Potted Histories

Harvey Libraries

By Heather Wade, 2021.

The current Harvey Memorial Library’s foundation stone was laid a century ago on 19 October 1921 and the Library was opened in May 1922. It is an appropriate time to look at the history of library services in Harvey – from its beginning in 1906 to now – when we are on the cusp of exciting new changes.

In a Nutshell 

  • March 1906 Korijekup Literary Institute held its first committee meeting.
  • By 1918 Library conducted in the Boardroom of the Road Board’s offices.
  • 19 Oct 1921 – Foundation Stone laid.
  • 24 May 1922 – War Memorial Library opened.
  • 1929 – Name changed from Korijekup Literary Institute to Harvey Literary Institute.
  • 1952 – Library Board of WA Act passed.
  • 1953 – Library Board offering a free library service in WA.
  • 1954 – Subscribers voted overwhelmingly not to join a free library service.
  • 1956 – Memorial plaques mounted on two columns of Library entrance.
  • 1977 – Joined the State Library Board and Harvey finally had a free library.

There were other libraries where a subscription was payable to borrow books within what is now the Harvey Shire  – in the 1890s at Ferguson’s Mill and Yarloop, and in 1904 there was a very active one in Cookernup. To redress the lack in Harvey and provide a community service, the Korijekup Literary Institute held its first committee meeting in March 1906 with foundation members Messrs. William Ash, Charles Rees and John Knowles. [1]  Where the books were housed is not known. The Library may have been short-lived, as in 1911 three newspaper articles asked if there was a Library in town and nothing could be found.[2] Another source has that, ‘In 1904 a reading room and library were established and he [Mr Ash] was president of the controlling body for 18 years.[3]

However, we do know that a Library was in existence in 1918 as in that year the Library Secretary wrote to the Road Board asking for free use of the boardroom once a week as a library. By 1918 the Road Board rented the Drill Hall (now known as the Lesser Hall but sometimes referred to as the Supper Room) from the Commonwealth Government. Permission was granted for six months but a nominal annual rent was to be paid.[4] It was not an ideal arrangement.

When interviewed in 1989 Richard Lofthouse confirmed said that the ‘Korijekup Library was a little room, about where the supper room is in the present hall.’ [Richard was born in 1913 at Yarloop and his parents were farmers at Wokalup.[5]]

As with many towns in Australia, local communities wanted to acknowledge those who served during the First World War by building a memorial.  The memorials took many forms but at a public meeting the townsfolk of Harvey chose a library and reading room which they wanted built close to the Agricultural Hall. [See Harvey Halls on this website.]  An application was heard at the meeting on 3 July 1920 for the erection of a hall on the Board’s grounds.[6]

The application was successful. The foundation stone of the building we know as the Harvey War Memorial Library was laid on 19 Oct 1921 by the Governor, Sir Francis Newdegate.[7] Sir Francis told the gathering that the hall was to be ‘a brick building of three rooms, containing a library, a reading room, and a meeting chamber. The hall committee had in hand at the time of letting the contract £740, and the tender was let at £700.  Mr. P. J. Ward was the contracting builder, with J. A. Stewart [Secretary of the Road Board] and Mr. W. R. Eckersley [Engineer of the Road Board], as supervisors.’[8]

The foundation stone laid by Sir Francis Newdegate.

As happened with the Harvey Hall, a building committee oversaw the planning and construction of the Library and after completion a Library Committee ran it. Although ‘the property belonged to the Road Board who held it in trust for the people, they did not want to have any voice in its management.’[9]

The Library was officially opened on Empire Day, 24 May 1922 by Mr WJ George, Minister for Works and Member for Murray. Prior to the official opening ceremony at 3pm, the children of the district were entertained on the Recreation Ground with a programme of sports conducted by the members of the Harvey Road Board. The building was decorated with flags. Mr RL Wilson, Chair of the Building Committee told those assembled that the memorial was first thought of in 1917, that about £400 had been collected up to 18 months ago and an Ugly Men’s Competition was inaugurated which raised £350 giving a grand total of £750. He appealed to anyone who had not subscribed to do so as the building still needed to be furnished. He paid tribute to Messrs Eckersley and Stewart, who had drawn up the plans and supervised the construction of the building free of charge and thanked the ladies for all the work they had done in connection with the building fund.

After the speeches, Mr George unlocked the building and the Rev. WE Moorhouse unveiled the Honour Board.[10] A choir of 100 Harvey school children sang ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘Abide with Me’. At the conclusion of the ceremony the Memorial Hall was open for inspection.[11]

The voluntary committee continued to run the affairs of the Institute. Annual meetings of subscribers took place in February when reports were presented and the committee elected.

