Niagara Public Library - A Brief History

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A Brief History of Niagara Public Library compiled and typed by unknown author. Undated.
19 pages with 5 appendices.
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Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library
Agency street/mail address
10 Anderson Lane P.O. Box 430
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0
Full Text
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Chapter 1
Founding statement. Each subscriber, 41 in all, paid 24s.each for a total of 49 pounds, 4 s. Appendix 1
In the other major centres of Upper Canada, York and Kingston, comparable libraries were not established until 1810 and 1813 respectively.
List of proprietors. Appendix 2
Subscribers included individuals representing the church, the army the civil service, the yeomanry. Including names from Fort Niagara (N.Y.), Grimsby, Stamford and Thorold.
Andrew Heron was appointed librarian and held this position for most of the 20 years that the first library was in existence. The location of this first library remains a mystery. Perhaps, like the Mechanic's Institute that followed it had many homes.
Rules and regulations. Appendix 3

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List of first 80 books purchased. Appendix 4
The first thirty volumes were all of a religious nature. Nothing light or trashy can be found on the list of theology, history, travel, biography, agriculture, a little poetry, and later, a small amount of fiction.
In 1801 there were 150 books, there were six trustees, two "fresh ones" to be chosen each year. Old members paid $2 and new members $4 dollars. Those out of town could take two books at once and keep them six weeks and i f out of the township, two months.
The first payment to the librarian occurred in 1804 as a result of a resolution - resolved that Andrew Heron be librarian for the ensuing year and be allowed twelve and one-half per cent of all the moneys collected for the last twelve months from non-subscribers, and the same for the year to come and shall be obliged to make good all the books that may be lost by non-subscribers.
In 1806 each proprietor paid only one dollar a year, and new member $6.50. Jane Crooks, eldest daughter of the late Francis Crooks became the first woman admitted in right of her father who was deceased.

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In the next few years several changes were made. Members in town were allowed to take out two books at once. Shares were issued and sold for seven dollars each, and a catalogue was printed. In 1807 Ralfe Clench took charge of the library and he was to keep the library open from ten to twelve every day except Sunday.
In 1808 Andrew Heron has prepared a room for the library and offers to perform the duties of librarian as before. His offer was accepted but there was evidently some friction as Mr. Clench refrised to give up the key to the library. The trustees determined that Andrew Heron would not be responsible for the books that might be missing. Members from out of town were to be entitled to three books at a time.
In November 1812 , after the burial of Brock, about fifty books were added making the total number 827. The record of meetings goes on until 1813 when the town was in the hands of the enemy. There was no meeting in 1814 after the burning of the town.
How many of the books were preserved from the fire is not known. A large number would have been in circulation in

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the town and township, and because of the records showing books being borrowed and returned after the burning it is certain that a great many of the books were indeed saved.
In the period of the War 1812-1814, books were taken out till May 24* 1813 three days before the town was taken.
A few records are made while the town is in the possession of US troops. On June 18*, Captain Dorman, US made a payment for three months. In 1814 several names of British officers are given as taking out books and in 1815 several officers from Fort Niagara, New York are recorded as having taken out books.
The next meeting of the trustees was held in 1815. Regardless of the war losses suffered by townspeople the charges are made higher; each proprietor is to pay $2.50 and shares were sold at $9; non-proprietors paid $4 a year. Shares were sold at ten dollars in 1817. No new trustees were appointed in 1818.
The record of the last meeting of the trustees reads as follows: Whereas the Niagara Library has been greatly wasted, first by being plundered by the army of the United States, and has since been greatly neglected.

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very few of the proprietors having paid their quota to support the same, we, whose names are hereunto subscribed, hereby relinquish our claims on the same to Andrew Heron (who has now opened a library of his own for the use of the public), in consideration of his allowing us the useJof his library for three years. This he engages to do ta all those who have paid up their yearly contributions to the year 1817 inclusive. To those who have not paid to that period he will allow according to their deficiency in those payments. We consider those propositions as quite fair, and do thereto assent.
From the period of 1801 to 1818 approximately 500 pounds was spent on books.
Approximately 200 books remained from the original library and were given over to Andrew Heron. At the time of the transfer Andrew Heron was a bookseller and from December 1817, publisher of The Gleaner and Niagara Newspaper.
It is not known what became of the original library books or Mr. Heron's subscription library although both appear to have been sold or dispersed.

