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Hosting A Lending Library: Wattle Gum Library

I was recently interviewed on Plumfield and Paideia, as part of their ongoing series: Meet the Librarians.  I’m chatting about my latest venture, owning and hosting a Lending Library; Wattle Gum Library.for my local homeschoolers.  I’m truly loving operating a Lending Library, I’ve achieved so much already with a growing number of patrons,  an online catalogue, a complete reorganisation of my library and more improvements every evolving.


Head over for the full interview, but sharing some teasers here:

What are your earliest memories of books and reading? Was there a particular book or event that really made you a reader?

I don’t recall a time when I couldn’t read, entering school already able to read. I read all the time, the backs of the cereal boxes, outside on top of the water tank, at night by the light of the street light. At school I’d have a book open in my desk and sneak my desklid up constantly. One of my fondest primary school memories is the year I broke both my wrists simultaneously. For those weeks whenever the rest of my class wrote, with both my wrists in casts, I was able to openly read.


How/why did you start collecting books?

My Mum homeschoooled my younger siblings in the 80s, a hsing pioneer in Australia. She amassed an extensive collection via Lifeline book sales.  When she finished homeschooling, she passed the entire collection onto me. Nine 6ft bookcases and many trailer loads later I had begun my own collection.  I kept most of those books, many of which were my childhood books. And I’ve continued to add to the collection since, via Rotary book sales, op-shop and garage sale finds. We are literally surrounded by thousands of books throughout our home.

How or where did you first hear about the concept of a private lending library?

I wanted to be a librarian as a child and would issue the neighbourhood children with library cards, stamping our family books in and out of circulation.

When first married we lived in a small country town that had a private lending library in the main street. The idea always intrigued me.

Fast forward decades and I became a member of a fb group, Reshelving Alexandria where Sandy Hall from America would often share about her lending library. I was most intrigued but dismissed the idea as ‘only possible in America’. Then Catherine McKay from The Living Book House in the Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia launched her library, and I was inspired. With encouragement from Catherine, I decided to leap in.


How did you start lending? 

Our library consists of wall to wall, 9ft bookcases built by my husband and late father, they continue around the entire room. The comprised of large, deep picture book bins on caster wheels.

Once I decided to open our library I didn’t wait until my library was perfectly set up but just began, planning on evolving as and where needed.

Nearly two decades previously I had entered all my books into Readerware, a cataloguing database, and had continued to add new books as they came into our home.

In preparation for opening Wattle Gum Library, we imported all those books over to Library Thing. I then spent days tidying up and adding tags.

For decades I had been purchasing rolls of PVC plastic book covering and sticky tape, from the same supplier that my local library bought from.

Whilst not all my books were covered, I decided to cover the remainder as they left or were returned.

At this stage my library was organised into genre, so we rolled forward with that layout.

I created a new page on my website outlining all the details of Wattle Gum Library, shared these in our local homeschool fb group and emailed my local homeschool email list.

Wattle Gum Library was officially launched.


How do you run your library? Do you have regular days or hours? 

Returning books and books on hold can be brought to and collected from homeschool events.

I am open once a month on Tuesdays. Hosting workshops for parents around Nurturing a Love of Literature and Story Hour for the children.

Though I have some fresh plans for the upcoming new year.


Do you charge a fee?

I do, I opened with one fee and then promptly halved the membership in a bid to attract more patrons. I needed to factor in that I live in a low socio-economic rural area.

I have previously allowed a few people to borrow books without membership for various reasons. Due to being recently ‘burnt,’ these types of arrangements have now ceased.

Going forth I will also require patrons to sign a contract.


How do you catalog and organize? 

I use Library Thing and its borrowing interface Tiny Cat.

I have over 7000 of my 10 000 books+ uploaded and use tags prolifically.

When I launched my library, I opened with living books organised by genre on the shelves. I have since changed the layout and the fiction is now organised by the author’s surname, though the picture books are organised by genre in their bins. I’m still debating what best suits me there. One day I’d love to add labels to the spines.

I’m sure I’ll be forever dreaming of new ways to improve our library.


How do you decide what a good book is? 

I grew up in a home surrounded with decent books, when a young parent I discovered Charlotte Mason, and my desire for quality living books was ignited. I’ve spent hundreds of hours pouring over ‘books about books’ and other excellent booklists. I have developed a ‘sixth sense’ of what makes a good book.

I’m looking for books that are rich in language, engaging, and inspiring. I particularly have a passion for Australian History and picture books.


Be sure to head over for the full interview

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