Fremantle Stuff > organisations > Fremantle Library. See also: Fremantle History Centre.
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 Institute 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 relocated to the formers Dockers building at Fremantle Oval before the demolition of the building in the photograph.
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 ceased to exist at the end of 2018. It is unlikely that there will ever again be a separate Centre. I asked the Council for specific information about this, but it was not forthcoming. There was still one specialist History staff member in the Library until April 2020, when the City sacked him, presumably partly because of the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and partly to help pay for its new building.
Harris, Pam , 'From card catalogue to eBooks: a history of Fremantle City Library, 1851-2016', paper presented to the Fremantle History Society on its Studies Day 2016, forthcoming in Fremantle Studies. The author 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: 12 April, 2020