The Secretary’s Report showed in 1926 an average membership for 1925 of 57 subscribers, but at the time of the report there were 82. Additional shelves cost £5 to accommodate the increase of approximately 120 books, some had been donated but most were purchased at a cost of £23/14/0. Magazines and papers for the reading room cost £7. The Library paid to the hall committee 25% of its subscriptions amounting to £8/10/-. A President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary were elected as was a Ladies Committee of five, a Gentleman’s Committee of 4 and an Auditor was nominated. That year Subscribers were happy with the improvements in the Library and the steady increase in membership.[12]

Newspapers kept the community abreast of what was happening. In 1927 another batch of new books was bought and old and new ones removed – some to be replaced and others disposed of or destroyed. An up-to-date supply of fiction magazines for the reading room was approved.[13]

In May 1928 books to the value of £5 were purchased and the three members who selected books were retained.[14]

In October 1928 the readership was told in glowing terms that Harvey had an up-to-date library and reading room and described the services it offered:

When, however, the War Memorial Hall was built, an arrangement, was entered into by the hall management committee, whereby the library was given one room as a library and the large room to be used as a reading room. For some years after taking possession, the reading room was only open when the library was open, which was on Wednesday and Saturday nights and Thursday afternoons. Two years ago the library committee decided to open the reading room free to the general public every day, except Sundays, from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. … The long centre table is well stocked with literature of all descriptions and that the step taken to make it available to the public every day was a wise one, is evidenced by the large number of people who make use of it.  … The rate of subscription is 4/- per quarter or 15/- per year, and the committee claims that it is one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest library in W.A. Out of the membership fee of 4/-, 1/- goes to the hall management committee. The balance is expended, on new fiction from time to time. All the positions, including the secretary, are purely honorary, and by this means, the actual working expenses are very small and are met by what is known as the Extra Book Fee. This fee, a small one of 3d. allows any subscriber to take an extra one book in addition to the two books he is allowed. That the concession is popular is shown by the revenue it brings in the amount being over £2 a quarter.[15]

The name changed from Korijekup Literary Institute to the Harvey Literary Institute and Library in 1929.[16]

A page in the Harvey Show Schedule, 1930.

Road Board members in 1931-32.

In the background are two Harvey Literary Institute and Library notice boards.

The left hand notice board shows the opening times and subscription schedule.

Photo: Harvey & Districts Historical Society.

This notice board is probably the right hand board in the photo. It now belongs to the Harvey & Districts Historical Society and hangs in the Harvey Library. Photo courtesy of Kerry Davis.

In 1931 the Library received a substantial donation of books, many non-fiction, from Dr Harvey’s widow:

On account of the association of the late Dr. Harvey with the growth of the town of Harvey, his widow has presented to the library, for the benefit of the district, 118 volumes collected by the late Dr. Harvey during his life. The books were forwarded to the library last Monday by the executors of the doctor’s estate, Mr. R. O. Hayward and Mr. Pearson, of Benger. The books comprise educational and technical works on farming matters in which the late Dr. Harvey was intensely interested. Prominent among the collection is a full set of 12 volumes of “The Standard Cyclopedia of Modern Agriculture.” These practically embrace the whole range of modern agriculture, and were written by experts under the editorship of Professor Sir Robert Patrick Wright. These books should be of great value to those who will make use of them. There are also 13 volumes of Thackeray, which, in addition to his better known works, such as “Pendennis,” “The Virginians,” etc., include a number of more obscure publications not usually found in a public library. Among other books are “Problems of Greater Britain,” by Dilke; “Irrigation Farming,” and several works dealing with citrus fruits, soils, drainage, bacteria in soil, etc. Fream’s “Elements of Agriculture” is among the collection, which also include works by Sterne, Bulwer Lytton, Voltaire, Goeth and others.

