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Friday, 8 May 1942

Members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives,

I.   am instructed by the President and the Speaker to advise that they have decided, owing to conditions brought about by the war, to discontinue the keeping open of the Library on Saturday afternoons and evenings during session.T he Librarian had reported that, as the staff of the Library had been reduced by seven members, it was being found increasingly difficult to provide staff to continue this service. Statistics had shown that an average of only four members visited the reading room during Saturday afternoons and that the average was only slightly more than one member on Saturday evenings.

It is suggested that members desiring to do any reference work or to borrow material should apply to the Library on Saturday mornings, so that they may have their material available in the party rooms.

The presiding officers desire to make it quite clear that this will not affect the keeping upon of the Library on non-sitting evenings from Monday to Friday during session, and the curtailment of the Saturday provision will only continue as long as the staff position remains as it is.

I offer no objection to the closing of the Library on Saturday afternoons and evenings under present circumstances;but I wish to make it perfectly clear that I shall offer the most vigorous protest against any attempt that may be made by you. Mr. Speaker, or by the President, or by tooth of you, or, for that matter, by any one else, to revert to the bad old days when the Library was closed immediately the House rose. A few years ago, the conditions in relation to the Library were intolerable for those members who re mained in Canberra after the close of the sittings and until the Parliament reassembled in the following week. No disposition was shown in those days to meet the convenience of such honorable members in any way whatever. The Library was closed and that was all there was to it. If an honorable member desired to study during the week-end any material obtainable from the Library, he had to secure it before the Library closed at 5 p.m. on Friday. It may sound all right to say that the Library will be open on Saturday mornings in the future, and that honorable members may obtain, during the morning, any material or books which they may desire to study over the week-end, but I wish to know what arrangements are to be made to enable honorable members from distant States to obtain access to newspapers that arrive in Canberra on Saturday afternoons, by air mail, from such States. It is only natural for honorable members who remain here over the week-end to desire to read the newspapers that may arrive on Saturday afternoon from the States in which they reside. I suggest that you, sir, together with the President and the Librarian should examine the position with the object of making it possible for honorable members in Canberra to obtain newspapers that arrive after the Library closes.

We all understand the seriousness of the situation in the south-west Pacific, as outlined for us by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and we all sincerely trust that the battle will go favorably for us. We realize, too. that our internal circumstances are becoming more difficult day by day. But I wish it to be clearly understood that I am speaking in deep earnestness when I say that I shall resist any attempt unnecessarily to reduce the Library facilities available to honorable members who are obliged to spend their week-ends in Canberra during the sittings of the Parliament.

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