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London Public Library History

  • 1835

    The third Mechanics' Institute, forerunner of today's public library, in Upper Canada is established in London, the first two being in York (now Toronto) in 1831 and Kingston in 1834. A self-improvement centre for "the working class", the Institute offers concerts, exhibitions, lectures and a lending library.

  • December 8, 1840

    The Mechanics' Institute is revived in London.

  • January 5, 1841

    The London Mechanics' Institute is re-organized with the adoption of a constitution and the election of officers. Marcus Holmes is elected the first president.

  • June 21, 1841

    Peter Tissiman, recording secretary for the London Mechanics' Institute, is paid two pounds and ten shillings as librarian.

  • December 1842

    A new building for the London Mechanics' Institute and Museum is completed on the original courthouse square, near the present-day corner of Dundas and Ridout streets.

  • January 8, 1849

    The London Mechanics' Institute receives its first government grant of fifty pounds.

  • July 15, 1852

    The London Mechanics' Institute is incorporated.

  • November 12, 1855

    The Mechanics' Institute moves to Talbot Street at the western end of Queens Avenue.

  • November 1, 1861

    The London Mechanics' Institute goes bankrupt.

  • May 9, 1870

    Having been inactive during the 1860s, the London Mechanics' Institute is reorganized.

  • October 23, 1872

    Marcus Holmes, first president of the reorganized London Mechanics' Institute, dies at 183 King Street at the age of 67.

  • July 18, 1876

    Sgt.-Maj. James Gray is appointed the librarian for the London Mechanics' Institute.

  • November 2, 1876

    The cornerstone for a new Mechanics' Institute building is laid on the south side of Dundas Street east of Clarence Street.

  • September 21, 1877

    The new Mechanics' Institute building costing $24,000 is formally opened at 229-231 Dundas Street. This is the final location for the institute. The building still stands today (2020).

  • February 28, 1882

    The Ontario Legislature passes the Free Libraries Act, enabling municipalities to establish public libraries supported by taxes.

  • January 7, 1884

    The first attempt to establish a public library in London occurs when London City Council passes a free library by-law and a free library board of management is set up but a public library is not established.

  • July 8, 1885

    Miss Mary Gray, eldest daughter of the last librarian of the Mechanics' Institute, Sgt.-Maj. James Gray, is appointed an assistant to her father.

  • June 11, 1888

    London City Council puts the matter of establishing a public library to a public vote and the 1884 bylaw is repealed and the library board dissolved.

  • July 22, 1888

    The former Mechanics' Institute building (1842) is heavily damaged by fire.

  • January 2, 1893

    Londoners vote a third time on a free library bylaw and the results were in favour of a free library so a Free Library Board is re-established.

  • February 21, 1893

    The inaugural meeting of the Free Library Board is held and Henry Macklin is elected as its first chair.

  • June 18, 1894

    Mr. Henry Macklin, chairman of the new public library board, signs a deed to a lot on the southwest corner of Queens Avenue and Wellington Street, the future site of the new public library.

  • July 3, 1894

    Sgt.-Maj. James Gray, the last librarian of the London Mechanics' Institute, dies.

  • February 11, 1895

    Robert Reid is elected chairman of the Free Library Board.

  • April 2, 1895

    Robert James Blackwell, a former bookseller, is elected from more than 80 applicants as the first librarian for the London Public Library with an annual salary of $750 .

  • May 3, 1895

    The Mechanics' Institute building at 231 Dundas Street is sold at Keenleyside's Auction Rooms to William Gorman for $19, 400.

  • May 3, 1895

    The first meeting of the London Public Library Board is held with Robert Reid as its first chair.

  • May 6, 1895

    The last meeting of the London Mechanics' Institute takes place. Minutes of the institute from 1841 to 1861 and 1879 to 1895 are located in the London Room at the Central Library.

  • July 1895

    Miss Mary Gray became the first library assistant for the public library, earning $300 a year.

  • July 27, 1895

    The reading rooms of the London Mechanics' Institute are permanently closed.

  • October 15, 1895

    Miss Katharine McLaughlin is hired as the second library assistant in the reference department of the public library.

