Celebrating 50 years of Moonee Valley libraries

This year we're excited to celebrate 50 years of our library service!

In 1968, Flemington, Sam Merrifield (then Essendon) and Niddrie libraries opened their doors to the public for the very first time, marking 50 years of operation. This is a wonderful chance for the community to celebrate our libraries’ rich histories and the opportunities they continue to provide people of all ages, from all walks of life.

Throughout 2018 we’ll be holding family-fun events and undertaking several exciting initiatives to celebrate this milestone, so get involved and share your memories!

On social media? Tag how you're celebrating with #mvlibraries50

Celebratory events

We have a range of events and activities happening throughout 2018 to celebrate our libraries’ 50th anniversary!

Family-fun celebrations

The three libraries turning 50 in 2018 will each host birthday celebrations which promise plenty of fun for everyone.

Branch  When  Activities 

Flemington Library


When: Saturday, 26 May, 10am-1pm

Where: 313 Racecourse Road, Flemington 

Phone: 8325 1975

  • Bouncing castle
  • Face painting
  • Yarn bombing
  • Sausage sizzle
  • Petting zoo
Sam Merrifield Library

When: Friday, 6 July

Where: 762 Mt Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds 

Phone: 8325 1950 

Children's activities and cake cutting

2pm-3.30pm. Free, no bookings required.

Bubbles and Books (adult's activity lead by Valley Cellardoor)

6pm-7.30pm. A selection of sparkling wine paired with the perfect book. Free, bookings necessary.

Niddrie Library

When: Friday, 19 October, 3.30pm-6pm

Where: 483 Keilor Road, Niddrie 

Phone: 8325 1925 

Niddrie Library Turns 50 – Wild Action Zoo and birthday craft

Pre-schoolers are invited to celebrate the 50th birthday of Niddrie library with Wild Action’s Aussie animal show & some wild birthday craft. 

2pm-3pm. Free, bookings necessary.

Niddrie Library Turns 50 – Cake cutting ceremony

Celebrate the 50th birthday of Niddrie library at a special cake cutting ceremony. 

4pm-4.30pm. Free, no bookings required.

Niddrie Library Turns 50 – 1960s fashion

What were people wearing when Niddrie Library opened in 1968? Join award-winning author of books Style is Eternal and Love Vintage Nicole Jenkins for a discussion about her passion for collecting vintage fashion and a look at selected garments and accessories from the 1960s. 

5.30pm-6.30pm. Free, bookings necessary.

Other celebratory events

Event  When  Where 

Moonee Valley Festival

We’ll be officially launching our 2018 celebrations at the festival with library showbags and a giant birthday signing book.

Sunday, 25 February  Queens Park, Moonee Ponds

Mediterranean Fiesta Pop Up Library

Our libraries team will be at the Mediterranean Fiesta with bilingual story time.

Sunday, 25 March Centreway, East Keilor

Heritage Week Talk: John Dickie

Local author will share histories of Flemington Library and other local landmarks in Flemington.

Wednesday, 18 April, 6.30pm-7.30pm Flemington Library

Author talk: Barry Heard - Well done those men

Join us for Vietnam War history talk, specifically about the events of 1968 – the year our libraries opened. Free but bookings essential.

Monday, 23 April, 7pm-8pm Sam Merrifield Library

Stories from the suburbs: memoir writing with Lyndel Caffrey

Write stories of your life Moonee Valley in the form of a memoir. Free but bookings essential.

Saturday, 2 June, 10am-3pm  Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre

Mrs. Windsor's life among books

From 1882 until the late 1930s, Sarah Windsor was employed at the Essendon Public Library, initially as an attendant. Local historian, Lenore Frost, will talk about her remarkable career. Free, booking essential.

Wednesday, 15 August, 7pm-8pm  Sam Merrifield Library

More events will be added to this page throughout the year – make sure to check back or look out for your seasonal libraries what’s on guide.

