The Forest Hill Branch
In 1952 membership of the Melbourne Athenaeum was at its highest level with 7,579 members. Even though multiple copies of popular titles were purchased, there was a problem ensuring there were enough current books in the library that the members wanted to read. Purchase of books, which were rising in price, had to be balanced with employing sufficient staff to serve the customers and labour costs were also rising. Then the number of memberships started declining.
The library in 1957
Three main factors caused the drop. By the 1960s the impact of television was apparent, reflecting changes in leisure pastimes of the inhabitants of Melbourne. The second influence was a Federal Government policy on free public library services which meant that books could be borrowed from new, local libraries, at no cost. The third factor was the development of local shopping complexes. Increasingly women who drove their cars to well-stocked shopping centres did not need to travel into the city. And so membership of the Melbourne Athenaeum slowly declined. Two other subscription libraries in Melbourne closed around this time, Mullins and Myers. The lending library at the Public Library (now called the State Library of Victoria) also closed.
Several members of the Committee of Management felt that a solution to falling membership would be to open a branch library. A market-research survey, conducted at the new Forest Hill Shopping Centre, indicated that shoppers would appreciate having a library in the Centre. A branch of the Athenaeum Library was eventually opened on 2 December 1969, at a cost of $16,000. Eric Pearce, newsreader for television studio GTV9, in declaring the Library open said, "I'm a great lover of books and living in the superficial world of TV as much as I do, I have to have books to retain my sanity." Opened optimistically, the new library, with new staff members and newly covered books, was beset with problems from flooding, and soon faced competition from the eventual development of local public libraries in that area. The Forest Hill branch of the Melbourne Athenaeum closed in 1977.
A newspaper cutting in the archives tells the story of the official opening
of the Forest Hill Branch by Eric Pearce, well-known television newsreader
The Forest Hill Branch of the Melbourne Athenaeum Library opened in 1969 and closed in 1977