  • November 26, 1895

    The first London Public Library is opened by the Hon. George W. Ross, Minister of Education. The new building costs $14, 818 including furnishings and took over the book collection of the Mechanics' Institute, some of which are housed in the London Room.

  • April 11, 1896

    Frederic Martlett Bell-Smith donated the first painting, A Breaking Wave, an oil on canvas, ca 1892-1894, to London Public Library's permanent art collection.

  • Photo of printed catalogues
    Printed catalogues. Patrons would look at lists of books, write the number of the book they wanted on a piece of paper and hand it to a librarian at the desk. The librarian would then find the book in the closed-to-the-public stacks and bring it back to check out for the patron.
  • June 1, 1897

    Mr. Blackwell, issued in book form, the library’s first published catalogue (taken from the card catalogue) using the new Dewey decimal classification system. Copies of this catalogue are in the archives at the London Room.

  • January 23, 1900

    Robert Reid, the first chairman of the London Public library, dies at 422 King Street at the age of 78.

  • November 19, 1901

    Dr. Clarence T. Campbell presides over the first monthly meeting of the London and Middlesex Historical Society held in the London Public Library.

  • December 1902

    So quickly did the library’s services grow that an addition is built at the rear of the building.

  • March 19, 1906

    Robert J. Blackwelll, the first librarian at the London Public library, dies of cancer at 62 Stanley Street at the age of 51

  • May 11, 1906

    Joseph Henry Wilberforce McRoberts, a high school teacher, is appointed as the second librarian with an annual salary of $1000.

  • June 7, 1906

    Joseph H.W. McRoberts begins his duties as librarian.

  • December 6, 1906

    Joseph H.W. McRoberts resigns as librarian, effective January 1, 1907 to return to teaching.

  • December 14, 1906

    William Oliver Carson becomes London's third librarian.

  • 1908

    Public access to the bookshelves is introduced

  • March 5, 1908

    The Finance Committee is instructed by the London Public Library Board to consider the advisability of opening a branch of the library in East London.

  • 1909

    The circulation of books exceeds 100,000 for the first time.

  • October 6, 1910

    The London Public Library Board is asked to consider the advisability of introducting a dictionary catalogue into the library.

  • November 1, 1910

    The Reference Room opens and modern reference service begins.

  • December 1, 1910

    The Library Committee of the London Public Library Board recommends that 50,000 cards, a card catalogue cabinet with sections for 50,000 cards and a typewriter be purchased for $310.

  • February 28, 1911

    Miss Mary Gray, the first library assistant for the public library, dies at St. Joseph's Hospital of acute appendicitis at the age of 58.

  • May 10, 1912

    The Glanworth Library Association is formed by Eunice Mary (Meadows) Dawson and Mrs. Robert Fisher.

  • July 28, 1912

    Glanworth Public Library is established with Eunice Dawson as the first librarian.

  • Summer 1913

    The Children’s Room opens in the west end of the ground floor of the Central Library, formerly used as a ladies’ reading room.

  • November 18, 1913

    Rev. Dr. James Ross, a member of the London Public Library Board, is struck and killed by an automobile while in New York seeking an Andrew Carnegie library grant of $125,000 for building and furnishing a new central library. The library never receives a Carnegie grant.

  • August 1, 1915

    Miss Marjorie Flanders is appointed as the first children’s librarian.

  • December 11, 1915

    The first story hour for children is started.

  • December 23, 1915

    London’s first branch library, East End (presently Carson) Branch, opens in a store in London East’s former town hall at the southwest corner of Dundas and Rectory Streets (now the Aeolian Hall, 797 Dundas Street).

  • Photo of reference room, 1916
    Inside of reference room, 1916.
  • April 6, 1916

    William O. Carson resigns as chief librarian of the London Public Library to become the inspector of public libraries in Ontario.

  • May 1, 1916

    Fred Landon becomes London's fourth chief librarian.

  • November 29, 1917

    The former Mechanics' Institute building (1842) is demolished.

  • October 16 to November 11, 1918

    London’s public libraries are closed due to the flu epidemic.

  • December 28, 1918

    London’s second branch library, South (presently Landon) Branch opens at 14 Askin Street.