And as always, join us for our regular program of events, author talks and workshops for children, teenagers and adults. Visit the Library events page to find out what's coming up.

Share your memories

Do you have a special memory relating to our libraries?

Maybe it’s the first book you borrowed, a friendship which started at one of our libraries, or the first time you brought your child to a story time session!

Next time you’re in a library fill out a My Libraries Memory form or share it online.

We recently spoke to dedicated member Margaret about her love of the libraries:



Other ways we’re celebrating

  • Stickers - we’ve produced stickers using the psychedelic 50th button – ask our friendly staff if you’d like one!
  • Giant birthday signing book - starting with the Moonee Valley Festival, we’ll be bringing out a massive book for people to sign birthday messages! This book will tour each of our library branchesmake sure to get your name in it and become part of our history. Here is where and when you'll find it:
  • April – Ascot Vale
  • May and June – Flemington
  • July and August – Sam Merrifield (Moonee Ponds)
  • September and October - Niddrie
  • November and December – Avondale Heights 

Why are libraries worth celebrating?

Moonee Valley takes great pride in its libraries. Each of our five branches provide a safe and welcoming space, free for our community to connect, learn, study, research and of course, read!

From the young parents or grandparents who bring their children to our reading sessions, to the secondary students studying for exams, to the tertiary students researching for their PhD, to the retirees who come in to read the daily paper, we have many residents who have been coming to our libraries for years - some even decades!

Libraries play an important role in lifelong learning - they are a place for people to utilise and learn technology, a space to mix with community, and they provide access to resources for recreation and information.

Our libraries provide a diverse range of workshops, up-skilling classes, as well as meeting spaces for community groups. To find out more about what they can offer you, visit the Libraries section.

Did you know?

  • We now have 5 library branches throughout Moonee Valley
  • Nearly 1 million items are borrowed each year
  • 800,000 people visit our libraries each year
  • 55,000 attendances at library programs per year
  • 185,000 internet sessions occur per year
  • Our library membership base currently sits at 55,000      

Timeline of library milestones

Date Milestone 
1939 Essendon Public Library closed.
1950s Community pressure to re-establish public libraries in the Essendon and Keilor areas is growing. By this time most municipalities had libraries.
December 1961 Report to the Keilor City Council on a Library Survey of the City: Together With a Plan for Library Service and Attached Budgets, by the Free Library Service Board of Victoria. Plan to establish a central Keilor library, with a bookmobile and a branch library at St Albans as soon as possible. The Matthews Avenue site was chosen as it was council owned land already being developed for other community services with room for expansion in a central location near a busy shopping area. The report recommended employing five female full-time staff, plus one male Driver-Librarian (yes, the genders were specified).
1963 Referendum on establishment of library in Essendon successful (13,888 in favour, 6,464 against, 830 informal).
1964 Keilor Council commits to establishing municipal library within two years. Reported by St Albans Observer, 12 March 1964. Plan to have a central library in Matthews Ave, Niddrie, and a bookmobile to serve outlying areas. This replaced a tiny pre-existing library in St Albans which had old stock and was barely used (reported by St Albans Observer, 6 May 1965). The population of the City of Keilor at this time was 30,000, and the service began with approximately 3,500 books.
1965 Land purchased for Essendon library (from Church of England).
1966 Shops demolished to make way for Flemington Library Preparatory work entails the demolition of two shops at 313 and 315 Racecourse Road, Newmarket.
1967 The City of Keilor was struggling to find a City Librarian in mid 1967. The Essendon Gazette (12/4/1967) reported that after much advertising the city had chosen an appointee, but he then turned down the post as his wife would be unable to find a suitable job. Council decided to advertise the job in the UK and NZ (St Albans Observer 25/5/67).
27 May 1968 Flemington Library opened. The current Flemington Library opened in May 1968. It was originally known as Flemington-Kensington Library, and was part of the City of Melbourne. The library was officially opened by the Mayor, Cr R T A Talbot on Friday 24th May, with doors open to the general public from Monday 27th May. The new library was touted as “one of the best things which has happened to Flemington since World War II” (Northern Advertiser, 07/09/1967, p6), and within four months of opening was the busiest of City of Melbourne’s four libraries. Flemington Library Opened at current location, Monday, May 27th, 1968 at 12 noon. (1968 Northern Advertiser, pg.2).
26 Sept 1967 – 2 July 1968 Meeting between representatives of Broadmeadows and Essendon where the two councils agreed that a regional library service should be established. Subsequent meetings drafted the agreement, and it was approved by Governor-in-Council on 2 July 1968. Essendon Library is HQ of new service. (Source EBRL First report 1968).
6 July 1968 Essendon Library (now Sam Merrifield Library) officially opened by Minister for Education, Lindsay Thompson.
8 July 1968 Essendon Library (now Sam Merrifield Library) opened to the public.
19 October 1968 Niddrie Library officially opened (originally Keilor City Library) at 13 Mathews Avenue, Niddrie. This opening date was selected to avoid Melbourne Show week at the end of October (Report dated 6 June 1968). Miss Grace Holden was the first City Librarian (St Albans Observer, 16/10/1968).
21 October 1968 Niddrie Library opened to the public.
1969 Fawkner Library opened in Dukes Road.
May 1971

