The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 4 (August 1, 1928)
Hillside Railway Workshops Library
The foundation of the Hillside Railway Workshops Library emanated from a meeting of employees held on 5th June, 1884, the meeting being presided over by the late Mr. A. L. Beattie. At that meeting the following resolution was carried:
“That immediate steps be taken with a view to forming a library and that a committee consisting of two representatives from each shop, together with the various foremen be set up and empowered to take the necessary action and report to the next meeting.”
At the next meeting a permanent committee was set up, with Mr. Beattie as President, Mr. W. R. Cole, Hon. Secretary, and Mr. R. Henderson, Hon. Treasurer. A number of canvassers were also appointed, and they were very successful in obtaining both donations of money and books from the employees and from a large number of leading citizens. The first library building was erected early in 1885, and Mr. R. Farrant was appointed librarian. At the first annual meeting, in June, 1885, rules were adopted and the late Mr. T. A. Peterkin (who had been appointed Workshops Manager) became President of the committee. On September 25th, 1885, Mr. H. A. Lawson was appointed librarian and caretaker on a salary of £9 per year—a position he held, with a break of but a few months, until he was accidentally killed in June 1926. The annual balance sheet presented at the annual meeting in June, 1886, showed that the subscriptions amounted to £35 0s. 6d., and there were donations of £8 10s.
An interesting feature of the committee's activities about this time was the lectures given under the auspices of the Library, two of the lecturers being Mr. R. E. N. Twopenny, editor of the “Otago Daily Times,” and the Rev. D. Dutton, who is still taking an active interest in public affairs. (A Mutual Improvement Society was also started, but it apparently did not have a successful career.)
Looking back over the earlier records of the Library it is impossible not to notice the great amount of work done by Mr. Stothart. He took over the office of secretary on May 26th, 1887, and from that date the organisation of the Library made rapid strides. It can be said of him that he laid faithfully the foundations of the library as we know it to-day, Mr. Stohart held office until his death in June, 1905, and was succeeded by Mr. D. Harris Hastings, who still holds the position.
It is interesting to note the names of the past presidents of the library. They were: Messrs. A. L. Beattie, T. A. Peterkin, Professor Scott, James Edin, S. P. Evans, J. D. Harris, E. E. Gillon, G. E. Richardson, J. Carson, E. L. Haskins, H. G. Brooks, and W. H. Johnston.
Another gentleman who did valuable work for the Library was Mr. R. Farrant, who was the active vice-president for about five and twenty years. Presidents came and went, but Mr. Farrant was in reality the permanent chairman, and, as such, a tower of strength to the organisation. After the death of Mr. H. A. Lawson in 1906 the position of paid librarian was held by Mr. T. Miles, who retained office until his retirement from the service on June 29th, 1922. Mr. A. H. Dyer was appointed in his stead, and still holds the position.
The Hillside Library has been exceptionally fortunate in its librarians, all of whom devoted considerable time, energy and courteousness to help to make the institution popular. The present occupant of the office (Mr. Dyer) is eminently suited for the position and too much praise cannot be given him for the manner in which he fulfils his duties. (He is assisted by Mr. J. Turkington in the capacity of assistant librarian.) Mention also should be made of the services rendered by our past hon. treasurers: Messrs R. Henderson, G. Applegarth (for over 20 years), A. H. Cooper, W. L. McEvoy, and by our present treasurer, Mr. W. L. Routledge.page 45
Commencing in 1884 with two boxes of books (and about £40 in money, proceeds of collection), the Library to-day contains on its shelves over 15,000 volumes, including an excellent reference department, mainly devoted to works on Mechanical Engineering, etc. Fiction is naturally the main feature, and all the latest works are secured as soon as published. Thirty magazines a month and twelve weekly papers furnish lighter reading for the subscribers. In addition, the Department contributes nine excellent and up-to-date technical magazines, this number being supplemented by others paid for by the subscribers.
The revenue for the first year was, as previously stated, £43 10s. 6d. The year Mr. Stothart gave up office it was £80 10s. 6d, and last year it was £216 6s. 7d. There are about 300 subscribers, a number of whom take out more than one book each, some of them taking as many as five.
The social side of the Library has not been neglected. The Department built a Social Hall, which was opened with a concert on October 25th, 1912, a piano being purchased by the men subsequently, out of the proceeds of concerts—one of which (or rather a bazaar) netting a profit of £73 7s.
During all the years of its existence the Library has received very generous support from the Department, which has not only fostered it by the gift of technical publications, etc., but has never refused any reasonable request made by the committee.
The welfare of the staff in this connection was not overlooked by the Prime Minister and Minister of Railways, the Hon. J. G. Coates, when he authorised in the scheme of workshops reorganisation the building of a commodious combined Social Hall and Library.
The new Library is 49ft. 6in. × 30ft., and has a separate entrance in the new building. The internal fittings and the lighting (both natural and artificial) leave nothing to be desired. In every respect the Library is well equipped, and a source of gratification and pride to the subscribers and the employees generally.
The success of the Hillside Library during the past forty years has been due to the wholehearted and unselfish work of the long list of past and present officials. The employees have at all times liberally supported the Library and looked upon it with pride. In going over to the new building the present committee feel justified in stating that when the time arrives for them to relinquish office, they will be able to hand over to their successors a private Library second to none in the Dominion.page break