  • Photo of basement workroom
    Basement workroom in the Library circa 1920. Note with the photograph states, "The only workroom in the library is in the cellar. It houses over 5000 volumes of reference material, stacked two deep, besides the school dept. with 6000 books, the branches dept, the accessioning and reception depts with the book repair and bindery depts. Any one of these departments should have a separate room for efficiency."
  • November 3, 1921

    The London Public Library secured a one-year lease of premises in the Bourne Block at 435 Hamilton Road for a branch library.

  • December 28, 1921

    London's third branch library, Southeast (presently Crouch) Branch is opened.

  • 1922

    Southeast Branch moves to the basement of the Trafalgar Public School.

  • January 17, 1922

    The Board of Education grants the use of a room in the new Victoria Public School to the London Public Library Board for its South Branch Library.

  • 1923

    The Glanworth Library, built with community funds, opens.

  • May 3, 1923

    Fred Landon resigns as chief librarian of London Public Library to become Western University's first full-time librarian.

  • November 24, 1923

    Before leaving for the United States, Guy Lombardo plays his last London performance at 305 Queens Avenue, site of the Winter Gardens which was a Hudson-Essex car dealership by day and a dance hall at night.

  • 1924

    The South (presently Landon) Branch Library moves to its present location at 167 Wortley Road.

  • June 23, 1924

    The Lambeth Library Association is formed.

  • April 1925

    The Southeast (presently Crouch) Branch Library settles in a house at 550 Hamilton Road (at the northwest corner of Sackville Street)

  • July 1, 1926

    The East (presently Carson) Branch Library moves into the former Quebec Street School at the southwest corner of Dufferin Avenue and Quebec Street.

  • 1930

    The circulation of books exceeds 500,000 for the first time.

  • July 10, 1931

    The Lambeth Library opens on Talbot Road.

  • 1932

    Two of the three branch libraries are closed due to decreased funds during the Great Depression.

  • 1933

    London’s three branch libraries were closed due to the Great Depression.

  • 1934

    London’s branch libraries re-opened after more funds were granted by City Council.

  • 1934

    Elsie Perrin Williams, the only child of Daniel S. Perrin of the Perrin Biscuit Company, dies, leaving a large bequest to the city, a portion of which was used to build the new Central Library.

  • 1934

    Branch libraries are reopened when more funds are granted to the London Public Library Board by the Council Council.

  • 1935

    The Byron Memorial Library is founded by the Women’s Institute.

  • November 17, 1939

    The cornerstone for the new central library at 305 Queens Avenue is laid by Mayor Allan J. Johnston.

  • September 20, 1940

    The Central Library at the southwest corner of Queens Avenue and Wellington Street, closes.

  • October 4, 1940

    The Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial Building housing the art gallery, central library and historical museum, is opened by the Hon. Duncan McArthur, Minister of Education at 305 Queens Avenue on the site of the former Princess Rink and Winter Gardens. It had room for 48,000 volumes, a second-floor art gallery, and an auditorium and children;s library in the basement.

  • December 7, 1940

    The Active Service Club, a recreational centre for soldiers, opens its doors in the former Central Library building which was bought by the YMCA after the Second World War ended.

  • Photo of a man and a woman
    The Film Department at the Central Library circa 1945
  • 1942

    The library begins lending 16mm films.

  • 1942

    The London Public Library is the first library in Canada to circulate sound recordings.

  • 1942

    The lending library of art is established. Museum London continues to offer an art rental service.

  • March 31, 1942

    The world premier showing of Canada's first feature-length film in colour, Here Will I Nest, is held in the auditorium of the Central Library.

  • Photo of a group of children at a card catalogue
    School children learning to use the card catalogue in 1945
  • March 1946

    Miss Katharine McLaughlin, the second library assistant for the public library, retires after 50 years of service.

  • 1947

    The Argyle Community (formerly Eastwood, presently East London) Library is established.

  • 1948

    The Broughdale Library opens in the basement of the Broughdale School.

  • September 17, 1950

    Miss Katharine McLaughlin, the second library assistant for the public library, dies.

  • November 21, 1950

    London is the first city in Ontario to establish a bookmobile service which provided library service to areas of the community not serviced by library branches.

  • 1952

    The beginning of the library’s extensive microfilm collection begins with the acquisition of microfilm copies of the Globe and Mail and the London Free Press.

  • 1952

    Three new galleries are added to the second floor of the Central Library.

