From 1827, Mechanics' Institutes, Literary Institutes, Athenaeums and Schools of Arts played an important role in the life of early Australian communities. Among their roles was the provision of libraries and reading rooms, but as community institutions they also provided lectures and adult education.
By 1900 there were 1000 Mechanics' Institutes in Australia with memberships of between 100 and 200 people. Most of these Institutes did not have large libraries, usually having less than 1,000 books. Their role in a country town was more a general focus for the community's cultural activities, not just that of a library. As well as membership subscriptions, the Institutes were supported by colonial governments and sometimes by local government, usually by land grants and cash assistance. The institution generally had a purpose built building in the town. Many of these buildings are no longer home to those institutions but are used for other purposes.
In 1912, a New South Wales committee was set up to examine whether the £10,000 subsidy paid annually by the government to Schools of Arts and similar institutions was money well spent. The committee determined it was not well spent and recommended phasing out or reducing the subsidy in metropolitan areas and municipalities and that local authorities take over schools of arts. There were not enough books, especially non-fiction, and services were limited under the current arrangements. However, lobbying saw the recommendations not implemented. Subsidies continued until the 1930s depression.
Members of the above will be pleased to know that a further 100 new books will arrive this month. It is the policy of the committee to keep the library as up-to-date as funds will permit. The member ship fee is only 15/ per annum, and a satisfactory increase in the number of members would result in a corresponding increase in the number of new books from month to month.
The first round of the snooker tournament on Monday evening was very keenly contested, and the handicappers, with very few exceptions, have apparently done a good job.
The general public are reminded that these tournaments are not confined to members only and any member of the public may enter. The room is open for play every night from 7.30 to 10.30, except [ Saturdays and Sundays, and two very fine tables, in very good condition, are available for play.
At the committee meeting, held on 14th August, Mr. George Swan was elected Treasurer to the Murrurundi Literary Institute. It was decided to hold regular knock-out billiard and snooker-challenge competitions, the winners to hold the gold buttons until defeated. A further snooker pairs handicap will take place on Monday night. These pairs events are becoming very popular with the members and, being one right affairs, the interest cannot drag as is the case very often in long drawn-out tournaments.
It was decided to fix the fee for the use of the meeting room by outside bodies at 5/ per meeting, such meetings to terminate not later than 10 p.m. The fees are payable in advance.
It is also proposed to hold table-tennis events if sufficient players are interested.