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Today, only two of the original Niagara Library volumes Blossoms of Morality and The Communicant's Companion survive and are now located in the Niagara Historical Society Museum.
Chapter 2
Andrew Heron died in 1848 so it is possible that he lived to see the resurrection of the library as the Niagara Mechanics Institute The Niagara Mechanics Institute was founded on the 24th of October 1848 for the "promotion of scientific pursuits, the advancement of knowledge, and acquisition of a library and necessary apparatus.
It was felt that a library was badly needed as a large and intelligent class of people had settled in the town, mechanics at the great dock works, retired military officers and merchants of public spirit, lawyers and others who loved books and reading.
The chief promoters of the Mechanics Institute were John Simpson, Capt. Melville, Dr. More, Robert Dickson, and Judge Campbell.
Robert Dickson was the first president and Judge Campbell was vice-president. Judge Campbell appeared to be the

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ruling spirit and was president from 1850 until his death in 1860. The library was first placed in a room generously given by Mr. John Simpson, the comer room upstairs now of John Bishop's store.
It moved location many times; occupying a portion of the residence of Henry Paffard and a room in Mr. Harvey's building - then the Customs Office - then the Grand Jury Room in the Court House.
Entrance fee was $1 and the monthly dues 71/2 d. which entitled members to the privilege of the library and apparatus and the family to attend the lectures. Lectures were to be held fortnightly .Dr. Egerton Ryerson was a frequent lecturer.
In the early days lectures on scientific subjects were much in vogue. Geology, Optic, Chemistry and Literature were all popular topics. Frequent local lecturers were Dr. Whitelaw, Rev. George Bell, Dr. Campbell, Rev. Creen, and Rev. J.B. Mowat.
Rules of the Niagara Mechanics Institute 1847. Appendix 5
In 1857 there were 922 volumes in the library. The

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trustees were obviously very attentive to what kind of reading material was made available as in this year they cancelled their account with Harper's Magazine because of a "scurrilous and disgraceful article in the November issue on the character of Queen Victoria".
They joined with other libraries in petitioning Parliament for larger grants in 1859 and they were partially successful in this endeavour. Money was not plentiful and the library struggled along until 1871 when Dr. Withrow, a young clergyman in Niagara did much to revive the library. Various means were devised to help such as lectures, tableaux, vivants, excursions, donations, concerts, even on one occasion, a dance. The members numbered about 60 but in 1894 were increased to 100 to comply with a new regulation.
A classification of the library was made by Janet Camochan in 1882 when the books numbered 2,500.
The move in 1895 from the Grand Jury Room to the Market House in the Court House Building must have been quite a spectacle. The move was accomplished in 3 hours with a dozen gentlemen belonging to the library and the same number of friendly and stalwart firemen carrying in a long winding procession, bushel baskets and boxes of

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books from the Grand Jury Room on the third story of the Court house, down the stairs and through the Court Room, a dozen lady members receiving these and putting them in their places on the shelves.
In 1898, WiUiam Kirby was President of the Library Board on the occasion of the 50 anniversary of the beginning of the Mechanics Institute. At the time of the anniversary William Kirby had held the position of president for a period of 25 years and Mr. H. Paffard had been treasurer for thirty-three years. Janet Camochan was secretary through many of those years.
In 1914 the library held 8,00 volumes and had 140 members.
In 1912 the Market House was made larger when the part occupied by the firemen was added, an archway was cut through to the additional space which was used as a reading room. Appendix 6 (picture)
The library boasted 134 members in 1863, but, as the economy of the town began to decline, so did the operation of the library. Another major influence in the decline of the locally-funded institution was the increase in the use of

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Niagara area public school libraries. In fact, in 1895, the Ontario legislature directed that the school libraries become public institutions.
Miss Camochan worked tirelessly until her death in 1926 to establish the library as the social, political and information centre of the community.
Unfortunately, in the years leading up to, and during World War I I the library's membership began to decline.
To rectify the decreasing membership and the lack of money, the local taxpayers voted in 1938 to have the library become a free public library under the municipal government. This meant the Niagara Library was eligible for government grants and the board members were appointed by the Town Council and the Board of Education.
In 1942 the collection totalled 10,070 books.
The library in the Court House was expanded to include a below-grade truck garage and the bottom floor of the building. Interior Decorator, Paul Johns designed the expansion and the new expanded library was opened on June 8, 1973. Over the next several years other small

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additions were made to the space, particularly in 1983 when the Court House building was renovated.
Appendix 7 (list of librarian's from 1848). Page 12:
Appendix 1



"Sensible how much we at a loss in this new and remote country for every kind of useful knowledge, and convinced that nothing would be of more use to diffuse knowledge amongst us and our offspring than a library supported by subscription in this town; we whose names are hereunto subscribed hereby associate ourselves together for that purpose, and promise to pay annually a sum not exceeding four dollars, to be laid out on books as agreed upon by a majority of votes at a yearly meeting to be held by us at this town on the 15th of August annually, when everything respecting the library will be regulated by the majority of votes."

