Village Hall and Library
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THE IRENE VILLAGE HALL contains the library, the history of which has been well told by Peggy Peters in the January, 1972, edition of the Journal of the South African Library Association. Now a professional librarian in the State Library, Pretoria, she was for many years personally involved in the development of the Irene Library, the story of which begins in 1923 when a group of enthusiastic residents raised funds for the building of a library and village hall. The library cost £293 and was "a small, hot, west-facing room, not much larger than a garage", attached to the hall, and both became the responsibility of the local Irene Association. Ex-servicemen voluntarily installed improvements and carried out extensive repairs to the building after the Second World War. In 1949 the library became a depot of the Transvaal Provincial Library, serving a village of less than 800 people. From its inception until June 30, 1969, it was run by voluntary workers; thereafter it became a branch of the Verwoerdburg Public Library with paid staff appointed by the Council. In the early 1960's new, larger premises became essential, and money was raised to build a modern library adjacent to the old one. The actual building of it was carried out by the Irene Association itself. As Peggy Peters wrote:
"It was indeed a family affair for the Irene community. Its members had purchased the bricks and cement, the wood and the steel, the windows and the doors for the library. They were their own contractors. It was no small wonder that Irene was proud of its new library building."
It was officially opened on October 16, 1965, by the Director of the Transvaal Provincial Library Service.
"What sort of people were these voluntary library helpers? What kind of training did they possess, which enabled them to render such a vital personal service to the community, at the same time coping with the many routines of library administration? They were all proficient at working with a bookstock arranged in Dewey order, They also understood the uses of the dictionary catalogue and constantly assisted readers to use it for themselves. The records required by the Provincial Library were in order, and faithfully kept up-to-date. The workers arranged their own book displays, held story hours and even organised a book week in Irene during 1967."
Submitted by William Martinson.
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