The Sisters of Mercy are credited with having begun Geelong’s first lending library in 1870, six years before the Geelong Free Public Library opened. Under the supervision of Mother Gabriel Sherlock, it operated from a room at the rear of St Catherine’s School, and public access was from a ‘grassy lane leading to Retreat Rd’. One former member recollected how,

'...the room was always very crowded, but everyone was very quiet....‘The Lady Sherlock’, as everyone used to call her presided. She took no time to find our names in the members book, and knew exactly where to replace any returns or take down any book called for. She could give information on any subject.'

The number of books is said to have exceeded 2000; many were acquired from Baggot Street in Dublin, and the founding sisters had most likely brought some with them. Some would have been used for teaching and study. Boarders were charged for their use, as it was not until 1889 that they began purchasing their own class books.

Over the years books were lost or destroyed but over 1000 remain, shelved in their original cedar bookcases in the upper corridor of the North Wing of the original Convent building.

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