Glenroy Library opened in Pascoe Vale Road.

Library provided outreach service to Ford Factory in Broadmeadows.

1 August 1971 Councils of Broadmeadows, Brunswick and Essendon and Shire of Bulla establish a legal agreement to form the Moonee Valley Regional Library.
1974 Essendon Library extended (extension of the ground floor and addition of a first floor. First floor was the location of Library HQ and Regional Librarian/HQ staff. After 1996 renovations this area became part of council offices).
1974-75 Collection bar-coded and the use of computer based light pen was set up at all branches except Craigieburn. (source: MVRL 5th Report 1974-75)
1974-75 Essendon City Council purchased a bank property on cnr Union and St Leonards Road Ascot Vale for development of branch library.
March 1975 Toy Library launched at Essendon Library, with 325 members, and 500 more on a waiting list.
June 1975 Sunbury Library opened (source: MVRL 5th Report 1974-75).
1975 City of Brunswick leaves the regional library service.
1975 Shire of Kilmore joins the regional library service. Note: there was no static branch, Shire serviced by the Kilmore Bookmobile.
March 1976 “Jolly Jumbuck” multi-media van jointly operated by Moonee Valley Regional Library, the Library Council of Victoria and the State Film Centre launched by Premier, Rupert Hamer. The 3 bodies shared the van, with MV operating the van only within its own region. (Messenger (St Albans?) 24/08/1976). See also The Municipal Journal, March 1976.
23 June 1976 Avondale Heights Library opened. Shop front library, located at 153 Military Road, Avondale Heights. Leased premises ($125 per week).
27 November 1976  Ascot Vale Library opened. Current location on corner of Union and St Leonards Rd. Pauline Meaney was Branch Librarian. Non-fiction arranged by topic.
26 March 1977 Gladstone Park Community Library opened. A joint library service commenced at GP High School. (source: MVRL 6th Report 1975-6)
1976-77 The regional library service now has the largest number of service points of all public libraries in the metro area – and 3 unique service points. The first shop-front library (AVA) the first urban bookmobile (Broadmeadows) and the first joint use library (GP) (source: MVRL 7th Report 1976-7)
8 March 1978 Shire of Romsey joins the regional library service. Shire of Kilmore agreed to hire out its bookmobile to serve the new area. From 1975 until December 1994 (when new municipal boundaries were implemented) the 5 municipalities of Essendon, Broadmeadows, Bulla, Kilmore and Romsey made up the Moonee Valley Regional Library Service. Fact check – Romsey only joined in 78
1978 Teenagers invited to contribute to a free magazine for teens, Keilor Encounters, produced by Keilor Library (Messenger 16/05/78). We have photocopies in our local history archive).
August 1980 Avondale Heights Library moves from 153 Military Road to 135 Military Road (Council owned building).
May 1981 New Craigieburn Library building starts 1/5/1981. Library opens in 1981/82 year (source: MVRL Reports 1980/81 1981/82 – exact opening date not given)
9 August 1981 LIBS 100. MVRL became the first public library in Australia to go online with CLSI’s LIBS100 system – an online library automation system. The computer system was housed upstairs at SML – in the HQ area. Had its own room with a/c, printer, and very large disk systems. (source: MVRL Report 1981-82. Photo page 13)
2 February 1983 Essendon Library renamed Sam Merrifield Library in honour of Sam Merrifield (1903-1982), Member of Parliament, local historian, community activist, library supporter and lifelong local resident.
