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Lending libraries were not the norm in 1934 when the Carnegie Corporation of New York sent American librarian, Ralph Munn, to conduct a study of the condition of Australian libraries. In his initial survey Munn learned of the Queensland Bush Book Club, an organization of well-to-do, philanthropic women from Brisbane who had established a book lending service for settlers in the Outback. They hoped to ease the drudgery and lighten the burden faced by isolated women and their families in the rural areas. The antidote was a regular parcel of “proper” reading matter which included books, newspapers and magazines. They took advantage of a well-developed railway system to deliver the packages to rural families.

Testimonials found in the Queensland Bush Book Club annual reports provide a snapshot of frontier life detailing drought, fire, flood and all manner of misfortune and privation. The reports also offer specifics of the type of books the settlers requested and the gratitude with which the parcels were received. Murder mysteries were at the top of the request list, as the title of this article suggests. This article also examines the relationships forged between town and country residents around the distribution of books, and the mechanics involved in providing a book lending service before free public libraries became commonplace.


Use this link to read the full text of this article from the Queensland Review.

Required Publisher's Statement

Original version is available from the publisher, Cambridge University Press.