Wednesday, 4 December 2013

NEWSLETTER No.1



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.

Incorporation
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 http://launcestonmechanicsinstitute.blogspot.com.au/
I will archive the newsletters on the site as they appear.

Peter Richardson
President

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

MEDIA RELEASE



Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute

THURSDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2013

The members of Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute Inc. (FOLMI) welcome the decision of Launceston City Council to transfer the former Launceston Mechanics' Institute collection to their custodianship and future management.

FOLMI was formed as a response to the threat of dispersal and possible disposal of a major portion of the LMI Collection. The organisation brings together individuals with the enthusiasm, interest and most importantly the expertise to organise, research and maintain this highly significant collection for the benefit of the Launceston community, local historians and the wider circle of researchers into Australian cultural history.

The aim of FOLMI is to ensure the LMI continues to be acknowledged as an important cultural institution in the history of Launceston; to preserve what remains of its holdings for their local and national significance; and to facilitate research into the collection in all its aspects. 
This is a remarkable and important collection, not only for the heritage of Launceston, but in a national context.

It is exceptionally rare to have such a large collection surviving from the Mechanics' Institute era.
These organisations were the precursors of the modern public library, of the technical and adult education movements, and in Launceston's case of the QV Museum and Art Gallery.
By the 1890s there were over 2000 Mechanics Institutes and Schools of Arts in Australia. Most Institute collections have been dispersed, sold off, discarded, or destroyed by fire and flood many years ago. Of the small number that have survived Launceston is the earliest and the largest – comparable only with Adelaide and Ballarat but older and more complete.

Equally important is the fact that the Launceston Collection has survived with its records largely intact – we still have the correspondence files, catalogues, accession books and accounts of the institute.

This means we have a unique resource for researchers – with an interest in library history, reading tastes, the history of ideas, nineteenth century writing, bookselling and publishing, and the social history of the city.
A long history of prudent management and wise decisions has led to the survival of this collection;
-              That the Launceston Mechanics' Institute Committee took such care to build and maintain its excellent library collection on behalf of the community between 1842 and 1929.
-              That the Launceston Public Library committee kept the collection in its safe keeping for over 20 years, as did the Launceston City Council when it took over operation of the Launceston Public Library.
-              That the Aldermen of the day had the foresight to retain ownership of the collection when it was transferred to the Tasmanian Library Board's custodianship in 1971,
-              And that the Library has kept the collection in storage from that date until now.
In 2013 the FOLMI solution would seem to be the only way the collection can be kept intact from this time forward, given that it does not fit the collecting priorities of either QVMAG or LINC Tasmania. That is the reason FOLMI  was formed - to save the collection from going the way of so many other similar collections.

Who are we?
FOLMI is an incorporated not-for-profit community group which held its inaugural meeting on 18 October 2013.
Our Objects and Purposes
The aim of the Friends of the Launceston Mechanics’ Institute Inc. is to establish and maintain a working research Launceston Mechanics’ Institute Collection by;
i) locating, selecting, organising, cataloguing and preserving existing materials once the property of the Launceston Mechanics’ Institute between 1842 and 1929;
ii) liaising with local, state and national government agencies and with relevant interest groups to promote the significance of the LMI Collection;
iii) establishing a permanent home for the LMI Collection, in particular those parts not integrated with local and state government agencies;
iv) providing broad public access to the catalogue of the LMI Collection and enabling direct access to researchers needing to use the Collection;
Current Membership
Office-bearers  President: Peter Richardson
Secretary: Mike McCausland
Treasurer: Richard Pickup
Public Officer: Prue McCausland
Committee         Peter Richardson, Mike McCausland, Richard Pickup, Prue McCausland, Sue McClarron (Vice-President), John Dent.
Members            The organisation currently has 34 members.

Our Project
The proposed transfer of Launceston Mechanics' Institute books to FOLMI involves between 20,000 and 25,000 books and other publications, of which 12,000 are non-fiction, 8,000 are fiction, and the remainder are periodicals.
There are other surviving books in the Collection which are still in use at Launceston LINC. It is proposed that these be retained in that location until they are no longer required, and then transferred to FOLMI.
The books and periodicals transferred to FOLMI will initially be held at the Newnham Campus of the University of Tasmania which has made a suitable space available for storage, assessment and evaluation of the collection.
FOLMI intends in the long term to establish the Collection as a research base, and for this purpose external sources of funding will eventually be required. It is envisaged that funds will be supplied through private donations, joint ventures with partners, and through cultural sector grants.
 
Peter Richardson
President, Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute Inc.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Northern library collections agreement reached


Media Release from Launceston City Council. 
Monday 25 November 2013

Launceston Alderman have today voted to enter into an agreement with LINC Tasmania on the future of two collections currently held at the Launceston LINC.

The Launceston Mechanics' Institute (est. 1842) and the Meston collections are owned by the Launceston City Council and, by an agreement signed in March 1971, have since been managed by the State Library (now part of LINC Tasmania).

The collections, particularly the Meston Collection, hold many valuable 19th century Australian and Tasmanian publications. The Mechanics' Institute Collection is a window into the reading tastes of Launcestonians of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is one of the few such Australian collections relatively intact and still in existence today.

In 2014, the Launceston LINC building on Civic Square will undergo greatly anticipated renovations, as announced by the Minister for Education and Skills in February 2013.
Preparation for this project has prompted a need to resolve some long outstanding issues of collection ownership, and develop long-term plans for items held in storage for many years.