October 1984 Videos introduced: “Keilor Library has a collection of educational and documentary VHS video cassettes now available … borrowed one at a time”. Messenger 2/10/1984)
1985 Keilor central library under threat of annexation to Essendon. (Community and Real Estate News, July 2nd 1985 and Messenger 12/7/1985). Note: Suburb of West Essendon transferred from City of Keilor to City of Essendon.
1985 Apparent name change from Keilor Central Library to Niddrie Library. No article found reporting this change, but first use of Niddrie Library appears in Messenger 29/10/1985.
1987 Harsh funding cuts to public library subsidies from State Government (Messenger, 2? April 1987)
1990 Introduction of computerised catalogue for Keilor Libraries.
20 July 1991 Milleara Library officially opened 20 July 1991 by “His Worship, the Mayor, Cr. Sam Ortisi” (plaque, at AHL, workroom). Relocation of the Avondale Heights Library to Milleara Shopping Centre. Sale of 135 Military Road funded relocation and establishment. The premises were leased (20 years) for a “peppercorn” rent. Library had opened to public on 11 June 1991.
1991 Friends of Essendon Library group formed.  This group ran through the 1990s and was vocal during the Council amalgamation phase, protesting against cuts to library funding and services and to CCT. (Source: Judy Maddigan archives)
1994 Merger of City of Essendon and parts of City of Melbourne and Keilor. In 1994, the Jeff Kennett government restructured local government in Victoria. His reforms dissolved 210 councils and sacked 1600 elected councillors, and created 78 new councils through amalgamations. Moonee Valley City Council established as a result.
1994-95 Flemington Library transferred from City of Melbourne to City of Moonee Valley/Moonee Valley Regional Library in first round of Council amalgamations. Niddrie, Milleara and Tullamarine Libraries transferred from City of Keilor to City of Moonee Valley/Moonee Valley Regional Library and Glenroy and Fawkner Libraries were transferred to City of Moreland in second round of amalgamations. The third round of amalgamations saw Kilmore/Romsey (a bookmobile service) go to Macedon Ranges.
1994-95 Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CTT) - Moonee Valley Libraries forced into CCT by State Government changes. With the passing of the Local government (competitive tendering) act 1994 Victoria's public library sector became the first in the world to be exposed to compulsory competitive tendering (CCT). As a consequence, between 1996 and 1999, a large number of Victorian public library services were tendered out and subsequently managed on a contractual basis. The contract based model of governance was unique to Victoria and has not been replicated on the same scale anywhere else in the world. Competition for the contracts was almost nonexistent, with no interest from the public sector and little interest in existing library services bidding for contracts in neighbouring areas. The lack of a competitive market meant that the CCT process was ultimately ineffective in terms of financial criteria. However it left a profound and potentially lasting imprint on the structure and management of Victoria's public libraries - see HMVRL Annual Report 1996/97 for full details of CCT and the outcomes.
December 1995 Hume-Moonee Valley Regional Library Corporation established (replacing the former Moonee Valley Regional Library Corporation).
1 April 1996 Tender to run Melton Library awarded to Hume Moonee Valley. (Source Annual Report 1996/97).
June 1996 Renovations at Sam Merrifield Library began.