  • 1954

    Marion Currie became the first woman to sit on the London Public Library Board.

  • February 1954

    The old Central Library building at Queens Avenue and Wellington Street is demolished to make way for an addition to the YM-YWCA.

  • 1955

    A mobile library is purchased.

  • September 8, 1955

    A new building is opened for the South Branch Library and it is renamed the Fred Landon Branch Library.

  • December 7, 1956

    Canada's first Art Mart, sponsored by the Western Art League, is held at he London Public Art Gallery at 305 Queens Avenue.

  • 1957

    Marion Currie became the first woman to chair the London Public Library Board.

  • April 10, 1958

    A new building is opened for the Southeast Branch Library and it is renamed the Richard E.Crouch Branch Library.

  • 1960

    Eldon House, the former Harris family residence built in 1834 and London’s oldest surviving private residence, is given to the City of London by the Harris family.

  • 1961

    The circulation of books exceeds 1,000,000 for the first time.

  • 1961

    A second mobile library is purchased.

  • Photo of a group of children in the bookmobile
    Inside of the bookmobile, 1960's
  • January 1, 1961

    With annexation, the library acquires its fourth, fifth and sixth branch libraries - Argyle, Broughdale and Byron - and eight bookmobile stops formerly operated by the Middlesex County Library Co-operative. The Argyle (presently East London) Branch is moved to quarters in the Argyle Mall.

  • September 11, 1961

    The East Branch Library is renamed the W.O. Carson Branch Library.

  • 1962

    Community Relations Department is established to develop and coordinate the library's relationships in the community.

  • 1963

    The Glanworth Library joins the new Middlesex County Library system.

  • January 1, 1963

    The London Public Library Board becomes responsible for two historical museums - Eldon House and Victoria House Museum.

  • June 1963

    The seventh branch library, Westown (presently Cherryhill) Branch, opens in the Westown Plaza Mall.

  • 1965

    The Victoria House Museum closes.

  • 1967

    The eighth branch library, Northland (presently Beacock) Branch, opens in the Northland Mall at 1275 Highbury Avenue.

  • 1967

    The former Victoria House Museum is demolished to make room for Centennial Hall.

  • Photo of a group of children at storytime
    Storytime in the 1960's. Eleanor Donnelly was a children's librarian who also appeared on the CFPL "Sunshine School" weekly TV show reading stories to children. She was awarded the W.J. Robertson Medallion in 1980 presented by the Ontario Library Boards' Association to a public librarian who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the advancement of public library service in Ontario.
  • July 31, 1967

    The London Room, a research facility for local history, opens.

  • April 26, 1968

    The new million-dollar addition to the Central Library was formally opened by Ontario Premier John P. Robarts, providing a new children’s wing, more book space and more gallery space and increasing overall floor space from 39,600 square feet to 97,480 square feet.

  • May 9, 1969

    The Centennial Museum, built and donated by the London and District Construction Association, is opened. It has a floor plan in the shape of a maple leaf.

  • June 6 -19, 1970

    The first walkout by professional librarians in Canada and only the second in North America takes place as the staff at the London Public Library goes on strike. It is also the first work stoppage ever staged by public employees in London.

  • July 1970

    The Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre is created.

  • December 3, 1971

    The Historic Sites Committee of the London Public Library Board erects its tenth plaque to commemorate London's first public library at the southwest corner of Queens Avenue and Wellington Street. This plaque is now in the London Room.

  • 1972

    The ninth branch library, Northridge Branch, is opened at 1444 Glenora Drive as an extension of the Northland (presently Beacock) Branch Library.

  • January 1972

    The Shut-In Library (formerly home Library, presently Visiting Library) service begins.

  • April 7, 1972

    The Byron Memorial Branch Library opens in a new enlarged building at 1295 Commissioners Road West.

  • July 26, 1972

    The Historic Sites Committee of the London Public Library Board unveils its twelfth plaque on the third and last building of the London Mechanics' Institute at 231 Dundas Street.

  • 1973

    Marion currie's terms of office as the first woman on the London Public Library Board ends.

  • August 11, 1977

    A new building for the W.O. Carson Branch Library is opened on the site of the former building.

  • 1978

    The tenth branch library, Westminster (presently Pond Mills) Branch, opens.

