London Public Library History

From its earliest roots as the Mechanic's Institute, established in 1835, to its current 16 branch city-wide library system, London Public Library has continued to grow and develop services and spaces to meet our community's needs.

Do you know that London's first branch library opened in 1915 on a site that is now the Aeolian Hall?  This branch, now known as Carson Branch, would move several times before its current building was completed in 1977.


London Public Library's newest branch library is the Bostwick Branch, which opened in September, 2018 in the new Community Centre, YMCA and Library facility on Southdale Rd. west of Wonderland.



The third Mechanics' Institute, the forerunner of today's public library, is established in London.  The first two Institutes are located 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.


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.


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.


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.


September 21, 1877
A new Mechanics' Institute building costing $24,000 formally opens at 229-231 Dundas Street. This is the final location for the institute. The building still stands today.


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.  A Free Library Board of Management is organized but a public library is not established.

June 11, 1888
London City Council puts the matter of establishing a public library to a public vote resulting in the repeal of the 1884 bylaw is repealed and dissolution of the library board.

July 22, 1888
The former Mechanics' Institute building (1842) at Dundas and Ridout is heavily damaged by fire.

January 2, 1893
Londoners vote a third time on a free library bylaw and the results fall in favour of a free library; and a Free Library Board is re-established.

February 21, 1893
The inaugural meeting of the Free Library Board is held.

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.

May 3, 1895
The first meeting of the London Public Library Board is held.

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 27, 1895
The reading rooms of the London Mechanics' Institute are permanently closed.

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.  The Library takes over the London Mechanics' Institute’s book collection.  Some of these books are housed in the London Room of the Central Library.

June 1, 1897
Mr. Blackwell (first librarian of the London Public Library) issues 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.

Public access to the bookshelves is introduced.

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

November 1, 1910
The Reference Room opens and modern reference service begins.

July 28, 1912
Glanworth Public Library is established.

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.

December 11, 1915
The first story hour for children begins.

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).

October 16 to November 11, 1918
London’s public libraries close due to a flu epidemic.

December 28, 1918
London’s second library branch, South (presently Landon) Branch opens at 14 Askin Street.

November 3, 1921
The London Public Library secures a one-year lease of premises in the Bourne Block at 435 Hamilton Road for a library branch.

December 28, 1921
London's third library branch, Southeast (presently Crouch) Branch is opened.

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 (Landon) Library.

The Glanworth Library, built with community funds, opens.

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.

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

July 10, 1931
The Lambeth Library opens on Talbot Road.


Two of the three library branches close due to decreased funding during the Great Depression.

All three library branches close due to the Great Depression.

London’s library branches re-open after more funds are granted by City Council.

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 is used to build the new Central Library.

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

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 has room for 48,000 volumes, a second-floor art gallery, and an auditorium and children’s library in the basement.

The library begins lending 16mm films.

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

The lending library of art is established.

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

The Broughdale Library opens in the basement of Broughdale School.

November 21, 1950
London is the first city in Ontario to establish a bookmobile service.  The bookmobile provides library service to areas of the community not serviced by library branches.

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

September 8, 1955
A new building opens for South Branch Library and is renamed the Fred Landon Branch Library.

April 10, 1958
A new building opens for the Southeast Branch Library and is renamed the Richard E. Crouch Branch Library.

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

January 1, 1961
Due to annexation, the library acquires its fourth, fifth and sixth library branches (Argyle, Broughdale and Byron).  It also acquires eight bookmobile stops formerly operated by the Middlesex County Library Co-operative. The Argyle (presently East London) Branch moves to quarters in the Argyle Mall.

September 11, 1961
The East Branch Library is renamed the W.O. Carson Branch Library.

January 1, 1963
The London Public Library Board becomes responsible for two historical museums - Eldon House and Victoria House Museum.

June 1963
The seventh library branch, Westown (presently Cherryhill) Branch, opens in the Westown Plaza Mall.

The Victoria House Museum closes.

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

July 31, 1967
The London Room, a research facility for local history, opens at Central Library.

April 26, 1968
The new million-dollar addition to the Central Library is formally opened by Ontario Premier John P. Robarts. The addition includes a new children’s wing, more book space, more gallery space and increases overall floor space from 39,600 square feet to 97,480 square feet.

January 11, 1972
The Shut-In Library (presently, the Visiting Library) service serving those who cannot physically visit the library, begins operating.

