Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute Inc.
Newsletter 1
December 2013
Dear Members of FOLMI,
This is the first of (what we trust will be) many newsletters to keep you updated on FOLMI's activities.

As you will have seen from the heading, we are now an incorporated not-for-profit group, a legal entity under the Associations Incorporation Act (1964). This means we can enter into agreements such as that which will be required by Council to permit the transfer of the LMI Collection to our safekeeping.

Council Resolutions
The following resolutions were passed unanimously at the Launceston City Council's meeting of Monday 25 November 2013:

1.       The majority of the collection of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute will be returned to the Council by LINC Tasmania, with ownership transferred by the Council to the Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute, subject to the charter of the Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute having a suitable clause which offers the collection back to the Launceston City Council or gives it right of first refusal in the event of a wind up of the Launceston Mechanics Institute.Ownership of a much smaller number of historically and culturally important items will be transferred by the Council to LINC Tasmania.Custody of the archival records of the Launceston Mechanics' institute will be granted to QVMAG by LINC Tasmania. The Museum will also receive an assortment of objects, as well as a selection of books that once were part of the Evandale Subscription Library (est. 1847).
2.       Ownership of the Meston Collection will be transferred by the Council to LINC Tasmania.

Steering Committee
The next step in the process of transferring these collections to their new owners and custodians will be the formation of a steering committee involving representatives of FOLMI, LINC Tasmania and QVMAG. The steering committee will need to begin meeting before the end of 2013, and we will keep you informed of the outcomes of meetings and decisions taken. It will be through this committee that the ramifications of the Council's decision will be worked out in detail.
It is still possible that everything will be in readiness for the LMI books to be moved in January-February 2014. We will update members further when the work is about to start.

Support from Friends of the Library, Launceston
At the November meeting of Friends of the Library, Launceston,  a request was tabled for financial support in the form of a transfer of funds from FOLL to the newly formed organisation Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute.
The funds were sought to enable our organisation to undertake initial work and to defray the costs involved in establishing the organisation and making it operational.
This request was made on the basis of a community of interest between the two organisations, their shared goal of supporting and enhancing library services in Launceston, and the importance of saving the highly significant Launceston Mechanics' Institute Collection.
I am pleased to advise that the request was viewed very positively by FOLL and most generously supported by their members, and FOLL has made the sum of $2000 available to assist our work.

Meeting with Mary Dent
In November, Mike and I had the pleasure of a two-hour meeting with Mary Dent. Mary worked at the Launceston Library from 1945 until 1988, so she worked in both the Mechanics' Institute building and the new Northern regional Library. Mary was able to answer so many of our questions about the way in which the LMI collection was managed, how it was arranged and later stored. She named the staff members shown in photographs of the interior of the Institute and showed us how the books were set out, and made us aware of the purpose of the surviving card catalogues. Through Mary's  description we were subsequently able to identify the three stock books which were used as Accession Registers throughout the life of the Institute. These registers include a complete chronological list of 37708 books which were added to the collection which will be a marvellous cross-reference to the surviving volumes.
It was particularly interesting to find out that when mary started work at the Institute books were still being sent to Chivers Bindery in Bath for rebinding.
Mary has very kindly agreed to visit us when we are established at UTAS to look at the collection and share her memories.

MIV Newsletter
The Mechanics Institutes of Victoria have asked for an update on the Launceston situation for the summer issue of their newsletter Useful Knowledge. Mike has submitted an article and illustration. We have a subscription to Useful Knowledge and will make the copies available to members as soon as we are established at UTAS.

Blog Updates
The LMI blog is still being updated periodically at
I will archive the newsletters on the site as they appear.

Peter Richardson