Wodonga’s Library

From a booklet prepared by Bec Humphries for the Wodonga Historical Society.

On the 28th July 1915 the Shire President, Councillor Beardmore, laid the foundation stone for the building that would become the Wodonga Public Library. Almost 12 months later, on the 8th March 1916, the library was officially opened. It was the pride of Wodonga. The Shire Council closed their doors for a brief period so that all staff could attend the opening and the teachers and children of the local schools also attended. Councillor Beardmore declared that “it was an asset that would return a profit- not in pounds and shillings and pence but in the development and furnishing of the minds and lives of our young people”.

The Wodonga Athenaeum, in an out of the way location, had closed in 1914 after continuing reports of a lack of funds and the proceeds of the sale of the building went towards the building of the new library. In 1915 the library building committee started to put together a building fund for a new library. The library, situated at 78 High Street, now Middleton’s Carpets, was funded almost exclusively by the public. The books from the Athenaeum were presented to the library committee at the opening in 1916.

The Wodonga Public Library retained the supporters of the Athenaeum, which had closed in 1914, and both had various fundraising activities. Most interestingly in 1899 the Athenaeum hosted a “smoke night” run by the Wodonga Athletics Club.

The new library was both a place for education and recreation, a communal space to socialise, which also boasted a billiards room downstairs.

As with many early libraries, the Wodonga Public Library was funded entirely by the public, with loans from Wodonga Shire Council and local banks, quickly repaid. To sustain the library, the committee called for members who would purchase a subscription, but both subscribers and members of the public could access the library.

The library committee also raised funds for ongoing maintenance through markets, bazaars, produce sales and public dances.

There was a subscriber’s room and this was accessible to all visitors of the library, however non-subscribers had to read their books in the public room.