The Library has its origins in the establishment of the Mechanics Institute in 1851. The Fremantle Literary Institute was formed in 1868 by the amalgamation of the Mechanics with the Working Men's Association.
The first Literary Institute building
The Institute occupied a building in Cliff St on the corner of Dalgety St (now Croke Lane), where the building housing the offices of the Fremantle Herald newspaper now stands. The Literary Institute operated a subscription library. The first librarian was H.W. Young, a former solicitor.
The second Literary Institute building
The second Fremantle Literary Institute had a reading room as well as loaning books. It was built in 1899 in South Terrace on the corner of Collie St - the building now thought of as the Dome.
There was a movement to establish a ratepayer-supported City Library from the early 1940s and in 1948 was being driven by Cr Evan Davies JP, MLC, with the result that the Fremantle Free Lending Library was opened the following year, in the Literary Institute building. It was renamed the Evan Davies Civic Library in 1956. The first City Librarian, from 1958, was John E.V. Birch. The library was on the first floor along with a chess room. The Civic Library was renamed the Fremantle City Library on its relocation to the ground floor of the Civic Administration Building on the corner of Newman and William Streets on 18 March 1974.
The library was on the ground floor of the Town Hall Centre (on the SE - right - side) until December 2017, when it was temporarily relocated to the formers Dockers building at Fremantle Oval pending the building of an even more magnificent building than this one.
The Fremantle Local History Collection was established in 1974, opened to the public in 1976, and was housed from 1994 in a purpose-built extension on the eastern end of the building. It was called the Fremantle History Centre from May 2014 - but no longer exists.
Pam Harris gave a paper ''From card catalogue to eBooks: a history of Fremantle City Library, 1851-2016', to the Fremantle History Society on its Studies Day 2016. It will be published in Fremantle Studies in 2018. She kindly made available some data for this page.
See also (on the Battye Library): Jamieson, Ronda 2005, 'A people with a past and the JS Battye Library of WA history', Fremantle Studies, 4: 22-31.
Garry Gillard | New: 22 January, 2018 | Now: 14 August, 2018