June 1996 Library HQ moved to Hume Council Offices in Sunbury.
July - December 1996 Sam Merrifield Library relocated to Ascot Vale Road while the original building was gutted, extended on three sides and refurbished.
20 August 1996 Moonee Valley Commissioners decided to close Ascot Vale Library. A strong protest movement was established, spear headed by Judy Maddigan (MLA for Essendon and ex Mayor of Essendon and ex library staff member). Several protest meetings were held at AVA Sep/Oct/Nov 1996 prior to closure (Source Judy Maddigan archives) Michael Smith was Acting Branch Librarian at the time.
12 December 1996 Refurbished Sam Merrifield Library opened by Commissioner Les Croft. Library had gained an additional 300 square metres of floor space, more natural light, public toilets, first meeting room, and new “more distinctive façade” on Mt Alexander Rd. Project cost: $1.8 million. Time capsule was buried at opening.
March 1997 Elected Councillors replaced the Kennett appointed Commissioners.
June 1997 Ascot Vale Library was reopened (with reduced hours and staffing) by elected Council in June 1997. (Annual Report 1996/97)
2002 Introduction of book-clubs.
December 2002 Dissolution of Hume-Moonee Valley Regional Library Corporation. Sam Merrifield, Ascot Vale, Flemington, Niddrie and Milleara Libraries run by City of Moonee Valley. Hume Global Learning Centre (new), Sunbury, Craigieburn, Broadmeadows Bookmobile, Tullamarine and Gladstone Park Libraries to be run by City of Hume. Melton to run itself. Moonee Valley HQ transferred to Niddrie Library (originally this area was to be workroom for branch).
October 2003 Niddrie Library transferred from Matthews Avenue (purpose built and Council owned) to 483 Keilor Road (shop front and leased premises). A Moonee Valley Council Customer Service desk operated at Niddrie Library, circa 2003-206.
2010 Introduction of Toddler Time. First run monthly at Niddrie. By 2013 was monthly at all branches except AVA. By 2017 was weekly at all branches during terms. Baby Rhyme time started in approx. 2008 (accordingly to Paula Smith, 2018), initially monthly at Niddrie, but by 2017 was weekly at every branch (term times only).
8 October 2010 Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre, located at 69-75 Military Road, Avondale Heights, officially opened by Deputy Premier and Niddrie MP, Hon. Rob Hulls. Former Kangan TAFE/Avondale High School site. Library relocated from Milleara Mall (Note: library service at Mall had operated for the 12 month period prior to move from a dismountable portable in carpark at shopping centre while shopping centre underwent a redevelopment). Centre had opened to public on 7 September 2010.
8 October 2011 Andy Griffiths attends First Birthday Celebrations of Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre, along with 2,000 community members.
2012  Introduction of self-service kiosks and radio frequency identification tags across Moonee Valley Libraries.
2013 Finding My Place program for young adults starts. Run at AHL, continued every year since.
14 March 2013 Official launch of Atrium extension at Avondale Heights Library and Centre by Hon. Jeanette Powell, Minister for Local Government and Cr Narelle Sharpe, Moonee Valley Mayor of the day.
November 2013 Name change from Moonee Valley Library Service to Moonee Valley Libraries.
2014  Refurbishment of Sam Merrifield Library. Includes creation of new multi-purpose meeting room spaces. Work began on 26 Feb 2014.
August 2014 Launch of Family History Group. First meeting held during Family History Month in new meeting space at Sam Merrifield Library.

