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Broken Hill City Library

by Tracy Fraser

The city of Broken Hill is the largest regional centre in the western half of New South Wales, Australia. 

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The nearest capital city is Adelaide, South Australia approximately 500 kilometres to the southwest and the nearest major town is Mildura, Victoria 300 kilometres to the south of Broken Hill.  Sydney the capital of New South Wales is approx. 1,100 kilometres to the West.

Broken Hill City Library is one of the oldest free public libraries in New South Wales, Australia. Opened in 1891. A Children’s library was introduced in 1914 believed to be the first Children's free lending library in Australia.

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The Outback letterbox Library commenced in 1977 after it was recognised that the residents of the Far West New South Wales did not have a library service obtaining grant funding from the State Library NSW.  Thus, the birth of the Outback Letterbox Library.

The Outback Letterbox Library offers public library services to the extremely isolated residents of the remote far west of New South Wales. 

Geographically the Outback Letterbox Library primarily services residents of the Unincorporated Area (pop. 1,056) and the Central Darling Shire (pop. 1,833), however its client base does include members who live in other shires more than 100 kilometres from the nearest public library.

This service covers an area of approximately 238,000 square kilometres, extending from the South Australian Border in the west to Brewarrina in the east and from the Queensland border in the north to the Victorian border in the south.

Distance has a huge impact on the everyday lives of the people in remote areas. 

Members of the Outback Letterbox Library who live in remote areas may never visit a traditional library service, as distance is an issue with travel to another town taking hours or days.

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The Outback Letterbox Library delivers library resources directly to their door or mailbox. 

The loan period is six weeks, allowing time for delivery and return.  The grant funding covers the cost of freight both ways, ensuring that this service is free for members.

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The majority of items are requested using the member selection sheets which provide the opportunity for members to indicate their profile of interests and preferred format types.

Internet and online services are an integral part of modern library services, however in these remote and isolated areas Internet connectivity is limited and variable (both speed and availability) and is normally cost prohibited for recreational purposes.

The library Council of NSW funding covers a fulltime staff member in the role of the Outback Letterbox library Assistant. 

This role is rotated through all library staff employed at the Broken Hill City Library. This benefits members as they receive items selected by a wide range of staff with varied skills and interests in readers advisory work.

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Items are packed by library staff into sturdy waterproof bags.  Library bags are delivered by regional carriers on a two-weekly roster. Bags are delivered by road and by air.

Children from Outback schools and School of the Air who occasionally visit Broken Hill for special events such as sports carnivals and meet and greet days often include a visit to the library.  These visits provide a great opportunity to promote the Outback Letterbox Library and the Broken Hill City Library to members and non-members.

Many come into the library on their visits to town to use the library as a place to sit and relax as well as selecting their own resources for a change.

Outback letterbox library a lifeline for residents of remote NSW communities

August 7, 2017 18:50:00

Distance, isolation, limited services and patchy internet make books all the more important for station owners and remote residents.

For the past 40 years, Broken Hill's Outback Letterbox Library has been getting those books to the furthest corners of far west New South Wales. Remote residents and library staff say the service has been a saviour. http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2016/s4714271.htm


A link to the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s feature article http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-06/book-delivery-service-in-outback-nsw-a-saviour/8770840

Mark Coulton, MP Federal Member for Parkes Deputy Speaker for the House of Representatives wrote a letter dated 7 August 2017 expressing his appreciation that this service exists.  He stated that on behalf of my many isolated constituents who much feel forgotten at times, the Outback Library offers a tangible link to community and all the subjects of the wider world.

Feedback from members of the Outback Letterbox Library Service

To all the Outback Library Staff

Thanks for selecting so many great books for use – you have increased our range of reading greatly

Thank you very much for all the wonderful books that you have sent us over the years.  You have given us a great start to reading. 

To everyone in the library who have chosen books for us. Thank you very much for giving us such endless enjoyment and for being so patient with my “lateness” over the last few years.

I am absolutely thrilled that you offer the OBLL service as I am going to be working out at ‘Scottia’ which is about 150kms south of Broken Hill.

Thanks for your selection.  The material you distribute does a lot to ease the isolation and tedium in this area where not much happens.

Thanks for a great service (sorry I’m usually late with returns)

Your service is most welcome in our isolated areas

You provide a wonderful service for people in the outback.

 A big thank you for everyone who is involved with sending library bags to me.  You are our saviours; believe me it is like Christmas to us when the library bag arrives in our mail bag!!!  Even the kids would get excited to see what movies you’ve put in for them.

Thank you for the books they keep me sane.

Copyright 2020 by Tracy Fraser.

Library Coordinator

Broken Hill City Library

About the Author:

Tracy Fraser is a public Librarian who has worked in public libraries for over 40 years.  She began as a cadet at the State Library of Western Australia and has managed several libraries throughout Australia.  Taking an 11-year break in 2004 to sail her yacht, blue water cruising around Australia and Asia she returned to libraries in Western Australia eventually finding herself managing a library in remote Outback Australia in remote New South Wales.