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the history of the Eynsham library

This is an article from the Eynsham Record (no 21, 20004, p 45)


by John Golby and Brian Atkins

At a time when the Friends of Eynsham Library are working to raise money for an extension to the existing library in Mill Street, it is worth remembering that Oxfordshire County Council has been providing a library service in the village since 1924. Below is an item from the Oxford Times of 28th November of that year referring to the new Eynsham library which at that time had 62 members.

Free library. Through the beneficence of the late Mr. Carnegie [Andrew Carnegie, the great philanthropist], the Oxfordshire County Council were enabled to establish a free library in Eynsham some three months ago. As is usual in rural districts, the population is somewhat conservative with new institutions. but a quite satisfactory response has been made, and the library now boasts 62 members and additions are made weekly. This is very encouraging to those who voluntarily accepted care and control of the library and to whom the thanks of the readers are due. The tastes of the devourers of modern fiction, the reader of classics and semi-classics and the student are catered for, and further it should be noted by those to whom it is of interest that any book may be obtained from headquarters for a period of one month on requisition being made.
Unfortunately the newspaper piece doesn't tell us where this new library was located. What is known is that at some period up to 1951 it was in the house next to the Co-op owned by a Mrs K. Howard. Volunteer librarians were Mrs K.Howard, Mrs Trethewy (the headmaster's wife). Miss K. Hellings, and Miss M.W.Philcox.

In I951 it was relocated in the Bartholomew Room and was formally opened on 4th September by Mr R. Hooper, Chairman of the Parish Council. The County Librarian, Miss C. Stanley-Smith was present. Previous volunteers were thanked. The library had now expanded to include 1,000 books, and Mrs Grace Anderson had been appointed as the first paid librarian. Opening hours would be Thursdays 3-4pm, and Fridays 7-8pm - a mere two hours a week. Even allowing for the fact that Mrs Anderson would have had some duties outside these opening times, this was surely only a part-time job.

In 1970 the library was moved again to a building, now demolished, on the site of the new Scout Hall, and then to its present location in Mill Street, when the Eynsham Fire Brigade moved to new premises near the former railway station in the early 1980s.

The library has had a succession of homes, at least four since its beginnings eighty years ago, but new technologies come along - more computers are to be installed for example - in a building already filled to capacity. We hope that the library (which includes The EHG's collections) will stay in its present home, near the centre of the village. Space for expansion on the site has been identified identified; architect's proposals for a three-stage programme drawn up; and The Friends of the Library are raising money towards this expansion project, yet to be approved by The County Council Library authorities, and, of course, the necessary planning permissions from WODC .

The Oxford Times, 28 November 1924, and 5 September 1951.