The library has also benefited by an almost life-size photograph of Dr. Harvey. A photograph of the late Dr. Hayward has also been obtained, and these two pictures, it is hoped, will be unveiled during the week by whoever opens the Harvey Show. In addition to the books in Dr. Harvey’s collection, a large collection of “Country Life” has been made available for the reading room. There is also an etching of the late King Edward and his horse, Minora, which won the Two Thousand Guineas and the Derby, in 1909.[17]

In the President’s Annual Report for 1937 he noted that four prominent members had died during the year – Messrs Ash, Wright, Wickham and Snell:

Mr. Ash was one of the founders of the library, had worked very hard for it during many years, and had been appointed a life member for his services. This honour had been shared by Mr. R. J. Wright [Secretary for many years] who also had been a great worker and had materially helped to keep the institution in its present solid position. Mr. A. Snell had been a subscriber for a long period of time and had worked on the committee for a few months before his death. Mr. Wickham, a comparatively new subscriber, but an old resident in another part of the district, had also been a member of the committee for a short period prior to his death… Two hundred and nine volumes had been added during the year, including some donated by the late Mr. Ash, and also a number donated by the late Mr. Snell…A large framed portrait of Mr. Ash had been presented and was now hanging in the reading room.[18]

The Harvey Patriotic Committee reported that a large number of old books from the Harvey Memorial Library had been donated to the Garrison camp in the town in 1940.[19]

At the 1947 AGM only two of the 132 subscribers attended so there could not have been anything contentious. Over 400 new books had been purchased at a cost of £184 bringing the number to over 5,000. The intention was to extend the Library when building materials were available.[20]

In the wider world, library usage and membership were changing. The State Government enabled the changes by passing the Library Board of Western Australia Act 1951. As a consequence, the Library Board was established and the first State Librarian appointed in 1953 was Mr Francis Aubie (Ali) Sharr from England. The Northam Advertiser of 2 October 1952 further explains the service:

STATE LIBRARY SERVICE. Under the Library Board of Western Australia Act, which was proclaimed on September 30, 1952, it is proposed to inaugurate next year a free library service throughout the State, in co-operation with local authorities. The Government has decided to make an annual grant of £35,000 to assist the Library Board in its functions, one of which — as set out in the Act — is to encourage and assist local authorities to establish free public libraries. …

In its first annual report, the Library Board points out that public libraries are today recognized in most developed countries not merely as desirable amenities, but as social necessities. ‘Our civilization is based on the printed word; without it there can be neither personal fulfilment, industrial efficiency nor national development’ the report declares. It goes on to state that the purpose of the public library service is to provide and organize print in all its forms, so that all members of the community, and all organizations within it, ‘may derive to the fullest extent of their own needs or desires the information, enrichment and delight which is to be had from books and other printed sources.’

The Board’s report sets out that over two-thirds of the local authorities in Western Australia serve populations of less than 2,500, and that, therefore, there are difficulties in the way of providing a free library service over much of the area of the State. ‘There is, in fact, in the State no single local authority which could alone provide at reasonable cost a full and comprehensive public library service,’ the report states, and adds: ‘Hence the necessity for assistance from the State Government.’

On the subject of existing libraries, the report lists some difficulties that, it says, were found to be experienced almost everywhere. One was the difficulty of selecting books without access to information about new publications; another was that owing to the small population served by most libraries, the books tended to become ‘read out’ before they were worn out; and a third was that owing to their small population and limited resources, it was impossible for libraries to purchase books of other than general interest.

The Board is of the opinion that the interests of local libraries and their readers would be best served by establishing a State-wide mobile book stock, from which books would be supplied to local libraries and changed as often as might be necessary to maintain the stocks ‘fresh and attractive to readers.’ So far as the free service contemplated is concerned, it is expected that local authorities in communities that will participate, will accept responsibility for accommodation, staffing and incidentals of their libraries. The local authority must also give an undertaking that it will pay to the Board ‘a sum representing at least one-third of the estimated cost of the books initially provided’.

Mr Sharr visited Harvey in November 1953 and informed the Library Committee of the advantages of joining the free library scheme. He said that a quick decision was not required as the State Library Board had plenty of work ahead dealing with those that wanted to join.

The following concerns were raised by the committee:

– The Committee would lose control once the Library management was handed over.

– There would be a cost to the Road Board. The financial side would be split on a fifty-fifty basis with the Road Board, which out of its half would have to provide the accommodation for the Library, the salary of the librarian and other expenses. It would possibly mean a small increase in rates.[21]

– Changes in Government policy at some future date may result in the loss or modification of the free library service.[22]

– Concern that the emphasis on the free library scheme as an educational facility might upset the balance between the provision of non-fiction versus the much-preferred fiction books.[23]

The greatest attendance of Library subscribers at an AGM in 1954 voted overwhelmingly, 34 to 5, not to accept the free library proposal that had been submitted to them. While they were generally opposed to merging the existing Library into the free library, they were not opposed to the concept of a free library scheme. If there wasn’t an existing Library in Harvey they would support it, but they were opposed to handing over their assets to form the nucleus of a free library scheme. At the time the Library held about 5000 books and had 140 subscribers. While their decision could not prevent the Road Board from taking any action it thought fit, the majority were of the opinion that any move to establish a free library in Harvey would have to be financed independently.[24]

No final decision was reached at this time. The Harvey Library continued to operate as before.

