Arrival of the Bookmobile

Does the Coffs Harbour and surrounding areas need a bookmobile? This was obviously the big question in 1977 when a survey of the southern shires was undertaken to determine the level of need for a bookmobile service. The response must have been in the affirmative because a grant submission for $45,000 was subsequently submitted to the Library Council of NSW to assist with financing this service.

In due time, funding was received but things seemed to move slowly and it was a further two years before the service was started. September 28, 1979 saw the official opening take place on the lawn outside Coffs Harbour Library, with Clarence Regional Library Committee member Cr Mavis McClymont and Coffs Harbour Deputy Shire President Cr Eric Hogbin performing the official duties, including the cutting of the gold ribbon hung across the bookmobile doorway. The bookmobile was parked on the side of the road, ready to be shown off to a very excited community, with the first visitors being escorted onto the bookmobile by the Member for Clarence, Matt Singleton. Amongst those initial visitors were three very excited children, Kath Williams, Robert Rushbrook and Tina Laidlaw who had won a colouring competition entitling them to a free book as well as the privilege of first visitation rights! I’m sure they would have been very thrilled to be involved with the launch of this service, as well as having bragging rights because their photos appeared in the paper!

Following its official opening, the Bookmobile was put into operation on 2nd October and was scheduled to make regular visits in the Coffs Harbour region to Corindi, Woolgoolga, Sawtell, Toormina, Karangi, Coramba, Glenreagh, Nana Glen and Bonville. How exciting would it have been for all the smaller areas to now have access to a library service! The bright yellow, 7 tonne, 23 foot long vehicle would have parked in a central position in each of those localities and stayed for a number of hours, depending on demand. The driver of the bookmobile was also the library assistant and once he had parked the vehicle, he would have needed to get the bookmobile set up ready for its visitors, including picking up books that had fallen off the shelves in transit. The library service offered through the bookmobile was similar to what could be expected through a static library, but on a much smaller scale. The bookstock initially was around three thousand items but these were regularly rotated to ensure that library members had access to fresh stock.

The opening of the service was bittersweet for some of the volunteers who had operated small deposit stations in outlying areas, which closed following the introduction of the new bookmobile. Mr Viv Ellem acted as a volunteer Library Assistant for 22 years at Glenreagh and whilst he was happy that residents of Glenreagh would be able to access a better library service than previously, he had enjoyed working at the library and was sad to leave it. Viv’s dedication to his work was recognised at the opening of the bookmobile with Cr McClymont making a special presentation to him to show the gratitude of the Clarence Regional Library Committee. Alongside Viv, the commitment of Lorraine Long (Sawtell Library) and Val Richards (Woolgoolga Library) were also recognised.

It’s interesting to see how things move in circles and following the cessation of the Bookmobile service, Library Branches were once again opened in Toormina and Woolgoolga, but on a much larger scale, with paid library staff.

Written by Liz Thomas

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