April 4, 1972
The ninth library branch, Northridge Branch, opens at 1444 Glenora Drive as an extension of Northland (presently Beacock) Branch Library.

April 7, 1972
The Byron Memorial Branch Library opens in a new larger building at 1295 Commissioners Road West.

August 11, 1977
A new building for the W.O. Carson Branch Library opens on the site of the former building.

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

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

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

June 1980
The twelfth library branch, Westmount Branch, opens in quarters adjoining the Village Green Baptist Church at 507 Village Green Avenue.

Major renovations occur at the Central Library due to the Art Gallery’s move.   The London Room moves to the second floor.

March 14, 1982
The Northland (presently Beacock) Branch Library moves to a new building at 1280 Huron Street.

Northland Branch Library is renamed the E.S. Beacock Branch Library.
The COM (computer output microfiche) catalogue replaces the card catalogue.

May 7, 1985
The thirteenth library branch, Sherwood Forest Branch, opens in the Sherwood Forest Mall at 1225 Wonderland Road North.

The circulation of books exceeds 2,000,000 for the first time.  The lending of 16 mm films end.

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.

The lending of video cassettes 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.

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.

November 30, 1989
The bookmobile service ends as the number of branch locations increase.

December 14, 1989
Westminster Branch Library closes permanently.

December 30, 1989
White Oaks Branch Library closes permanently.

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.

Friends of the London Public Library (a volunteer organization providing community support for the library) is founded.

January 1, 1993
Due to annexation, the Library acquires two additional branch libraries - Glanworth and Lambeth.

September 1995
The Broughdale Branch Library closes.

October 14, 1995
Masonville Branch Library opens at 30 North Centre Road.

February 8, 2000
An announcement of Central Library’s relocation to the Hudson Bay Department Store at 251 Dundas Street occurs - in effect returning it to its roots with the former Mechanics Institute building still standing next door at 231 Dundas Street.

October 16, 2001
The former Westown Branch expands 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 resumes at 220 Adelaide Street North.

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 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
The new Crouch Branch Library opens.

November 29, 2003
The Rotary Reading Garden, constructed on a former parking lot next to Central Library officially opens.

March 12, 2005
The Sherwood Forest Branch officially opens in a new location within Sherwood Forest Mall.

June-July 2005
Renovations occur at Beacock, Jalna, Byron and Landon

September 24, 2005
The new East London Branch Library opens at 2016 Dundas Street. The library shares the facility with the East London Community Centre and a daycare and fitness centre operated by the London Y.

July 6, 2007
The Library starts providing access to downloadable eBooks and eAudiobooks.

January 2009
The Library Settlement Project begins at four locations: Beacock, Central, Jalna and Sherwood. The project is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and assists newcomers in finding information and assistance in London.

February 6, 2010
Carson Branch re-opens following a renovation.

June 19, 2010
Northridge Branch Library closes.

January 15, 2011
Stoney Creek Branch Library officially opens.

Apr. 5 – 11, 2016
Central faces closure and then reduced hours due to significant power outage and repair.

April 2017
The Central Library revitalization ends with the new grand staircase and addition of a Mac Computer Lab, new Reading Lounge, nine additional study rooms and creation of space for The Labs.

June 2017
Canadian Mental Health Association Middlesex and London Public Library open the Welcome Centre at Central Library providing access to mental health and addiction supports where the community gathers.

September 2017
Fine-free cards for children 12 years and under are introduced.

November 4, 2017
Westmount Branch closes. A Pop Up Library operates in the Westmount Mall from November 14, 2017 to September 1, 2018

September 11, 2018
Bostwick Branch, the 16th branch of the London Public Library, opens at 501 Southdale Road as part of the new Community Centre, YMCA and Library facility.

September 29, 2018
The Labs at Central Library launch and include 3D printing, sewing machines, photo editing software, a recording studio and more.

March 2020
All London Public Library facilities close under provincial order; some programs and services continue online.

May 2020
Province announces libraries can open for curbside service, which is promptly offered at London Public Library locations.

August 2020
Branches re-open in person services.

November 26, 2020
London Public Library turns 125 and celebrates by permanently removing overdue fines. A limited edition library card designed by Tehatsistahawi Kennedy is issued.

December 2020
Libraries return to pick-up service during mandated lockdown.

October 2021
Libraries resume normal hours of operation and services.

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