Meanwhile, after several years of inactivity, the Yarloop Public Library was to reopen on 30 March 1954. Over 800 books including 300 from the Harvey Library had been sorted, indexed and placed on the shelves in the recently relocated and renovated building next to the hall. Opening times would be 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Tuesday and Friday evening.  Subscribers had the right to borrow two books at a time. The Harvey Library committee was thanked for its valuable advice and assistance.[25]

In March 1954 it was reported that Mr Walker, the Secretary of the Harvey R.S.L., had received designs for the public honour roll to be erected in the Harvey War Memorial Library  to commemorate the men and women who had served in World War II. At that stage the appeal was about £30 short of the target.[26] The Honour Boards can still be seen in the Library today. [See ‘Harvey Honour Boards’ on this website for names and photos of those who served.]

The memorial plaques, mounted on the two columns of the Library entrance, were unveiled on Anzac Day 1956 in honour of men who served and died in World Wars I & II.[27] They were removed and re-dedicated on 15 March 2015 at the Harvey War Memorial across the road on the corner of Uduc Road and Young Street.

Memorial plaques mounted on the columns. The foundation stone is to the bottom left of the building. Photo: Harvey & Districts Historical Society.

It wasn’t until 1964 that the Apex Club canvassed a number of organisations, asking whether they were in favour of a State Library. The letter made it clear that it did not wish to push the existing Library out of its building, but suggested that the Council should consider setting up a State Library in Harvey for the following reasons:

– It was expected that a five-year High School would soon be in Harvey but there was not a good reference Library in the town.

– The population was growing.

– Many smaller towns had a State Library.

The Club concluded its message by stating that a State Library would be of great benefit to the town. It reinforced its message by saying that Harvey Agricultural School P& C unanimously supported the move.[28]  No decision was reached at this point.

A meeting was held in November 1968 to discuss using the Library site for new Council Chambers. There was general agreement from the RSL and the Library Committee that, subject to their requirements being met, they had no objection to demolishing the building. The RSL required a Memorial be built elsewhere and the Library should be allocated space in the proposed new Council Chambers.  A public meeting a month later moved and carried the motion ‘That land owned by the Catholic Church in Gibbs and Young Streets be purchased and the erection of new Council Chambers be deferred.’[29] The Shire bought the land in 1983 and used some of the buildings for a Community Arts Centre.[30]

On 4 November 1977 Harvey Library finally joined the State Library Board, with Miss Lorraine Price (later Venables) employed as the first Librarian.[31]  To accommodate the books provided by the State Library Board, the building was enlarged and renovated.  This involved enclosing the front porch with glass panels and rendering the outside walls. The Library and additions to the Council Chambers and Administration Office were officially opened by the Minister for Local Government, Cyril Rushton on the same day – 4 November 1977. By March 1978 free membership of the Harvey Public Library totalled 771 adults and 494 juniors and more than 8883 books had been issued in the first four months.[32]

Since 1977 there have only been two appointed Librarians, Lorraine Venables (nee Price) from 1977 to c1991 and Ruth Campbell-Hicks from 1993 to the present. Between c1991 and 1993 there were a couple of fill-in library staff but no permanent appointee.

The Library after renovations and extensions in 1977. Photo: Harvey & Districts Historical Society.

Plaque inside the enclosed porch commemorating the opening of the enlarged and renovated Library.

Ruth brings the story of Harvey Library up to date and reminds us of how libraries have changed.

When I started at the Shire of Harvey in 1993 I was responsible for libraries at Harvey, Australind and Yarloop, all with different configurations.  Harvey Library was, and still is, in a free standing purpose-built brick building for which the foundation stone was laid in 1921.  At Australind, after four years in a shop front facility, the library opened in February 1987 in a small room that also served as the Shire’s Australind administrative office. The building was extended to its current size in 1998.  Yarloop Library was built by volunteers on Education Department premises in 1987 and was originally a joint school/community facility.  And the fourth library to be built was at Binningup in 2008, again achieved through volunteer and community support, and built as an extension to the local community hall. This library is still manned by volunteers.

