promotion Committee to organise and present an historical exhibition to coincide with the celebrations marking the proclamation of the City.
In response to publicity in the local press, many people in the district loaned, or donated, items of historical interest.
These were displayed in a disused dry-cleaning plant.
In response to popular demand, the exhibition remained open for a second week. During the fortnight more than 1,100 people signed the visitor's book, and many more attended the exhibition. (Benalla Cavalcade, Page 169)

The Rex Library

An an inventory/record loaned by the daughter of Mary Webster shows that Mary Webster (nee King) operated a private lending library between May 1940 and July 1946.
The library was called The Rex Lending Library, and was situated in rented premises in 36 Nunn Street.
The "Benalla Standard" of Friday May 3rd, 1940, in "Prittle Prattle and Round About" by Pippa, reports, "Some 400 new books will be at the disposal of Benalla and District when the Rex Library in Nunn Street opens at 3 o'clock this afternoon. Miss Mary King has selected a good range to suit all tastes and a visit to the library would prove interesting and enjoyable to book lovers."
On May 10th the "Benalla Standard" carried an advertisement about the Rex Library giving details of opening hours, and deposit cost - one shilling.
Receipts from "Herbert Ledger, Wann and Co", the Estate Agent to whom the rent was paid, show that 10 shillings per week was paid for rent in 1946.

There are 1808 books detailed, their names and numbers written in neat pen and ink script. The handwriting correlates to those who signed the rent payments, possibly staff members. The books were purchased from Drake, Gordon and Gotch, Robertson and Mullens, Collins, Kelly, and Edwards and Dunlop

The titles of the books indicate that they were mostly novels - mystery, romance, western, war stories, with some biographies and other non fiction books. Some interesting titles are: "The Case of the Stuttering Bishop", "The D.A. called it Murder", "The Seven Seas Murder", "Guns of the Round Stone Valley", "Memoirs of a Soviet Diplomat", "Edgar Wallace - a Biography", and "The Cardigan Cowboy". The record indicates that new books were regularly purchased during the library's existence, and regular payments to Ambler and Neway, Carriers.

Expenses included:
- Wireless - 9 pounds, 9 shillings.
- Furniture (Stolz) - 7 pounds, 10 shillings and 6 pence.
- Card box - 4 shillings
- Wireless licence - 1 pound, one shilling.
- Thinner - 1 shilling
- Clag and brush - 1 shilling and 7 pence.
- Ink, writing paper (Coles) - 5 shillings
- 3SR, Standard (possibly advertising) - 2 pounds, 5 shillings and 6 pence
- Electricity account - 10 shillings and 6 pence
- Wood (Mr. Woodbury) - 15 shillings
- Red lead pencil and nibs - 7 pence
- Insurance - 14 pounds and 2 pence
- Wages - July 1941 - July 1942 - 6 pounds

Borrowed books were recorded on library cards with the borrower's name on the card. The number of the book was written on the card and crossed off when the book was returned. In the front of the record, there is a pencilled entry " - sold books to Mr. H. Woodrow - 100 pounds - 3-9-46."  This may indicate what happened to the books when the library closed.

From a report by Robyn MacLean

Awaiting Benalla's New Library

In 1968 the Benalla Library was temporarily housed in the old RSL building in Nunn St.
There it remained for 46 years. With louvre windows and not enough storage space, leaves blew in through the ventilation and termites gnawed at the walls. But at least it was a library. The librarians swept up the leaves, and Friends of Benalla Library held meetings in the cramped kitchen.

Meeting In Kitchen

Eager usage by the people of Benalla was recorded by the door counter, library records, and those coming in for books, newspapers, research, e-books, DVDs, Internet Access, Internet usage... etc.
However, many in power insisted libraries were no longer relevant. So the Friends of Benalla Library marched;

FoBL Marching

And Lobbied:

Candy Broad with Grant

Until at last the Civic Centre by the lake, which the council had long since outgrown, was re-fitted as a library.

Before and After

And the Friends of Benalla Library were there, every step of the way.


On Saturday October 25th 2014, the "Weary Dunlop Learning Centre" (that is, the Benalla Library) was opened.
Click here for a biography of Weary Dunop

Opening Day

Friends of Benalla Library President, Robyn MacLean, gave a speech.

Rob MacLean

A Plaque was unveiled by Dignitaries

Unveiling Plaque

And the Friends of Benalla Library celebrated. A lot of work had gone into this!


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