The St.George’s Library was formally opened in 1898 and included:
Basement: Staff room, part of caretaker’s apartments and news-paper filing room.
Ground Floor: Magazine and Reading Room part of which was fitted with book-cases and served as the Adults’ Lending Department. The book-cases were protected by grills through which readers could see the books but not
touch them and in this way made their selection. The assistants would then unlock the grills and remove the books the borrowers indicated they wished to borrow.
Small room equipped with a few chairs and tables and one book-case containing about 500 books and used as the Children’s Room and Lending Department.
First Floor: Lecture hall which by day was used as a Reference Reading Room.
The Reading Room and the Children’s Room were opened to the public in November 1898 and the Adult Lending Department in February 1899, The total number of volumes contained in the library on 3lst March 1901 was 6042.A few years’ sufficed to prove that the Children’s Room was quite inadequate and the Department was transferred to the Lecture hall on the first floor and accommodation provided for 1500 books. This arrangement continued for some years until the need for more accommodation was imperative. The rooms of the resident Caretaker in the basement of the building were appropriated and converted into a Children’s Department.
In July 1929 the Council approved the proposals of the Public Libraries and Museums Committee for the transfer of the Children’s Department from the basement to the ground floor to occupy the space previously used as a News Room. The former original combined Reading Room and Adults’ Lending Department was divided into two by a wooden partition in proportion of about two thirds for the Adults! Lending Department and one third for the new Children’s Department. This transfer provided more extensive accommodation for the borrowers of books and enabled the open-access system to be introduced for the children for the first time in Stepney; and also provided the same system for the Adults. Further facilities for reading by the children on the library premises, through the provision of chairs and tables was made possible, This re-arrangement although a great improvement upon the previous system was, however, far from ideal and during the ten years that has since elapsed the problem of more room has grown acute. Both the Adult’s and Children’s departments stocks have steadily grown until to-day it is a difficult matter to provide suitable, adequate and satisfactory accommodation for either adults or children. The present Children’s Department covers a total area of 624 sq.feet and has a maximum accommodation for 3500 books and is incapable of any further enlargement.
This brief history of past adaptations provides justification for the claims that a building erected to meet the requirements and conditions of 40 years ago must of necessity have become restrict in its possible uses, not capable of meeting the greatly increased demands, and no longer equal to the many advances in practices and methods of librarianship which have developed since the building ws first designed and erected. The various adaptions to meet these changes have now been exhausted and the only course left is an extension of the building, In about two-years time when the new Town Hall and Municipal Buildings are completed an opportunity seems to present itself of finding the necessary means of enlarging the present building by absorbing and including in the existing structure part of the old Town Hall next to the library. This would allow for the provision and equipping of a separate and up-to-date Children’s Department similar to those added in the last few years i the Limehouse and the Mile End libraries. the space at present used by the Children’s Department would then become available for the much needed extension of the Adult Lending library. Further for some years past the Committee will remember that they have been concerned with the problem of finding means for the enlargement of the St.George’s Nature Study Museum which occupies the old Mortuary of the St.George’s Vestry in the Churchyard end opened in 1904. This small building has long since become inadequate to the demands made upon it, All attempts to find ways and means of this long overdue extension have so far failed, but if the extension of the St.George’s library is made possible in the way I have suggested then part of the proposed enlarged building could be utilised for a modern and more suitable Nature Study Museum,
The actual stock of books at the 31st March last was adults Department 20,012vols; Children’s Department 6,056vols; total 26,168vols. The annual issues were Adults’ Department 122,795 vols; Children’s Department 86,818vols; total 209,613vols. In 1902 the corresponding figures were Adult’s Department 6036vols; Children’s Department 1674vols; total 7710vols, The annual issues Adult’s Department 31,273vols; Children’s Department 5607vols; total 36,880 vols.
scan of a type written document evidently a report to the library committee in 1938.