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The Angair Library and Natural History Collection is a jewel, probably unknown to many members, housed in a bright comfortable room within the Angair office in McMillan Street.

libraryMandy Mitchell-Taverner

At the library’s core is the collection of books bequeathed to the Barrabool Shire by Mary D White on her death. The collection was then passed on to Angair for safekeeping. How the collection came to its present location is a long and complicated tale, well-told by Ros Gibson in her book Angair: The First 50 Years. The result is a wonderful collection of books on a wide range of natural history topics that are accessible for browsing or borrowing Angair members as well as residents of the Surf Coast.

Angair’s digital database of resources, photos and information (DAM) is housed in the library as well, raising the vexed question about the evolving role of print libraries. Because we almost all search online, the importance of printed references is waning. Members are more likely to own books than borrow them from a library—field guides to birds being a typical example. Most people own at least one whereas the Library owns many which can provide multiple sources for more in-depth study. However, as its use evolves, our library is nonetheless a collection to celebrate and enjoy.

Although the collection began with Mary White’s books, the library budget has allowed the addition over the last 15 years of many more to keep information up-to-date. Publishers of natural history books, members’ donations and occasional gems donated to the annual book sale are valuable additions to the collection. Donations are not always ‘new items’ though, as it is hard to pass up treasures like The Birds of the District of Geelong, Australia, George Belcher, 1918 and The Birds of Southern Australia, Robert Hall, 1907 when they come our way.

The 1000-plus book collection covers two walls of the library, the bottom shelves house the periodicals we receive through memberships of organisations such as the Victorian and the Geelong Field Naturalists, Birds Australia etc. There is a wealth of information and good reading in this underused section. Book shelves are clearly marked to allow for serendipitous searching: Parks and Reserves, Geology, Fire, Fungi, Flora, Insects, Reptiles, History etc., and are arranged in normal Dewey order. We hold most standard works like Flora of Australia, Flora of Victoria, Geology of Victoria, Flora of Melbourne etc. and aim to have something relatively current on all main subject areas. Series are updated as later volumes are published: for instance, we recently acquired the latest Geelong Bird Report to 2016, a series going back to 1993, and the slim final volumes 6, 7 and 8 of Moths of Victoria.

Angair’s stated aim is to collect everything available on natural history of the Anglesea and Aireys Inlet region, everything by or about Angair members, a good collection on South West Victoria including the Otways, some works on south-eastern Australia plus a few classics on Australia-wide subjects.

Two special items to mention are Neil Tucker’s, The Fungi of the Surf Coast (5 vols.) and John Landy’s Butterfly Collection. The catalogue to books is available on the Angair website and although the library is generally open on Monday mornings, members are welcome to arrange to visit or borrow when the library is closed by calling Mandy on 0403136670.