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Library Act anniversary

The NSW Library Act was passed by State Parliament on 3 November 1939. This landmark law led to the provision of free public library services for the people of NSW.

Celebrating 75 years of free public libraries in NSW: Library Act 1939 anniversary

2014 marked the 75th anniversary of the Library Act 1939; the State Library of New South Wales and public libraries celebrated. 

The NSW Library Act was passed by State Parliament on 3 November 1939.  This landmark legislation led to the provision of free public library services for the people of NSW. 

Seventy five years later, public libraries are going strong, with 368 libraries across the state, 3.2 million members (that’s 44% of the population), 46 million loans per annum and over 35 million people visiting libraries each year.

On 3 November 2014 public libraries across the state celebrated the anniversary of the Library Act with cakes, displays, BBQs, zumba and more! You can see photos of the celebrations on our Libraryact75th blog or on Twitter by following #libraryact75th

For more information about the history of the Library Act and the 75th anniversary celebrations:

 Download Our Celebrating 75 Years Toolkit for Libraries

Do you have any photos of when your library opened?

We have digitised some photographs of NSW public libraries from the 1940s-80s from the State Library Corporate Records and shared them on our Celebrating 75 years Pinterest board.

We would love you to share historical photographs of your library by pinning them to our Celebrating 75 years Pinterest board. To do this you will need to follow the board, and then we will invite you to pin. 


When did your council adopt the Library Act  1939?

Find out when your council adopted the Library Act 1939 and when your library service began. 

Please note that some councils and shires have changed since 1939, if you can’t find your council or what used to be your council, please let us know.  We will continue to update the spreadsheet so please send us your additional information.

Thank you to those who provided additional information, we have posted an updated version of the list of dates here:

FileWhen did your council adopt the Library Act 1939?


Oral history project

Libraries have carried out oral history interviews with former managers, staff and customers to capture memories of the early days of the NSW Public Library Network.

In early 2015, the oral histories will become part of a special State Library oral history collection to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Library Act. They will also be featured on our Libraryact75th blog.

The library hosted an oral history training day in September 2014. 
FileOral History Information  covers guidelines and best practice for recording oral history interviews.


Building on the Bookends Scenarios

The State Library revisited the work of the 2009 Bookends Scenarios project to explore the future of NSW public libraries. The project involved carrying out research, interviews and workshops with over 50 representatives from the NSW public library network to answer the question: what do we need to do in order for public libraries to be successful in 2030?

The culmination of the project is the Building on the Bookends Scenarios Report. The report tracks how we have been travelling along the scenario pathways developed in 2009 and presents a series of strategic options that libraries could implement in order be innovative, sustainable and resilient in the future.

Australian Library History Forum

The State Library hosted Libraries for the People: the 11th Australian Library History Forum on 18-19 November. View the program and download the papers presented at the Forum.

Library Subsidy

The State Library has carried out research into the early years of NSW public libraries under the Library Act 1939. The evolution of the State Subsidy was a key incentive for councils to adopt the Act and open a public library. More information: PDF iconEvolution of the library subsidy