Building a Library from Scratch

SLQ Staff member David McMahon shares his recent experience developing the Samford community library.

A few days before Christmas in 2014 I spied a tiny notice in our local paper which read ‘’Wanted-volunteers for a community library’’. I had recently completed my Diploma in library science and was working casually at the State Library of Queensland so I had a bit of time up my sleeve.

Groucho Marx wittily remarked that he didn’t care to belong to any club that would have him as a member and I was roughly of the same mind. Age however, a blaggard of the lowest order, likes to assert its own moral and ethical tyrannies and was hounding me to give something back to the community.

Within a very short space of time I had met the people who had taken it upon themselves to get a community library up and running. There were some teacher librarians, an artist, a composer and poet, another who taught business, an ABC reporter and me. Being the only male in the group I wondered why it was that it was women who often got these community things going but I’ll save that for another blog.

First Meeting

Hard Yards for the Church Mice

Having worked in the Collection Access department at SLQ I gained firsthand knowledge of how these things are done and why (never remove a book from the shelf by pulling from the top of the spine!). Why the Dewey Decimal system was crucial in establishing our credibility was another small battle that had to be fought. I was able to state my case with confidence in a well-structured meeting with a defined agenda, with a nominated chair which was duly noted by the person taking the minutes.

When I mentioned our endeavour to my colleagues at SLQ I was suddenly and delightfully inundated with generous donations of books from people’s private collections and donations of furniture from the Edge and Collection Access for which we were most grateful. Before long and with a little bit of social media footsie we had gathered close to 30,000 items.

Money, Money, Money

I’m now deeply involved with a bunch of people who were once strangers but are now friends. Getting involved with your local community is definitely worth it as there is so much to learn from your fellow human beings and about yourself.

So sorry Groucho, but the lure of the community library has me hooked.

David McMahon

Library Technician, Information Services


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I liked what I have just read . Well done

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho MarxGroucho would approve.