Preston School of Design Library

Preston School of Design opened in 1871 in a ‘neatly constructed building capable of accommodating about 120 people,’ located at 604 High Street, near Percival Street.
Local residents, along with some help from the Technological Commission, raised enough money to pay the building costs of £150. They would have been very proud as it was the first building in the colony to be used exclusively as a school of design.
At the opening ceremony, Judge Bindon expressed his admiration for ‘the zeal, patriotism and energy of those who had successfully carried out the project … and who had thus done so much to promote the education of the younger classes.’ 
The Argus newspaper reported that Preston had set an example which might be copied by more populous and wealthy communities.
The school taught a variety of subjects including various arts and crafts, technological and artisan subjects, even a telegraphy class ‘to assist young women in finding suitable employment.’
The building itself was used by a range of local groups as a meeting place, including the Rechabites temperance movement who met there from the 1870s.
By 1876 the first library in Preston was established at the School of Design when local businessmen William Braithwaite and Ernest Walker purchased books for its formation. By the turn of the century the library stock had grown to 2000 books and was well supported by families in the area.
This library had a continuous connection with Preston’s first municipal library which was built in 1908 next to the Town Hall further down High Street.
According to street directories, the School of Design Library was operating well into the 1940s when the site was taken over by a variety of engineering and manufacturing companies over the years.
The building itself was eventually demolished in 1967 after a Land Act declared it to be in a ‘dilapidated condition’.
We do however have a photograph of the Library sign showing that it was a subscription library charging 2 shillings and 6 pence per quarter with a limit of 3 books per week.
(Digital image kindly donated by Albert Olver whose family lived next door to the original library)

Preston School of Design. Argus (Melbourne, Vic: 1848 - 1957), Tuesday 31 October 1871, page 2
Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic: 1869 - 1954), Saturday 31 August 1872, page 10
Preston School of Design. Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848 - 1957), Tuesday 3 November 1874, page 6
Preston School of Design and Free Library Land Act 1967.
Sands and McDougall’s Melbourne and Suburban Directory 1864- 1974. [Microfiche]. (1974). Melbourne, Australia: Sands & McDougall.
Forster, Harley W. (1968). Preston Lands and People. Melbourne: Cheshire.