A history of our branches

Ascot Vale Library

Ascot Vale Library opened to the public on 27 November 1976. The building, located on the corner of Union and St. Leonard’s Roads was previously a bank. The non-fiction collection was originally arranged by genre and it was the second library for the City of Essendon. 

This shop front community library revealed how valued and loved it was by the locals when threated with closure in 1996. Despite a strong and concerted community campaign, including a legal battle, State Government appointed Commissioners did close the library in November 1996. One of the first tasks of the newly elected Moonee Valley City Council, however, was to reopen the library, which occurred in June 1997.

In recent years Ascot Vale Library has had an internal refurbishment and an external facelift, returning the building to a look more in keeping the heritage of the area. Ascot Vale Library remains a compact but much loved and used library, and celebrated 40 years of serving the community in 2016.

Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre

Located at 69 Military Road, Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre, is the newest of Moonee Valley Libraries five branches, opening to the public on 7 September 2010. It is part of the Avondale Heights Precinct, which includes the Early Years Centre (a kindergarten and maternal health service) and Stadium.

The library relocated from a shop front premise at Milleara Mall Shopping Centre. This busy multicultural library had operated at the Centre from 1991 (when the Centre first opened) until 2010, when the Centre underwent a redevelopment. Prior to 1991, a library had operated at two locations, both in Military Road, Avondale Heights. The first library, located at number 153 opened on 23 June 1976, but moved to number 135 in 1980.

Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre has a collection of items in eight languages: Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, English, Greek, Italian, Spanish and Vietnamese and is second to Flemington in terms of loans in items other than English.

There is an extensive and innovative range of programs and events for children (Baby rhyme time, Toddler time, pre-school story-time, 6+ Club, school holiday program, special events such as Halloween), youth (school holiday and special events such as Wii Tournament and Find My Place Program with Essendon Keilor College) and adults (Films at the Atrium and Community meals programs, Knitting group, various events, such as Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea since 2011). Exhibitions have been held in the Atrium and reception areas, most notably “Writing the War”, a State Library touring exhibition commemorating the centenary of World War One in 2017. The YMCA have had a daily bookings since inception and Farnham Street Neighbourhood Learning Centre have conducted semester long computer classes and English Conversation groups for several years. The facility is a community anchor for the Avondale Heights neighbourhood.

Flemington Library

The current Flemington Library, originally known as Flemington-Kensington Library, opened in May 1968, with about 15,000 books, making it the oldest of Moonee Valley Libraries five branches. The library was touted as “one of the best things which has happened to Flemington since World War II”. Within four months of opening it was the busiest of City of Melbourne’s four libraries.

The 1968 Racecourse Road Library was not the first public free library in the area. In fact Flemington’s first free public library ran from 1863 to 1872! Another launched in 1883, but closed within a few years. A third Flemington-Kensington Library was opened in 1901, in a smallish room at the back of the Town Hall building in Bellair Street and ran there until the current Racecourse Road location was opened.

In 1986 renovation and extension works on the Racecourse Road Library began, and a “partial library service” was run out of Debney Park’s Community Centre for the duration of the works. Not only was the existing building extensively refurbished, but two adjoining buildings were incorporated into the library, and a mural by artist Geoff Hogg was also commissioned. The Redevelopment was opened on 1st June 1989.

Flemington Library became part of Moonee Valley in 1994 in the first round of local government restructures. Around this time Flemington Library also began to take a more active role in serving and celebrating the interests of their local LOTE communities, beginning to celebrate Lunar New Year annually from the mid-1990s, and in 1996 becoming Moonee Valley’s designated specialist non-English library for Asian language materials. The Lunar New Year celebration tradition continues, and is now Moonee Valley Libraries’ longest running community and cultural event.

Flemington Library is now a multi-cultural community hub, providing access to technologies, resources, classes, events, study space, and almost 26,000 collection items in five languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, Somali and Vietnamese) and attracts around 25,000 (?) visits each week.

