In summary

  • Historical footage has been recovered showing the construction of Swinburne’s Hawthorn library in 1971
  • Swinburne was the first of the Victorian Colleges of Advanced Education (CAE) to have a building designed exclusively as a library
  • Another video shows Malcolm Fraser, then Minister for Education and Science, opening the library in 1972

A historical film has been recovered, 50 years since construction started on the library at Swinburne’s Hawthorn campus.

The digitised 16mm colour film shows the transformation and construction of the library, which is officially known as the Bernard Hames Library, in honour of the Director of Swinburne from 1966-1970. Hames was instrumental in forming the library.

Architecture firm Godfrey and Spowers were commissioned to design the library in the late 1960s. Construction began in 1970 by Prentice Building Pty. Ltd, overseen by the then Chief Librarian Jessie Harley.

When it was completed in 1971, Swinburne was the first of the Victorian Colleges of Advanced Education (CAE) to have a building designed exclusively as a library.

Construction of the Swinburne Library, 1971

Video showing the construction of the Swinburne library in 1971

The heart of the university

Simon Huggard is the current Deputy Director of Library Services at Swinburne. He enjoys leading the library team to support students and academics with their study and research needs.

Mr Huggard started this role in 2020. He has been a part of the library community since 1986 and has watched its evolution over the years.

‘The library sits centrally at the heart of the university,’ he says. ’We’re a neutral, knowledge-based space and service which supports most staff and students at Swinburne,’ he says.

He agrees with the words Former Prime Minister the Honourable Malcolm Fraser said when he opened the library in 1972, that libraries are ‘the most important part of any institute of learning or higher education.’

The library also houses the Swinburne Commons digital media collection, Swinburne Research Bank digital repository of publications and the Swinburne Art Collection.

Malcolm Fraser opening Swinburne library, February 1972

Video of The Honourable Malcolm Fraser opening the Swinburne library on 11 February 1972 as Minister for Education and Science

The current Deputy Director of Library Services, Simon Huggard, was part of the Swinburne library in 1986 and returned to Swinburne in 2020

The transformation of research

Swinburne’s library has been transformed to meet the evolving needs of the university.

It was refurbished in 2019 to seat almost 2,000 people and includes the designated Latelab study space, open 24/7. A team of 33 staff members assist more than 43,000 students and researchers.

The resources available have also expanded significantly. While digital content did not exist in 1971, it now forms 95 per cent of what the library owns, with 100 million items available on the Library search interface. With COVID-19 restrictions leading to more learning and working from home, digital usage increased last year by 30 per cent and more than ten million downloads surpassed.

The library will continue to embrace technological advances and research needs in the future. Mr Huggard suggests the search for resources in the next 50 years will become more personalised and even easier to navigate.

‘I’m hoping this won’t be in a creepy Facebook kind of way, but something really tailored to meet learning and research needs, with library staff supporting students and researchers through this journey.’

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