In celebration of a brand new AHL blog, we decided it would be fitting to take a journey down memory lane – we mean waaaay down – and explore the stories of the library at Trinity Grammar School. Keen to know more about the humble beginnings of your school library? Join us on a journey of a library without computers, printers, phone chargers, TV’s, projectors, databases, HDMI cables…you get the drift.
The Arthur Holt Library : A History
Part 1: The Roaring Twenties
In the initial years of the 1920s the world was experiencing a shift; as it sloughed off the dirt, blood and horror of World War I, in its place came economic, artistic, and cultural prosperity, felt particularly in the Americas and Europe. As the ‘années folles’ – French for the ‘crazy years’ – propelled itself through the short bobs and smoking cigarettes of flappers in New York, and the seeds of radical political movements were planted in once-great empires in Germany and Russia, on the island nation of Australia a small little town with a small little school and an even smaller little library was flourishing.
First mention of a library appeared in documents regarding the opening of Trinity Grammar School in 1913, stating simply, ‘a school library has been formed’ – whatever that meant! At this time, the library appeared to be a quiet hum in the background of a young school taking its first steps, with only cursory acknowledgement of the library being made in the bi-annual magazine , The Triangle, between 1918 and 1920. The first concrete mention of a librarian was of a Mr. H Osborn who, believe it or not, was a student. For the initial years of the library, operations fell to the Library Committee, made up of students:
“At the commencement of the Third Term a Library Committee consisting of one member from each Form was appointed. The Committee drew up and sanctioned the printing of Library Rules, and Forms of Application for Membership; also the purchase of a Moore’s Loose-leaf Binder, with sheets specially ruled for the purpose of keeping a record of the books lent.”
(The Triangle, December 1920)
As the first year of the 1920s came to a close, as Ernest Hemingway worked as an associate editor of a journal in Chicago, and F. Scott Fitzgerald had his first taste of success with the release of “This side of paradise”, appeals were made for books to fill the library shelves :
“Single copies of Shakespeare’s plays, novels by Dickens or Thackeray, plays by Goldsmith or Sheridan, modern books of travel and life in foreign countries, a standard English dictionary, modern books of popular science, and other works of literary, historical, or scientific interest, as well as good stories.”
(The Triangle Dec 1920)
With the additions to the school buildings in August 1921, the library, now situated on the second floor, became home to the Sixth Form:
“The Sixth Form occupy the library, which is equipped with oak tables and chairs instead of desks. Ample bookshelves line one wall, inviting extensive contributions of books.”
(The Triangle, August 1921)
A grand sum of £20, approximately $1,338 today, was gifted to the library by the Old Boys’ Union in anticipation of creating a Reference library. Eight volumes of the Children’s Encyclopaedia were purchased with this donation, which were loved by all boys.
In the 1920s, the HSC was non-existent; the Leaving Certificate is what stressed the senior boys wanting to enter university. The growing English literature shelf was of great help to the boys taking Honours English, and subscriptions to the ‘National Geographic’ (which continue to this day) and ‘Science and Invention’ magazines began.
National Geographic, Jan 1920 issue and August 2016 issue.
Over the first half of the 1920s, small mentions were made in the Triangle of new books; in August 1923, ‘Social life at Rome in the age of Cicero’ and ‘Development of Modern Europe’ were added to the collection, and the pupil librarians echoed our current sentiments of overdue books not being returned in a most polite manner:
“It may be mentioned that the librarian would be grateful for the return of any stray books.”
(The Triangle, August 1925)
The Library Committee was aiming to strengthen the Reference library, focusing on History and English, and with the move to Summer Hill in 1926 the library settled into its new building. However the Triangle notes:
“We have been very unfortunate in connection with the Library this term as the room has been used as a common room. Although we have been thus handicapped there has been an increase in the membership list.”
Always looking on the bright side, us libraries. Despite the increase in users, membership only sat at 42 students out of an enrolment of 163 in May 1929 (you weren’t automatically a library member just for being a student!). In the final term of 1928, not a single book was donated, however the Reference library was proving popular during examinations.
Smaller and smaller entries were being proffered from the library to the Triangle by the end of the decade, and with the advent of the 1930s and the apparent use of the library as a common room by students, a single solitary statement was made:
“Silence is being enforced.”
The Trinity library began solely through gratuity, with frequent calls for donations dotting The Triangle for years to come. Student involvement was integral to its initial success, and the bright minds of Trinitarian boys can be attested to with this insightful statement:
“We consider the following a good definition of a circle: “A straight line curled up at both ends so as to meet in the middle.'”
(Form Notes, Form V.B. The Triangle, May 1931)