The original much-loved mobile library was destroyed in the floods but now a new library van will take its place on Saturday mornings in Bangalow writes Mary Nelson.

Smoking ceremony at the Bangalow launch of the new mobile library  Photo Sem Han

Have you been down to the Bangalow parklands lately? Things are abuzz in anticipation of Spring. New paths, green grass and a general feeling of more people being out and about in the sunshine.

The Friends of the Libraries, Byron Shire and the community of Bangalow were excited to be able to officially welcome back the RTRL (Richmond Tweed Regional Library) new mobile library van.

Regular users of this service will know that the old van was destroyed in the floods. However, the staff of the mobile library kept a makeshift mobile library service going, operating out of the back of a station wagon. Each week, Rod, the mobile library technician, would lug boxes and boxes of books out of the car, onto a table and then back again after people had borrowed and returned books.

Happily, the new mobile library is here. Purchased from a company in Victoria, the story goes that a friend of the salesman had come from Victoria to volunteer in flood recovery and was telling his mate how devastating it really was and so his mate did his darndest and best to get it to Lismore.

The vendor had received many enquiries for the purchase of this van, however he thought it much more important that it serve the people of the Northern Rivers, and sold it to RTRL and delivered it to the northern rivers free of charge. As you can imagine delivery would have been a significant cost with the price of fuel at the moment. As well getting prompt payment from Lismore council following insurance claims and the like was difficult; however it did not matter on this occasion to that considerate salesman in Victoria.

The van is looking and feeling like brand new and is full of approximately 5,000 new books all donated from people and organisations all over Australia. Publishers donated, books were received from individuals, schools, other libraries; a bunch of nurses from a hospital in Victoria got together and sent some books. Authors, local and national sent copies of their books.

Each Saturday morning from 9.30 – 11.30 am the mobile library stops in Ashton Street Bangalow, right next to the Op Shop, and you can join up to the library there and of course borrow all sorts of resources from books and magazines, through to DVDs, CDs and jigsaw puzzles. There’s disabled access and a dedicated space for kids to get comfy with their favourite book. It certainly has a very comfortable fresh feel to it.

The new mobile library van’s first stop was Nimbin and rumour has it that after one days reopening the shelves were heavily drained of books and the van had to be restocked before it went on to the next stop. The van makes 19 stops per fortnight around the Byron, Lismore and Tweed shires.

Speaking of libraries, an update from the Lismore library that was devastated in the floods. The flood went to the top of the bookshelves on the second floor.

The building structure is ok. Work is almost complete on removing all the internals of the second floor right down to the tainted lead paint in the window frames. Next up are considerations for preparing to flood proof the library – design of shelving on wheels that can be taken up to the third level in the lift in the event of future flooding. The circulation desk is also made of wood components and was destroyed so consideration is being given to making it in sections, and on moveable wheels or casters to move it to the third level as well.

The historical images and photos that were part of the circulation desk were removed and saved before the flood waters reached its peak.

At the moment the very top floor is acting as the storage space for the toy library that was on the bottom floor (they managed to move this up the top flood before the floods reached their peak.)

The kids castle in the children’s area unfortunately was destroyed, with many people asking how it fared. The castle and other areas of the library were only upgraded in 2020.

Once again donations for the Lismore library came from all over Australia with the library experiencing a loss of perhaps half a million dollars of books in the whole flood. The staff have been working very hard and 10,000 of these new books have been catalogued.

A happy ending for now and the van has been officially welcomed back to all its stops and it is business as usual. Come down next Saturday and see what’s on offer. There’s plenty of parking available as well. Who knows, Bangalow Heritage House may well be open too?