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Journey continues for suitcase of books


What began as ‘book circles’ formed by the Catholic Guild for Social Studies in the early 1930s has developed into one of the Adelaide Archdiocese’s hidden gems – the Catholic Resource and Information Service.

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Housed in an historic school building at Kintore Street, Thebarton, the collection of more than 18,000 books and hundreds of DVDs and CDs is an important source of information for parishes, schools and other Church agencies as well as individuals seeking to learn more about their faith and the Church.

It includes more than 1100 books that were part of the Central Catholic Library established by the Catholic Guild for Social Studies, the brainchild of prolific author and lecturer Paul McGuire and his wife Frances Margaret.

The Guild formed book circles in conjunction with study groups and 10 members paid three pence a week to buy books and share them.

According to historical records, a committee appointed Mr Hugh McEwen as treasurer/librarian, and charged him with taking care of the books which he carried around in a suitcase.

By 1937 the collection had grown to 1000 books which were housed at Claridge House, Gawler Place, until the McGuires’ request for a permanent space for a library was approved by Archbishop Andrew Killian in 1941. The opening of the Fisher and Moore library in the Diocesan Education Building adjacent to the Cathedral coincided with the naming of the building after the Fennescey family.

The McGuires’ idea for a Catholic library in Adelaide came after a trip to England where they were actively involved in the Catholic Evidence Guild and the Catholic Literary Movement.

Paul McGuire in The Southern Cross, December 1940.

Mr McGuire himself wrote 37 books and had a distinguished career in the navy and as a diplomat as well as being a member of the first Diocesan Pastoral Council.

Mrs McGuire gave up her career as a biochemist to support her husband and work as a Catholic layperson. The couple travelled to Europe and America where they were involved in Catholic Action and for a time Mr McGuire was the Australian Ambassador to Italy.

Mrs McGuire was decorated for public service by the Australian and Italian governments for her involvement in many associations and societies. She wrote 10 books including an autobiography of the first 14 years of her life, a detective novel and two commissioned Australian Navy histories.

On her death in 1995, what was then the Diocesan Resource Centre benefited from a bequest from the McGuire estate. Her outstanding contribution to faith formation is acknowledged in a plaque that was laid at the opening of the Catholic Resource and Information Centre at Thebarton in 2001.

Kirsty Power has been the library officer at CRIS for the past 12 months, joining the service after the closure of Pauline Books where she worked for a number of years.

The former parish pastoral associate said she was surprised at how “under-used” the service was and is hoping to spread the word about its extensive resources, particularly in light of urgent calls for faith formation at the recent Diocesan Assembly.

The two-storey building is located adjacent to Queen of Angel’s Church, on the same site as Catholic Education Offices in Kintore Street.

“We’re kind of tucked away a little bit and people don’t know how to find us,” Kirsty said.

“It’s quite a small space but it’s really jam-packed with lots of surprising goodies.”

Kirsty said she had been impressed to find about 100 historical books believed to be from the original library collection and various papal documents.

“They’re a bit dusty but very interesting,” she said.

Kirsty said CRIS was popular with teachers and students looking for theology or scripture study resources, but there were also members of the general population who were looking for books by a favourite author that they couldn’t find elsewhere.

There is an extensive Indigenous resources section comprising more than 1100 publications, more than 1400 picture books for children, audiobooks, posters and even a full length Aboriginal flag and Torres Strait Islander flag.

The library’s digital catalogue system is currently being upgraded, which will make it easier for borrowers to search online for a particular topic or publication. But people are also welcome to browse the bookshelves using the Dewey Decimal Classification method.

While there are 8000 names on the borrower database Kirsty said not all are active. Membership is free and open to all.

With space at a premium, Kirsty is holding a book sale this month to reduce the number of multiple copies of some books.


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