History of the Library Service

+ Today's opening hours

  • Ashburton 10am-5pm
  • Balwyn 10am-5pm
  • Camberwell 10am-5pm
  • Hawthorn 10am-5pm
  • Kew 10am-5pm

155 years of service and counting...

Birthday cake to share

In July 2010, the City of Boroondara Library Service celebrated 150 years of continuous library service to the community. Formed with the amalgamation of the Cities of Camberwell, Hawthorn and Kew in June 1994, the Library Service is greatly valued and its history tells a story of responsive service to the community.

The Library Service traces its origins back to the Hawthorn Free Public Library which received its first loan of 350 books from the then Melbourne Public Library (now the State Library of Victoria) on 26 July 1860. They were housed in the office of the Boroondara District Roads Board. In November 1861, the Hawthorn Literary Association was founded and took charge of the library collection. The library moved to the first Hawthorn Town Hall in Burwood Road in 1862.

In 1938 Hawthorn City Library, as it was now known, moved from the Town Hall to a building adjacent to it and in 1969 moved to its present site at 584 Glenferrie Road Hawthorn.

The first library in Kew was that of the Kew Literary and Scientific Society which was opened on 6 August 1860. In 1884, after additions to the Town Hall were completed, the library was transferred to a room upstairs. This was not an ideal arrangement as the room was required for Council purposes. In 1904 a cottage adjoining the Town Hall was purchased for use as a library.

In 1937 the library was closed and a major overhaul of stock and renovation of the building was undertaken, with a reopening in December 1937. The library moved to the new Civic Centre in Charles Street Kew in 1973 and then to its current site in 1987, in the converted City Hall overlooking the beautiful Alexandra Gardens. The library was officially opened at this site on Friday 23 October 1987 by the Mayor of Kew, Cr. James Tutt.

Camberwell's free public library service began on 1 August 1955. The City Library was located in the old Subscription Library building, which had opened in 1907 in Canterbury Gardens, before the opening of the Camberwell Library in 1961 in the old Town Hall building in Camberwell Road.

Although built in 1891 as a civic building, the building was converted through major alterations to the interior as a library. This new library replaced the old site in Canterbury Gardens as the Central Library, though the Canterbury Library continued as a branch library until the end of 1977.

By 1957 a bookmobile service had begun visiting eight sites throughout the City of Camberwell. The bookmobile operated until the Balwyn and Ashburton branch libraries opened, Balwyn in 1978 and Ashburton in 1980.

From these beginnings, the City of Boroondara Library Service has five libraries, and planning has commenced for a sixth - a Library Lounge to be located in the north-east part of the city in the North East Community Hub.