George Brooks Library and Learning Centre

The Library Collection

The century–old stone mill building in the grounds of the National Motor Museum at Birdwood holds more than just memories of its days as a bustling flour mill and centre of rural commerce.  It now contains a library of approximately 11,000 books and items and around 40,000 magazines on motoring. The George Brooks Library and Learning Centre at the National Motor Museum is undoubtedly one of the world’s most significant motoring libraries.

The books and manuals provide reference material for most makes of cars and include parts catalogues, repair guides, tool catalogues, sales brochures, motoring fiction, travelogues, marque specific publications, historical reference books, owner’s manuals, instruction books, mechanical engineering reference books, restoration guides, automobile encyclopaedias, and registration details.

In addition, there are large collections of periodicals ranging from inexpensive weekly motoring and trade journals to the popular monthly motoring magazines. These cover a diverse range of topics from sales and marketing to motorsport, club magazines and newsletters, race programmes, general interest, and technical and trade magazines. The magazines are predominantly Australian but also include large collections of British and American periodicals. Many of the magazines are rare and collectable, some dating back over a century.

The library also holds posters, sales brochures, VCR’s and DVD’s, 16 mm and 35mm cine films, and thousands of photographs and negatives.

Opening Hours

The collections are available for on-site use and research. The library is open to the public and researchers by appointment only, Tuesdays preferred. Enquiries should be addressed to the Museum on 08 8568 4000 or via email at


When Len Vigar joined with Jack Kaines to begin the Birdwood Mill Motor Museum he took the opportunity to store some of his own motoring books on the site. Before long the Museum had a collection of several hundred books and over the next 30 years, the informal library gradually grew through the donation of personal collections and purchases.

Many books which were surplus to their requirements were provided by the Public Libraries of SA, and more were purchased from bookshops closing down, or at swap meets such as Bendigo.

In about 1993 a number of the regular Museum volunteers began cataloguing the book and workshop manual collection which then numbered over 3000 volumes. The cataloguing system adopted was based on that developed by the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, England. This provides a comprehensive classification system best suited to the diverse range of topics within motoring.

In 2010 the State Government funded the restoration of the interior of the main Old Mill building and, as storage space for the library had become an issue, not to mention the preservation of the collection, it was chosen as an appropriate site for the library. After a huge removals operation, resulting in one floor of books and workshop manuals and almost two floors of magazines and other documents, the library is now all contained at the single location.

Who was George Brooks?

George Brooks OAM (1922-2011) was a civil engineer who played a significant role in the establishment of South Australia’s water pipelines. He was a founding member of the Vintage Sports Car Club of Australia and belonged to many other overseas and Australian car clubs.  He had a deep interest in researching, compiling and editing motoring history and wrote a highly regarded series of books and magazines on South Australian motoring. His determination and sheer hard work transcribing registration entries for all SA motor vehicles to the 1930’s was much admired, and his work and contributions have been widely acknowledged.

In 2011 the library received a generous bequest of more than 500 additional volumes from George Brooks’ estate (bringing his total donations to over 1300 books alone). It also included his world–renowned collection of personal files, papers, letters and articles, photographs and memorabilia.

His contribution to South Australian motoring history and his generosity to the Museum have been acknowledged by the naming of the Library in his honour. The George Brooks Library and Learning Centre was officially opened on 20 October 2013.

Library Management

While the Library collections remain the responsibility of the staff of the Museum, the day to day management of the library including cataloguing, sorting and indexing is undertaken by a small group of volunteers working part-time. They retired from a variety of technical and/or professional backgrounds and share a passion for motor vehicles and the management of the library.

With such a large collection only recently collated, the volunteer duties are mostly focussed on the management of the collections, and research on requests for information. It is anticipated that these services will expand when the library is fully sorted and catalogued.

In addition to the general research and management duties in the collections, the volunteers have specific responsibilities. These include cataloguing new books donated to the Library, handling some public enquiries, creating vehicle labels, indexing club and subscription magazines and periodicals, and drafting ‘Statements of Significance’ for collection vehicles. The volunteers contribute significantly to the development of the Library and their assistance with maintaining it and undertaking various research projects is invaluable.

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