Originally the library system was manually run using a card system which required plenty of filing – two filing cards for each book, plus files for members, items borrowed, requests, membership and so on.  In 1999 the Shire left behind the time consuming manual system and subscribed to the Amlib Library Management System, which digitised catalogue records, circulation of books and all other library processes. This was a major step forward into the world of computers that was spreading into all areas of life.

During this time, Harvey Library changed from 1970s orange-and-brown to a bright contemporary style utilising more user-friendly shelving and layout.  Libraries in general moved from being quiet warehouses of books to having a more proactive and vibrant role in their respective towns. The need to be quiet was mostly abandoned, and children in particular were made welcome.  Storytimes for under school age children were begun, and libraries assumed a greater role in early literacy development.  School holiday events, rhymetimes, children’s book week celebrations and after school activities became commonplace for children, whilst for adults there were author visits, talks and presentations, Bookchat, learning opportunities and a relaxed atmosphere for all.  Public computers were provided to enable access to services such as Centrelink, myGov, Tax Office and other essential online agencies.  Resources extended from print items only to also include VHS (later DVDs and BluRays), audio cassettes (later CDs and MP3s), jigsaw puzzles, newspapers, magazines and more.

In 2016 the outdated Amlib system was replaced by Symphony and the Shire joined a unique South West Library Consortia which enables joint services between twenty-three libraries in the south west.  The number of items that can be borrowed at any one time increased from 6 to 30, and library members can borrow and return from any of the participating libraries.

Shire of Harvey libraries now have a full calendar of activities throughout the year, and support regular events such as Adult Learners’ Week, Science Week and Biggest Morning Tea for the Cancer Council. They offer garden club, book club, knit and natter, Scrabble, writers’ group, first time parents’ group, coding club, Be Connected technical help and other happenings according to customer needs. They are no longer halls of silence, but are instead spaces where relationships are formed, hustle and bustle is common, and community members of all kinds are supported.

Ruth Campbell-Hicks, Principal Librarian.


[1] Harvey-Waroona Mail, 30 September 1955.

[2] South Western Advertiser, 23 February, 1911, 2 March 1911 and 9 March 1911.

[3] Western Mail, Thursday 13 Feb 1930.

[4] South Western Times, 7 February 1918.

[5] Oral History of Richard Lofthouse, 1989, interviewed by Elaine Green.

[6] Marion Lofthouse & Kerry Davis (eds), Shire of Harvey, Proud to be 100, 1895 – 1995 Centennial Book. Shire of Harvey, Harvey, Western Australia, 1995, p. 98.

[7] Foundation stone – see photo below

[8] The Bunbury Herald and Blackwood Express, 25th October 1921. Sir Francis also attended a Luncheon at the Harvey Hotel and opened the Harvey Show on the same day.

[9] South Western Times, 4 April 1922.

[10] Note that there are 129 names on the Honour Board, not 126 as quoted in the article.

[11] West Australian, 27 May 1922.

[12] Bunbury Herald and Blackwood Express, 23 February 1926.

[13] West Australian, 12 April 1927.

[14] South Western Times, 1 May 1928.

[15] Bunbury Herald and Blackwood Express, 19 October 1928.

[16] South Western Times, 23 March 1929.

[17] Harvey Murray Times, 16 October 1931.

[18] Harvey Murray Times, 26 February 1937.

[19] West Australian, 15 November 1940.

[20] West Australian, 13 March 1947.

[21] Harvey Murray Times, 27 November 1953.

[22] Ibid, 4 December 1953.

[23] Ibid, 18 December 1953.

[24] Ibid, 19 February 1954.

[25] South Western Advertiser, 25 March 1954.

[26] Harvey Murray Times, 26 March 1954.

[27] Marion Lofthouse & Kerry Davis (Eds), Shire of Harvey, Proud to be 100, 1895 – 1995 Centennial Book. Shire of Harvey, Harvey, Western Australia, 1995. p. 120

[28] Harvey Murray Times, 1 May 1964.

[29] Marion Lofthouse & Kerry Davis (Eds), Shire of Harvey, Proud to be 100, 1895 – 1995 Centennial Book. Shire of Harvey, Harvey, Western Australia, 1995, p. 126.

[30] Reflections Within the Harvey Shire, researched and compiled by Kerry Davis … [et al.] Harvey Visitor Centre in conjunction with Harvey History Online, 2010, p. 56.

[31] Marion Lofthouse & Kerry Davis (Eds), Shire of Harvey, Proud to be 100, p. 128.

[32] Marion Lofthouse, notes on Federation Display Photo Boards, Harvey Hall.