It’s been 20 years of Mill Park Library!
The City of Whittlesea’s flagship library opened on 23 June 2002. The internet was still in its infancy with growing interest, the City’s population was expanding, this being the third library to open in the municipality.
The library was built at a cost of $6 million by Melbourne architects Oaten Strainsteet and was one of Victoria’s largest public libraries at the time and the first to be built on the concept of a hybrid digital/print library. The building was awarded the Victorian Engineering Excellence Award in October 2003. Over $1.7 million was spent on collection items, including 55,000 books, the vast majority of which was processed in-house by YPRL Collections staff. The space included a private study room and dedicated space for the J.W. Payne local history collection which was relocated from Lalor Library.
In 2012 Mill Park Library was the first public library in Victoria to host a digital hub serviced by the National Broadband Network. Mill Park established one of the first maker spaces in Victoria with its science and technology theme exposing the community to digital technologies and programs.
In 2017 the Chancez Café first opened in partnership with Whittlesea Community Futures run by Araluen. The Libraries After Dark program was launched funded by the Victorian State Government through the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation’s (VGRF) Prevention Partnership Program.
In 2019 the City of Whittlesea refurbished the Café area, improved the children's area, updated quiet study spaces and meeting rooms, and improved lighting and air-conditioning. Further improvements included the installation of a cubby and breastfeeding nook and increase in the number of seats and tables for use.
In June 2021 a further upgrade was completed which included a new entry forecourt with an accessible ramp, outdoor seats and tables, fitted coloured building lights and new trees and plants. A water harvesting system was also installed. The more recent upgrade included the construction of the outdoor learning area and meeting space with sensory play elements and a community garden.
The library has hosted exhibitions including the Monster Petition Project in 2008, History of the Shrine travelling exhibition in 2010, displayed a carpet of handcrafted red poppies made by the local community for the WW1 centenary in 2015, cooking sessions, multicultural festivals, writers groups, yarn bombing, reading dogs, musical performances, school holiday programs, reading festivals, language cafes, craft groups, literacy programs, Sensitive story times and sensitive Santa, a Dr Who Club, Book Express, local and family history events, a Paranormal club along with countless storytimes, author talks and more. The library had an aquarium for some time. The library has had a long-time association with the Whittlesea U3A and other community groups.
The idea of building a library locally was reported as far back as 1978 when the suburb of Mill Park was being established, the land, once part of the Henry Miller grazing property also famous for its Redleap Stables. The Mobile Library served the area before the library was built.
As part of the wider YPRL network, the last twenty years has experienced changes in systems and technology and the introduction of new programs and services. The easily identifiable landmark is today, considered not only a library but community hub with technology playing an increased role in providing collections and services.
Happy 20th Birthday Mill Park! Congratulations to all the staff past and present, volunteers and members of the community who have contributed along the way.