First Public Library in Woolgoolga

The first Woolgoolga Library opened in 1965 in River Street. The library was in Shop 40 which was on the southern side of the building; on the northern side was the only barber shop in Woolgoolga – as pretty much everyone visited this shop it made for a prime location for the library. Prior to this, locals had been using Shop 40 to play billiards and the only library in the village was held in the RSL Club.

Coffs Harbour Shire President Councillor William H. (Harry) Bailey officially opened the Woolgoolga Library on Friday, the 27th August 1965. Bellingen had not yet joined the Clarence Regional Library whereas Coffs Harbour Library had already joined and opened in April 1964. Cr. Bailey referred to this in his opening speech, “Bellingen Shire did not know what they are missing”!

Ald. Mavis McClymont of Grafton City Council and the Chairperson of the Clarence Regional Library mentioned the enthusiasm of Coffs Harbour Shire in library matters and that the honour of opening the library should be Cr. Bailey’s.

When Woolgoolga Library opened, Clarence Regional Library had six branches and thirteen deposit stations, Woolgoolga being the last addition to the deposit stations. At this stage, Macksville, Nambucca Heads and Bowraville had also joined the Regional Library.

The opening ceremony was preceded by an official luncheon at Woolgoolga RSL Club. The official ceremony attendants included Vice President Cr. Hannaford, Woolgoolga’s local councillor – Cr. F. Fountain, Regional Librarian – Miss M. Seale, Inspector of Schools at Coffs Harbour – Mr E. Gray, and District Inspector of Schools at Grafton – Mr. L. A. Findlay.

Local resident and ex-Councillor Mr Eric Bennett was 40 years old then. He strolled down to the opening with his wife Ina Bennett and became the first to enrol in the newly opened library. Mr Bennett still visits the library and borrows books. He commented that even though the library didn’t always have what one needed, they were always very helpful, “the staff endeavoured to get it for you.”

The library opened with a stock of 1,111 books. The Country Women’s Association (C.W.A.) members had volunteered to staff the library for the first twelve months.

At the end of the first year, C.W.A. members notified the Council that they could no longer staff the library. Mrs M. Elle who as President of the local C.W.A. Branch and who had been assisting at the library, was appointed the first part-time librarian. As Woolgoolga was only open 7 hours weekly, the Regional Librarian Miss Seale was very satisfied with the number of loans. Approximately 1,200 information books, over 3,000 fiction items and 2,500 junior items had been borrowed, making a total of over 6,500 loans in 1966. Considering the total stock was less than 1,200 books, they were well utilised.

The library stayed in that location for 14 years before it closed in 1979 when the decision was made to close Woolgoolga and Sawtell library deposit stations and start the bookmobile service instead.

Written by Surinder Kaur

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