This is the third Our History article to mark Launceston Library's 50th anniversary.
The change from the Launceston Public Library into a regional library meant more than moving into a modern building. By the end of the Phil Leonard years the NRL serviced the widest area in the state: south to Ross and along the Fingal Valley; north-east across to St Helens; west to Deloraine; north on both sides of the Tamar and to Flinders Island. Bookmobiles trundled to isolated townships as far as Liffey and Waterhouse on a three-week schedule.
Changes in staffing also had a great impact: university courses and a locally provided Library Technicians course meant that the pathway into librarianship was professionalised.
At the same time the luxury of home-based cataloguers, book repairers and artists for displays came to an end, and under the Cresap Education Department review of 1990-91, staffing was reduced considerably.
Senior Librarians / Managers had their individual impact. Margaret Roberts, for instance, focussed on developing the Lending area, and encouraged the formation of a 'Friends of the Library' to generate community support.
Peter Richardson initiated a local history publication program with his On the Tide series in The Examiner and three volumes of community-written stories. The Launceston Family Album project, based on the 1137 portraits of people attending the Tasmanian International Exhibition of 1891-92 for which the Albert Hall was built, invited descendants to contribute their information; the website still receives over 600 hits a month from new enquirers.
The Children's Area became a strength of the new Library in 1971 and occupied the whole first floor; it has remained significant with now a colourful section of the ground floor.
But the greatest transformation state-wide has been in how libraries work. We no longer depend on bookmobiles taking volumes into remote districts; progressively we have come to access information and services from home.
Computer terminals replaced card indexes and borrowing slips. Successive upgrades have given us online services, self-checkouts and remote placing of holds and renewals. 'My Account' at Libraries Tasmania has become much like banking or shopping.
Resources have expanded. Books, newspapers and periodicals are still there, though fewer are on show, while CDs and DVDs, eBooks, zines and audiobooks, have found their place among them.
Most significantly, Tasmanian libraries house Online Access Centres; Launceston Library now has a dozen terminals as well as the now common Wi-Fi access for those bringing in their own devices.
Compared with the extraordinary stability of staffing and facilities in Launceston's provision of library services for the first 150 years, change is expected. Some will be short-lived, like the branding that led to renaming it as a LINC, much to the bewilderment of visitors from interstate and overseas.
What remains the same is its social and cultural role in accessing resources we all need. As Garry Conroy-Cooper, the current manager, has characterised it: a safe and trusted place.