This is an intact collection of Mechanics’ Institute books, begun in the early 1880s. In 1971 the collection of over 2,300 books, which had been gathering dust in the library in the ante-room on the northern side of the Narracan Mechanics’ Institute hall, was donated to Old Gippstown and this building was removed and rebuilt at Old Gippstown. The old library room in the hall was deemed unsuitable for storing the collection and a new purpose-built library building was erected in the main street at Old Gippstown.
This is one of four surviving intact Mechanics’ Institute libraries in Victoria, with their original, unadulterated collections, demonstrating the range of fiction and non-fiction in demand by the Gippsland community from the late 19th century. Also in the collection are the original minute books, 1947 catalogue compiled by Robert Auchterlonie (used as a reference for cataloguing and re-shelving the books) and extensive borrowing records. Travelling book box No.3 from the Melbourne Public Library, and the 43 books it contains, all have the “Public Library of Victoria/Travelling Library” stamp. This travelling book box is the only complete travelling library box known (Dr Linda Young, Deakin University Significance Assessment July 2009).
The collection is now entirely catalogued and books date from the 1840s-1960s with most acquired in the 1890-1920 period. Most of the non-fiction books are still on their original shelves with new shelving erected to house some of the fiction collection.