Librarian Gerda Molson Examines Book Collection In Need Of Updating At Niagara Public Library
First Opened Doors In 1800
Niagara Public Library Is Oldest In Province
By JOAN PHILLIPS
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — Nearly 200 books are overdue from Niagara Public Library.
They've been overdue for 167 years.
According to historical references to the public library tursed up by board members, 200 books were in circula¬tion when the old library building and the rest of the collection went up in flames in 1813.
One charred volume was eventually found years ago, but the other 199 are still unaccounted for. Possibly they too were burned with most of the rest of the old town.
But board members wonder if some of them might have survived and are still around the town some place.
The Niagara Public Library is the oldest such library in Ontario, according to some of the board's findings.
History Of Niagara by Janet Carnaochan, published in 1914, says the library was established in 1800 "upstairs in a frame building to the left of the courthause." It was open to the public on a subscription basis.
By 1871 the public library was thriving and offering such programs as concert, tableaux, excursions and even dancing —as well as books.
By 1882 it had 250 books and in 1895 moved into its present location at the back of the old town hall in what was the market.
Today the library's collection has 12,500 books that circulate and an estimated $20,000 worth of rare old books that don't circulate but are made available to researchers.
The old books include, says librarian Gerda Molson, two copies of the first edition of Kirby's Ansals Of Niagara and an original volume da^ed 1793 printed in the area on a hand press.
Budget Slashed 66 Per Cent
A more pressing problem faced the library in how to continue serving the public despite a 66 per cent cut in its 1970 budget.
Librarian Gerda Molson said the library will have to concentrate on programs rather than the purchase of new books as a -result of the drastic money cut.
The municipal budget, already approved by council and (he Ontario Municipal Board, cut the library's budget from $25,500 to $8,580.
Mrs. Molson said that $14,000 of the $25,500 was to have been used to buy new books, "to upgrade the bookstock."
The library has 12.500 books "but it isn't a usuable, modern collection," explains Mrs Molson.
"The children's section until recently was absolutely shocking. There was nothing for the children to come in for. The book' were outdated, very puritanical in tone and badly in need of repair.
Most of the book budget went for children's books last year, she said.
The bulk of the library's nonfiction she described as outdated and of no general interest to the public, but explained that nonfiction books could be borrowed by patrons through the inter-library loan set-up of the regional library system.
Last year the library, which is situated in the back of the ground floor of the old Niagara-on-the-Lake town hall, received a total revenue of $4,616.76 from the former town. At the time it was serving about 3,500 town residents.
In 1969 the former Township of Niagara gave the library $250.
With the merging of the two municipalities at the beginning of this year, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library, which is the only one in the new municipality, serves nearly 12,500 residents.
The library board had planned on $7,000 to set up book deposits for St. David's, Queenston and Virgil, but has decided to scrap these plans.
"We desperately need children's programs, like a puppet club, and community service programs," says Mrs. Molson, who has been with the Niagara library for about a year.
She runs the two-room library with the help of three teenagers who help part-time.