OTD: Opening of the new Eltham Library, 22 May 1994

#OnThisDay – 25 years ago #OTD the community celebrated the opening of the new Eltham Library in Panther Place followed by the Shire President’s Picnic.

Aerial view showing the new Eltham Library, 1994. Architects: Greg Burgess and Peter Ryan of Gregory Burgess Pty Ltd. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

In 1987 Council set up a Library Review Working Party (which later became the Library Occasional Advisory Committee) with a task to prepare for a new library as the current library, opened in 1971, could no longer cope with growing demand. Council developed a strategy to set aside capital funds, from 1988 annually, to provide for preliminary planning and consultative expenses, with a projected construction completion in early 1997. The community was consulted throughout the process and over 1,000 questionnaires were distributed to library users and non-users seeking their input.

In 1992 the Commonwealth Government established the Local Capital Works Program and Council made application for a grant of almost $900,000, applying the full amount towards a new library. Council funded a further $2 million to build the new library, which enabled the project to be accelerated in completion. The project was commenced in September 1992.

Aerial view showing the new Eltham Library and relocated Shillinglaw Cottage, 1994. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

In his address to the assembled guests at the opening, the Hon. Peter Staples, Member for Jagga Jagga said:

“I think you will find that it will become a centre of life in Eltham just as Montsalvat over the years has become a feature and a part of the spirit of Eltham.”

“It will be something that will be shared by people not only in Eltham but in other places for many years to come. I am quite confident in predicting that it will become more of a focus of the life and the culture and the spirit of Eltham than any other public building around.”

Aerial view showing the Shire of Eltham office, new Eltham Library and relocated Shillinglaw Cottage, 1994. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

We are all familiar with the meaning of 20-20 hindsight. Well, grab a cuppa and give yourselves a 28 minute time-out to join us in this journey in time to see what great foresight our former Eltham Shire Councillors had for our community.

The video features an introductory look at the new library with the assembled guests and music performed by Eltham High School. A welcome speech is given by Shire President, Cr Pamela Sladden followed by the Hon. Peter Staples, Member for Jagga Jagga. Cr. Robert J. (Bob) Manuell, Chairperson, Eltham Library Redevelopment Special Committee then gives a sometimes humourous analogy of the history of the project’s development from conception to delivery with reference to the Year of the International Family (1994). At the end of the speeches there are scenes of guests looking over the library followed by scenes of the Shire President’s picnic.

Construction of the new Eltham Library, c.1993. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)
Construction of the new Eltham Library, c.1993. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)
Construction of the new Eltham Library, c.1993. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)
Construction of Eltham Library; fitting out stage, April 1994. (Photo: Linda McConnell, Branch Manager of the former Eltham Library located in the Shire of Eltham offices; donated via Yarra Plenty Regional Library. Linda McConnell Collection, March 2018 and held in joint partnership. Digitised from negatives held by Eltham District Historical Society. Print copies held by YPRL and EDHS)

2 thoughts on “OTD: Opening of the new Eltham Library, 22 May 1994”

  1. I remember when the library was part of the shire offices. Movies were shown in the town hall and I remember our school concerts being held there. I attended Our Lady Help of Christians in 1966-1967 and so did 5 of my 6 siblings. The library was quite small but it was all we had . I believe it would have been on the site where Coles is now.

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    1. Thanks for sharing Toni. The previous Eltham Library was located in the southern wing of the Eltham Shire Council offices at 895 Main Road. The offices were constructed in 1964-65 and the southern wing and library added in 1971. Prior to 1971, the Shire operated a library initially from November 1965, serviced by the newly formed Heidelberg Regional Library Service, with a mobile library stop near the Shillinglaw trees and then from 1966 out of the converted ‘Brinkotter’ Cottage in Dudley Street staffed by the City of Heidelberg Library. A Children’s Toy Library operated from the Eltham War Memorial Building from 1952. The Shire offices prior to 1964 were located at the corner of Main Road and Arthur Street including the Hall you mentioned. These were opened in November 1941. When the new Shire Offices were built in 1965 the Hall continued in use at this location. These buildings were eventually demolished to make way for the new Woolworths supermarket which has since been redeveloped again into the Eltham Village and Coles. https://elthamhistory.wordpress.com/2018/11/22/throwbackthursday-gala-opening-ballnew-public-hall-eltham-november-21st-1941/

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