Niddrie Library

Keilor City Library was first officially opened, at 13 Mathews Avenue Niddrie, on 19th October 1968, with services to the general public beginning on 21st October. This new facility replaced a tiny, earlier library that had also been run by Keilor Council, but which had old, poor stock, was little known, and barely used. The population of the City of Keilor at this time was 30,000, and the service began with approximately 3,500 books. Miss Grace Holden was the first City Librarian.

Keilor Library was the home of the KATs (Keilor Art Tokens) an annual art prize for juniors, and in 1978 also launched a magazine produced at the library by local teens, named Keilor Encounters. They were also early adopters of video, introducing a lending collection of educational and documentary VHS tapes back in 1984, (which could be borrowed one at a time). For many years Friends of Niddrie Library provided support in the form of book sales, fundraising and lobbying for the library.

Niddrie Library became part of Moonee Valley Regional Library in the mid-1990s when Niddrie and Milleara Libraries were transferred from Keilor to Moonee Valley in the second round of council amalgamations.

With the dissolution of Hume-Moonee Valley Regional Library Corporation in December 2002, library headquarters was moved to Niddrie Library. In October 2003 the library moved from the purpose built, but less prominent Mathews Avenue building to a leased shop front on the main local shopping strip, at 483 Keilor Road -- the current location. Innovations in recent years have included Baby Rhyme Time introduced in 2008, followed by Toddler Times in 2010, and for adults Craft Connect in 2014. Niddrie Library remains an active and constantly evolving community hub.

Sam Merrifield Library

Essendon Library was officially opened by the Minister for Education, Lindsay Thompson on 6 July 1968, and opened to the general public two days later, on 8th July.

The Library was created in response to community pressure to set up a public library which had been growing since the 1950s, by which time most Melbourne municipalities had libraries. The Essendon Library Promotion Committee formed to lobby council, and a referendum was held in 1963 in which the local constituents voted decisively to establish a library. Built over two years, on a site that had formerly been a Church of England school, and with help from funds from the Free Library Service Board of Victoria library subsidy of 11,500 pounds in 1964.

After first opening in 1968, Essendon Library was extended in 1975 as it was now HQ for a wide region including Brunswick, Bulla, Kilmore and Romsey. In 1982 the name of the library was changed to honour Sam Merrifield (1903-1982) who had been a prominent local politician, local history expert and community activist.

The building continued to house the headquarters for the Regional Library until renovations began in June 1996 at which time the administration moved to the Hume Council Offices in Sunbury. From July to December 1996 Sam Merrifield Library was relocated to Ascot Vale Road while the original building was gutted, extended on three sides and refurbished. The library gained 300 square metres of floor space, more natural light, public toilets, a meeting room and a new façade, at a cost of $1.8m. The new library was official opened on 12 December 1996 by Commissioner Les Crofts.

Sam Merrifield Library was profoundly changed with the introduction of the internet, and the reference section (formerly well-used and one of the largest reference sections in the state) became increasingly redundant. In 2011 most of this collection of some 8000+ titles was removed with space reclaimed for other collections, desks and seating. In 2012, self-service kiosks were introduced, and then in 2014 the library underwent a minor refurbishment which allowed for the provision of more computers and the creation of very popular new meeting spaces. Now Sam Merrifield Library houses collection items in eight languages (Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, English, French, Greek, Italian and Spanish), has three busy meeting rooms for community use, hosts regular events, talks, workshops and children’s activities, and continues to be a vibrant community hub.

History of the site of Sam Merrifield Library

Sam Merrifield Library (along with the Moonee Valley Civic Centre) is built on a site that had been previously occupied by St Thomas’ Grammar School. St Thomas’ started in this location in 1910. In 1934 they merged with Northern Grammar to become Essendon Grammar (see St Thomas’ Church 130th Anniversary of Church Building 1859-1989).

Moonee Valley Libraries

The service now known as Moonee Valley Libraries began in 1968 with the opening of Essendon Library.