  • 1980

    The eleventh branch library, White Oaks (presently Jalna) Branch opens.

  • 1980

    The art gallery separates from the library and moves to its new facilities at the Forks of the Thames, the London Regional Art Gallery.

  • 1980

    Grosvenor Lodge opens as a historical museum at 1017 Western Road.

  • June 1980

    The twelfth branch library, Westmount Branch, opens in quarters adjoining the Village Green Baptist Church at 507 Village Green Avenue.

  • 1981

    The GEAC automated circulation system is completed.

  • 1981

    Major renovations were made to the Central Library when the art gallery's former space of 12,940 square feet was renovated and a new staircase provided easier access to the newly expanded second floor. The London Room moved to the second floor.

  • November 13, 1981

    The Historic Sites Committee of the London Public Library Board unveils a plaque to honour the library's longest serving chief executive, Richard Edwin Crouch.

  • March 14, 1982

    The Northland (presently Beacock) Branch Library moves to a new building at 1280 Huron Street.

  • 1985

    The Northland Branch Library is renamed the E.S. Beacock Branch Library.

  • 1985

    The COM (computer output microfiche) catalogue replaces the card catalogue.

  • May 7, 1985

    The thirteenth branch library, Sherwood Forest Branch, opens in the Sherwood Forest Mall at 1225 Wonderland Road North.

  • 1986

    The Library stops lending 16 mm films.

  • 1986

    The circulation of books exceeds 2,000,000 for the first time.

  • June 25, 1986

    The Argyle (presently East London) Branch Library relocates from the Argyle Mall to the Eastwood Plaza and is renamed the Eastwood Centre Branch Library.

  • December 1986

    The Centennial Museum closes.

  • 1987

    The lending of video cassettes which replaced the 16mm films begins

  • January 1987

    The London Public Library Board and the London Regional Art Gallery Board enter into a two-year trial period of cooperatively managing museum services.

  • July 1, 1987

    The Children’s Library rejoins the Central Library after almost twelve years in Branch services.

  • 1988

    The lending of compact discs begins.

  • January 1, 1989

    The library’s museum division separates from the library board and merges with the London Regional Art Gallery to become the London Regional Art and Historical Museums.

  • Photo of a truck
    The last London Public Library Bookmobile, 1989.
  • November 30, 1989

    The bookmobile service ends as the number of branch locations has increased.

  • December 14, 1989

    Westminster Branch Library closes permanently.

  • December 30, 1989

    White Oaks Branch Library closes permanently.

  • 1990

    Westown (presently Cherryhill) Branch Library becomes the first full service branch with six full-time staff.

  • April 24, 1990

    The Pond Mills Branch Library opens at 1166 Commissioners Road East in the Pond Mills Plaza Mall to replace the Westminster Branch Library.

  • April 26, 1990

    The Jalna Branch Library opens at 1119 Jalna Boulevard to replace the White Oaks Branch Library.

  • February 11, 1991

    A new building for the Lambeth Library officially opens.

  • 1992

    Friends of the London Public Library is founded.

  • 1993

    Access, the library’s publication of library events and news, begins distribution through the London Free Press and circulation increases from 8,000 to 86,000.

  • January 1, 1993

    With annexation, the Library acquires its fourteenth and fifteenth branch libraries - Glanworth and Lambeth.

  • 1994

    Telefact, a telephone reference service, begins.

  • September 1994

    The GEAC Advance online public access catalogue replaces the CD-ROM public service catalogue.

  • September 1995

    The Broughdale Branch Library closes.

  • October 14, 1995

    The sixteenth branch, Masonville Branch Library, opens at 30 North Centre Road.

  • December 18, 1995

    Marion Currie, the first woman to chair the London Public Library Board, dies.

  • September 16, 1998

    The Employment Resource Centre opens at the Beacock Branch Library.

  • February 8, 2000

    It is announced that the Central Library would be relocating to the former Hudson’s Bay Department Store at 251 Dundas Street - in effect returning to its roots with the former Mechanics Institute building still standing next door at 231 Dundas Street.

  • February 5, 2001

    The exterior facade, foyer and central hall of the former Central Library at 205 Queens Avenue is designated a heritage building by the City of London.

