Merriwa community will celebrate 150 years of its library service in 2019

One hundred and fifty years ago the Merriwa Mutual Improvement Society commenced public readings at the local courthouse (pictured).
One hundred and fifty years ago the Merriwa Mutual Improvement Society commenced public readings at the local courthouse (pictured).

THE Merriwa community is celebrating 150 years of library service in 2019 and a community event has been organised to mark the milestone.

Everyone is invited to view displays of photos and old books, listen to readings, enjoy a sausage sizzle and celebrate the importance of reading and history at Merriwa Library on Saturday, August 31, from 10am.

One hundred and fifty years ago the Merriwa Mutual Improvement Society commenced public readings at the courthouse.

In June, 1869, the Maitland Mercury reported that the second meeting of the Merriwa Mutual Improvement Society had a "good attendance of members and visitors".

"The chair was occupied by the vice-president, Mr. Asser, who also gave a reading from the Merchant of Venice. The subject for debate was "Ought capital punishment to be abolished ?" which was decided in the affirmative.

"The question for the next meeting is 'Is the destruction of trees beneficial to the colony?' This time the Ministry takes tbe negative and Mr. Read is to give a recitation from Richelieu, I trust that the young men who have not yet joined the society will immediately have themselves enrolled as members, for I think they will find it very much to their advantage."

In 1870 the Society changed its name to the Merriwa School of Arts, established a Reading Room in the basement of the Cottage and discussions continued about the importance of having a library.

Historic Merriwa School of Arts

Historic Merriwa School of Arts

The reading room was lit three nights a week and had 100 books and newspapers like the Maitland Mercury, Town and Country Journal, Sydney Punch, Sydney News, London News and the Dublin Review. The catalogue grew quickly, a librarian was employed by 1871 and the reading room moved to the School of Arts building in 1876.

By 1950 there was still no public library in the region.

In November 1950, the Joint Committee of Upper Hunter Shire Council and Scone Municipal Council put forward the need for a free library in the district.

"There are no technical books at all available locally to assist students in their arts and trades, while at schools there is an unsatisfied demand. Letters in supportof the movement have been received from the following public bodies: Scone Chamber of 'Commerce, Primary Producers' Union, Scone Rotary Club, Scone P. & C, Association, Scone Soldiers' Memorial School of Arts.

"Objects: Not merely to buy books and buildings, but to provide a service to the public- to keep books circulating - to keep them fresh and up-to-date by purchase, or by exchange with the Public Library in Sydney.

"Purpose: Provide free to readers all classes of literature- fiction, technical, periodical and juvenile, The latter has always been a most popular section, and works in conjunction with the school library depots may be established in country centres, and books sent by post or rail, while those not available locally may be secured specially from Sydney.

Thus the wonderful service provided by the Public Library of N.S. Wales, the Mecca of hundreds of people each day, becomes freely available to the most remote reader in our district."

In 1959 Merriwa Library opened as a branch of Muswellbrook Regional Library.

In 2010 with the amalgamation of three shires, Merriwa Library became one of the five Upper Hunter Shire libraries (which are members of the Upper Hunter Regional Library Network, with Muswellbrook and Denman libraries).

In 2018 a new, modern and colourful library opened in the former Merriwa Council Chambers.