Harry Bailey Memorial Library in Castle Street
Inside Harry Bailey Memorial Library
Original floor plan of Castle Street Library
It wasn’t very long until the library outgrew its Civic Centre location and needed to find a new home.
1971 saw plans for a new library being submitted to the Public Library section of the State Library of NSW and a year later the building contract was awarded to the Amos Brothers. It was anticipated that the complex, which included not just the library but also the Tourist Information Centre, would cost $106,000 and be open by the end of 1972
The site for the new library was on Castle Street, just up the road from the old one and was named the Harry Bailey Memorial Library in honour of Coffs Harbour Shire President Harry Bailey, who passed away in 1965. Cr Bailey had not only been a long serving Councillor, but also Shire President of the previous Dorrigo Shire as well as the first Shire President of the subsequent Coffs Harbour Shire. He had a strong involvement in establishing and developing the library service in Coffs Harbour and was an active member of the Clarence Regional Library Committee up until the time of his death.
The library moved into its new premises in 1973, opening its doors for the first time on Monday 19March. According to the Chief Librarian at the time, Sue Shipman ‘More than 750 people have used the library since it opened on Monday and they like it very much….unfortunately people are limited to two books each as we still haven’t enough books’. When the library moved it also increased its opening hours to 37.5 hours per week, which was the same as the central library at Grafton. It was still classed as a very busy branch which resulted in a third member of staff being appointed to work 19 hours per week. The library now stocked over 10,000 items and had a great deal of high shelving, which was offset by the large area of open space in the library. The layout also included a courtyard which was initially unfurnished, but went on to be used for children’s activities as well as being used as an outdoor reading area.
The library was air-conditioned and featured a large central skylight, which apparently allowed not just natural light to filter in, but also the rain! Apparently after every shower of rain the staff would rush around putting out buckets and bowls to catch the water in. It was determined that the fault lay with the skylight being designed without allowing for expansion and contraction, but this was eventually repaired and panic no longer struck staff when storm clouds started appearing in the sky.
In either 1986 or 1987 the library expanded into the adjacent Tourist Information area, which resulted in the Librarians Office, staff workroom, Reference and Family History resources being relocated into that area. The opportunity was taken to dismantle the old partition in the main library section which meant that the Children’s Section could be expanded and improved with shelving at a height more suitable for children. The extra floor space, combined with a reorganisation of shelving resulted in the main library becoming a much more open space. The removal of the courtyard wall and the landscaping at the front entrance improved the library street appeal and made it a much more prominent facility.
The Coffs Harbour Library was renamed on 26 June 1997 by resolution of Coffs Harbour City Council, as recommended by the then Library Advisory Committee. It was also recommended that a room within the existing library be called the Harry Bailey Room, but as yet there has been no room suitable for this to take place.
Written by Liz Thomas