The Essendon area had been served by a council backed library since as early as 1882, but this poorly funded amenity had closed in 1939. Since then community pressure to re-establish a local library had been mounting, particularly as by the 1950s most other Melbournian municipalities had libraries. The Essendon Library Promotion Committee formed to lobby council, and by the early 60s establishing a library was a major issue at Essendon Council elections. A referendum was held in 1963 in which the local constituents voted decisively to establish a library (13,888 votes in favour, 6,464 against, 830 informal). In 1964 Essendon successfully applied to the Free Library Service Board of Victoria for a library subsidy of 11,500 pounds. Essendon Library officially opened on 6th July 1968.

Meanwhile similar campaigns had been happening in nearby areas such as Broadmeadows, Flemington and Keilor. Co-incidentally, 1968 was also the year that Flemington Library (then part of City of Melbourne) and Niddrie Library (then part of City of Keilor) opened their doors, and it was in late 1968 that Essendon and Broadmeadows reached agreement to form a regional library service together, with Essendon Library as HQ, named Essendon-Broadmeadows Library Service. By 1971 the region served had expanded to include the Cities of Brunswick and Bulla, and the service was renamed Moonee Valley Regional Library Service.

In 1975 the City of Brunswick left the region, and the Shire of Kilmore joined, then in 1978 the Shire of Romsey joined, bringing the number of libraries to seven, plus two book-mobiles. Five municipalities – Essendon, Broadmeadows, Bulla, Kilmore and Romsey – made up the Moonee Valley Regional Library Service until new municipal boundaries were implemented in December 1994.
The focus in the 80s or 90s was on innovation, computerization, multiculturalism and community activities.

Moonee Valley Regional Library Service was dissolved in December 1995, replaced by Hume-Moonee Valley Regional Library Corporation which served the two new municipalities of Hume and Moonee Valley. In the first round of council amalgamations Flemington Library was also transferred from City of Melbourne to City of Moonee Valley/Moonee Valley Regional Library, and in the second round Moonee Valley gained Niddrie, Milleara and Tullamarine Libraries from City of Keilor and Glenroy and Fawkner Libraries from City of Moreland. The third round of amalgamations saw Kilmore/Romsey (a bookmobile service) go to Macedon Ranges.

Essendon Library remained the administrative home of the service until renovations began at Sam Merrifield Library in June 1996 at which time library headquarters moved to Hume Council Offices in Sunbury. With the dissolution of Hume-Moonee Valley Regional Library Corporation in December 2002, library headquarters then moved to Niddrie Library.
Self-service kiosks relying on radio-frequency tagging technology was introduced across the service in 2012.
Today Moonee Valley Libraries has 5 branches.

We been known as:

  • Essendon-Broadmeadows Library Service (1968-1971)
  • Moonee Valley Regional Library Service
  • Hume-Moonee Valley Regional Library Corporation
  • Moonee Valley Library Service
  • Moonee Valley Libraries

Annotated bibliography

  • Essendon Public Library Site Meeting Minutes, 1967-68, (held in Archive Cupboard - 0073, Community Heritage Collection, Sam Merrifield Library)
  • Kelly, Francis History of the Moonee Valley Regional Library Service 1969-1985, (typed unpublished manuscript, held in Moonee Valley Libraries History Box, Community Heritage Collection, Sam Merrifield Library)
  • “Sam Merrifield Library – A History” from Report on the Second Year of Operation 1996-1997, Hume-Moonee Valley Library Corporation, 1997, pp. 17-18.
  • St Thomas’ Church 130th Anniversary of Church Building 1859-1989 (held in open access Community Heritage Collection, Sam Merrifield Library)

More information

Contact librarian@mvcc.vic.gov.au or speak to one of our friendly library staff at your local branch.

Stay up to date by following the Moonee Valley Libraries Facebook and Twitter pages.

Last updated: Monday, 29 October 2018, 4:42 AM