  • September 7, 2001

    Hilary Bates Neary, president of the Friends of London Public Library accepts the Friends of the Year Award.

  • October 16, 2001

    The former Westown Branch is expanded and relocates within the Cherryhill Village Mall. It reopens as the Cherryhill Branch

  • February 2002

    The former Crouch Branch building at 550 Hamilton Road is demolished and service is resumed at 220 Adelaide Street North dutring the construction of the new Crouch Branch building.

  • February 18, 2002

    Beryl and Richard Ivey announce a $300,000 gift for the London Room, the largest donation by a single donor in the library's history.

  • August 9, 2002

    The deed and keys to 305 Queens Avenue are officially turned over to the City of London.

  • August 10, 2002

    This is the last day of library service at 305 Queens Avenue.

  • August 25, 2002

    The new Central Library opens at 251 Dundas Street.

  • September 21, 2002

    The new Westmount Branch Library opens at 3200 Wonderland Road South.

  • February 1, 2003

    Dr. Keith Crouch unveils a plaque honouring his father, Richard Crouch, at the opening of the new Crouch Branch Library.

  • June 5, 2003

    A 20-week long project officially begins for the construction of the Rotary Reading Garden on a former parking lot just east of the new Central Library.

  • August 14, 2003

    A total power outage affecting the Eastern Seaboard including London occurs.

  • November 29, 2003

    The Rotary Reading Garden officially opens.

  • March 12, 2005

    The Sherwood Forest Branch officially opens in a new location within Sherwood Forest Mall with a distinct children's area, computer commons, additional meeting rooms and an expanded popular reading area. The library shares the facility with the Northwest London Community Resource Centre.

  • April 13, 2005

    Anne Becker becomes the tenth chief executive of the London Public Library and the first woman to occupy the position.

  • June 11, 2005

    A renovated Beacock Branch with an enlarged children's area, renovated meeting rooms and newly built reading room, opens.

  • July 1, 2005

    The renovated Jalna Branch opens, sharing a common entrance with the South London Community Centre.

  • July 8, 2005

    A refurbished Byron Branch officially reopens, now fully accessible with a new elevator.

  • August 29, 2005

    The former Centennial Museum building is demolished.

  • September 17, 2005

    The completely renovated Landon Branch opens with enlarged children's and collections areas, a new community meeting room, the addition of an elevator and new exterior entrance ways, ramp, sidewalk and stairs.

  • September 24, 2005

    The new East London Branch Library opens in the former White Rose building at 2016 Dundas Street to replace the former Eastwood Branch Library.The library shares the facility with the East London Community Centre and a daycare and fitness centre operated by the London Y.

  • October 5, 2005

    Betsy Reilly and Father William B. "Bill" Thompson become London's first inductees into the Teachers' Wall if Fame at the new Central Library.

  • July 6, 2007

    The Library starts providing access to downloadable eBooks and eAudiobooks.

  • 2007

    The library stops ordering VHS tapes.

  • May 30, 2008

    Anne Becker ends her term of office as the first woman CEO of the London Public Library.

  • June 2, 2008

    Susanna Hubbard Krimmer becomes the eleventh chief executive of the London Public Library and the second woman to occupy the position.

  • June 13, 2008

    The Libro Road Show debuts with Community Outreach and Program Services staff driving the vehicle for the first time without the help of Facility Services.

  • January 2009

    The Library Settlement Project is started at four locations: Beacock, Central, Jalna and Sherwood. The project is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada in partnerships with the Centre for Lifelong Learning, the London Cross Cultural Centre, LUSO Community Services and the South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre,

  • February 6, 2010

    The newly renovated Carson Branch reopens with a ergonomically designed book chute; new carpets, circulation desk, flooring, furniture and paint; redesigned shelving units and a revamped meeting room.

  • June 19, 2010

    Northridge Branch Library closes.

  • January 15, 2011

    London's seventeenth branch, the Stoney Creek Branch, is officially opened.

  • January 29, 2011

    An open house is held at the Lambeth Branch Library to celebrate recent renovations.

  • June 23, 2012

    Employment Resource Centres close at Beacock, Pond Mills and Westmount branches.

  • July 7, 2012

    Employment Resource Centres close at Central, Crouch and Jalna branches.