The Unitarian Church Collection - 1859-1920s South Australia
The Children's Library of the Unitarian Church in South Australia was established "in the hope of exciting a taste for reading among the younger members of the congregation", in October 1859 and is believed to be the first Children's Library in Australia. The library opened with 109 books and 21 subscribers. In 1861 the annual report records an increase in the membership. It was also hoped that the Library "will long continue to form a bond of union with those to whom the future of the Church will be entrusted."
The books for the Library were selected with great care "as regards their doctrinal as well as moral tendency" but also combined amusement with instruction. The figures of usage recorded in the annual reports clearly reflect the library's continued popularity amongst the young members of the congregation. Catalogues of the Library were issued every few years and by 1877 it was self supporting and continued to operate successfully for many more decades.
The Library of 700 books was donated to the Children's Literature Research Collection in 1990. The Unitarian Church Collection provides a rare glimpse of a functioning 19th century children's library.