The Council and LINC Tasmania engaged with a newly formed community group, the Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute (FOLMI), to find a suitable arrangement for the large number of items that do not fit the collecting priorities of either QVMAG or LINC Tasmania

Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten said all three parties had been aware of a need to do their utmost to care for the heritage of Launceston, while at the same time balancing issues of responsible stewardship with progress and development.

Aldermen today approved a recommendation that LINC Tasmania be granted ownership of the Meston Collection as well as items from the Mechanics' Institute Collection which has already been included in the Launceston Local Studies and Reference collections.

Jenny Rayner, Director of LINC Tasmania, said: “These items form the basis of our local heritage collections and we are delighted to formally accept responsibility for their ongoing care and management. They will be securely held in Launceston for consultation by Tasmanians and visitors from all over the world, and for the benefit of future generations.”

It is also recommended that the remaining volumes in storage be transferred to the newly incorporated Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute. FOLMI will be responsible for the large general non-fiction and fiction collections and periodicals. They plan to make these items available to researchers and the general public once they have completed the necessary sorting and organising of the materials.

LINC Tasmania will grant custody of the official records of the Mechanics' Institute to the Council's QVMAG. The Museum will also be given an assortment of the Institute's objects. Books presently held by LINC Tasmania which were originally part of the Evandale Subscription Library (est. 1847) will also be transferred to the QVMAG Museum where they will complement an existing collection.

Speaking for their respective organisations, the Directors of LINC Tasmania and QVMAG expressed their satisfaction at the outcome of six months of negotiations.

QVMAG Director Richard Mulvaney said: "This is a sustainable outcome that will preserve Launceston's heritage well into the future. On behalf of all parties involved I wish to thank everyone for their input and advice, and for the amicable spirit in which the negotiations were conducted."

It is expected that items will be transferred to their new locations early in 2014.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute (FOLMI)




A very successful inaugural meeting was held on 18 October to establish FOLMI. At the meeting we adopted a Constitution, elected office-bearers, established a committee, and endorsed an application to seek incorporation under the Associations Incorporation Act 1964.

The organisation currently has 34 members and we would welcome any interested people who would like to contribute to this exciting project.

Our Aims
The aim of the Friends of the Launceston Mechanics’ Institute, as set out in its Constitution, is to establish and maintain a working research Launceston Mechanics’ Institute Collection by;
i) locating, selecting, organising, cataloguing and preserving existing materials once the property of the Launceston Mechanics’ Institute between 1842 and 1929;
ii) liaising with local, state and national government agencies and with relevant interest groups to promote the significance of the LMI Collection;
iii) establishing a permanent home for the LMI Collection, in particular those parts not integrated with local and state government agencies;
iv) providing broad public access to the catalogue of the LMI Collection and enabling direct access to researchers needing to use the Collection;

Office-bearers
President: Peter Richardson
Vice-President Sue McClarron
Secretary: Mike McCausland
Treasurer: Richard Pickup
Public Officer: Prue McCausland
Committee:Peter Richardson, Mike McCausland, Richard Pickup, Prue McCausland, Sue McClarron, John Dent.

Priorities
The immediate priorities for the organisation are;
•To seek Launceston City Council endorsement for the transfer of the LMI collection to FOLMI and formalise an agreement.
•To participate in a steering committee with LINC Tasmania and QVMAG to plan future management of collection.
•To establish agreement with LINC Tasmania and QVMAG on what is to be transferred.
•To establish an agreement with the University of Tasmania regarding occupancy of an interim home for the collection (Room 007 on the University's Newnham Campus).


Sunday, 13 October 2013

FOLMI's inaugural meeting



Don't forget our inaugural meeting is on Friday 18 October 2013 at 5.00pm in the Phil Leonard Room, Launceston LINC.

We’re excited about the possibilities FOLMI may bring about. The LMI collection is a most remarkable survival – more substantial than any comparable collection in Australia – and an important testament to the character and foresight of the City and its community.
Our aims are to ensure the LMI continues to be acknowledged as an important cultural institution in the history of Launceston; to preserve what remains of its holdings for their local and national significance; and to facilitate research into the collection in all its aspects. 

At this inaugural meeting we will need to adopt a constitution suitable for an incorporated body. It has to be based on the 'Rules for Associations in Tasmania'.   We have inserted phrases into the original form to apply it to FOLMI: the association’s name and purpose, the number of committee members, how many are needed for a quorum, and a few other procedural matters.  The question of a membership fee has been left open, but on the basis that communicating within the group will be by email, we see no reason to have a yearly subscription.

Those who have expressed support but are not able to attend will be noted as an apology for the meeting. We expect there will be some members whose interest in FOLMI is primarily to show support for the preservation of the LMI Collection, and others who want to take an active role in sorting and cataloguing etc. After the meeting everyone expressing support will be emailed the minutes and the constitution as adopted at the meeting.  Under Tasmania’s ‘Rules for Associations’, members can join or resign at any time.

We already have people willing to take on the roles of president, secretary, treasurer and public officer, so there is no pressure on others to be coerced into those responsibilities. However all positions are of course open. Note that the Rules for Associations allow for one or more general committee members as well as office-bearers. Please email us if you would like to be sent a nomination form.

The agenda for the meeting is envisaged to be:
1. Peter Richardson & Mike McCausland will briefly report on progress with regards to preserving the LMI Collection & explain the purpose of the meeting;
2. John Dent takes the chair for election of officers;
3. Newly elected president leads discussion culminating in the adoption of a constitution;
4. Discussion of draft submission to Launceston City Council on the handover of parts of the LMI Collection to FOLMI Inc;
5. Timeline for initiating the project;
6. Open floor discussion of any further issues and setting a date for the next meeting.