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  • BAG History Group

Libraries of the Mitcham Hills

The Journey To Tiwu Kumangka For Blackwood

The Gouger Collection of SLSA.

In 1836 the first cargo of 200 books and pamphlets arrived in Adelaide, intended to provide a library to help educate the citizens of this new, enlightened and progressive society.

Coromandel Valley Institute c1880s. Image c/o Coromandel Valley & Districts National Trust.

In 1881 the Coromandel Valley Institute (Main Road, Coromandel Valley) opened as the first library in the district with a small number of subscribers and about 100 volumes. This institute was one of a network of subscription libraries across S.A. which required membership fees to borrow books. Free libraries were a long way off.

The Blackwood, Belair and Coromandel Valley Boys Club, which began in Blackwood in 1903, provided a wide range of activities, including a modest library.

In the 1940s the state government recognised the shortcomings of the institute libraries. The Country Lending and Children’s Country Lending Service was established with parcels of books sent to individuals in the country. In Blackwood books arrived by train. The Country Lending Service began in 1938 and the specific service for children in 1941. (Although country schools had been receiving parcels since 1938.)

In 1960 Mitcham Council (in collaboration with the state government) opened its first library, the Mitcham Memorial Library on Belair Road, Hawthorn.

Original Ivor Symons Library, 1973. Image c/o Mitcham Local History Service.

In 1973 the first free library came to Blackwood with the opening of the Ivor Symons Library (version 1) on the corner of Shepherds Hill Road and Brighton Parade (today a medical practice). Named in honour of Ivor Symons as a former mayor of Mitcham and significant advocate for free libraries, the library was purpose built on land acquired from the RSL. A likely key reason that this library was affordable to build was that in 1973 Premier Don Dunstan had lifted the State Government subsidy on the capital cost of a library in a local government area to $40,000. The library was a hit and almost immediately had 4,000 subscribers for the 7,000-8,000 books about half of which were available for children. The library was open for 37 hours per week but very rapidly became too small.

Images c/o City of Mitcham librarians private collection.

This first Blackwood Library was sold in 1981 to provide funding to purchase the former Hains Hunken furniture showroom on the corner of Main Road and Carr Street and convert it to a library. The Hains Hunken showroom had been short lived opening in November 1977 and closing March 1978. Local Hawthorndene resident Jim Mason was the manager with his office being on the mezzanine floor in what is now the Youth Area.

Images c/o City of Mitcham librarians private collection.

The tiled foyer to the building had been the entrance and office space for Hains Hunken with the library proper having a very high ceiling as it was 3 wardrobes high to facilitate storage. Library staff recall moving some of the stock from Shepherds Hill Road to Main Road on trolleys in the rain holding umbrellas over the stock to protect it while getting wet themselves.

Images c/o City of Mitcham librarians private collection.

Version 2 of the Ivor Symons Blackwood Library opened in 1981. The library continued to be open for 37 hours/week. Plans for expansion by using the undercroft for a children’s library never eventuated. Even so, children’s library activities were held here!

The undercroft also became an extension of the City of Mitcham Local History Service supervised by Local History Officer - Maggie Ragless.

High on the internal eastern wall a mural was created by Beryl Stuchbury to show the view which would have been seen to the east had there been windows.

The mural on the front façade of the building was a joint project by Frances Callen and students of Blackwood High School.

As times changed the library remains a place for all ages and where the community comes together for learning, creativity, friendships and a central point for communication and connection. It has remained an essential service even as it changes. Over the years libraries have evolved – tapes, CDs, newspapers, toys, large print books, novels, non-fiction, research, videos, DVDs, internet, book clubs, Seniors support and more. The internet came to the library in 1998.

In 2014 a lack of space resulted in the toy library being moved to the Blackwood Community Centre requiring parents to travel between two facilities.

With the growing membership and increasing pressure on space the Mitcham Council decided that a new library and community centre will be built on the site of the current Blackwood Community Centre at Young Street and integrated into Waite Street Reserve.

The $12 million budget for the project is supported by $5 million committed by the Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, and $3.5 million under a State Government Local Government Infrastructure Grant.

In February 2023, Mitcham Council endorsed the name "Tiwu Kumangka" for the new Blackwood Library and Community Centre after community and Kaurna representative consultation. Pronounced Tiwu = Tee-woo and Kumangka = Ka-mung-ka.

The name incorporates the word Kumangka (coming together) and Tiwu (Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo) to represent the return of the vulnerable cockatoo after increased sightings in the Blackwood area.

Libraries remain an essential service adapting to the times. A place for all ages and where the community comes together for learning, creativity, friendships and a central point for communication and connection.




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