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Appendix 2


Robert Addison
John Boyd
John Burtch
Ebenezer Cavers
Hugh McLaren
Martin McLellan
Peter McMicking
J. Murray.
Wm. Musgrove
Robert Nelles
Thos. Otway Page
Benjamin Pawling
John Reilley
Daniel Servos
John Smith
Alex. Stuart
Peter/John Ten Broeck
Arch Thomson
Peter Thomson Silvester Tiffany
John Wilson
George Young
John Young
John Young
John Chisholm
John Decow
Wm. Dorman
G. Drake
Wm. Drake
John Hardy
John Harrold
Andrew Heron
John Hill, Jr.
Wm. Hodgkinson
John Jones
George Keefer
Burgoyne Kemp
John Kemp
Thomas Kerr
John McClellan
J. McFarland

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Appendix 3


Rule I.
To receive from every subscriber, three dollars and no more.

Rule II.
As soon as thirty dollars is'collected, to lay it out on books, none of which shall be irreligious or immoral.

Rule III.
Every member may, if he chooses, when he pays his subscription, make the choice of a book, which shall be procured for him with all convenient speed.

Rule IV.
As soon as a number of books can be procured (not less than fifty volumes), every subscriber shall be entitled to receive any book that remains in the library that he chooses, which he shall return in one month in good order.

Rule V.
No book shall be allowed to any of the subscribers unless they have first paid their subscription.

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Appendix 4


Book Number           Author & Title

1-3           Blair's Sermons
4-5           Walker's Sermons
6-8           Divine Oeconomy
9-10           Fordyce's Sermons to Young Women
11           Newton on the Prophecy
12           Smith's Prophecy
13           Watt on the Love of God
14           Watt on the Improvement of Mind
15           -----Memoirs
16           Holy War
17           Dyer's-----
18           Willison on the Sabbath
19           Boston's Character
20           Bachus on Regeneration
21           Anderson on Psalmody
22           Cloud of Witnesses
23           Scott's Essays
24          Wilberforce's View

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25           Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul
26           Watson's Apology for the Bible
27           Watson's Apology for Christianity
28           Religious Courtship
29           Owen on Trinity
30           Brown's Christian Journal
31           Burton's Feeling
32           Muirhead's Differentiation
33           Brown's Oracles
34-35           Robertson's History of South America
36           Robertson's History of North America
37           Stanton's Embassy to China
38-39           Residence in France
40-41           Morse's Geography
42           Bruce's Travels Abridged
43-44           Citizen of the World
45-46           Ossian's Poems
47           Campbell's Narrative
48-49           Croker on-----
50           Caroline of Lichfield
51           Blossoms of Morality
52           Pleasures of Hope

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55          Mental Improvement
56          Lady's Library
57          Cowper's Task
58-60          Marvellous Magazine
61           Bennetts Letters
62-65           History of Jacobinism
66-67          Repository
68-71           The Rambler
72           Letters on Courtship
73           Story Teller
74-77          History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V
78          Burke on the Revolution
79           Mcintosh on the Revolution
80           A Letter to Burke

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Appendix 5


to be observed in the circulation and use of the Books and Apparatus

belonging to the


1. The General Committee shall determine how long each volume, piece or set of apparatus, drawing, model or specimen, may continue in the possession of our members.

2. Each volume, piece of apparatus, drawing, model or specimen, shall be numbered and valued, and have the time for perusal or use written on, or otherwise attached to them.

3. A Register shall be kept in which the number of the volume, piece or set of apparatus, drawing, model or specimen taken out by any member, shall be entered by the Librarian, as well as the date when it was taken out, opposite to which entry the member taking out the same shall sign his name; and when returned, the Librarian shall enter the date and affix his initials to the entry.

4. A member may take out the same volume, piece or set of apparatus, drawing, model or specimen for a second period provided no previous application shall have been made for the same by any other member. Such application to be made to the Librarian in writing previous to the night of exchange.

5. Any member detaining a volume, piece of apparatus, drawing, model or specimen beyond the time appointed shall be fined the sum of twopence for the first night of exchange he has detained them and the fine shall be doubled on every succeeding night of exchange during which he detains them.

6. Any member damaging or soiling a volume or drawing, or breaking or losing a piece of apparatus, model or specimen, shall be charged with the value of the whole set to which it belongs - he having the option of paying the value and taking the set or of replacing the injured or missing article, provided that in the case of books the volumes so replaced shall be of the same edition, size and binding and that in the case of drawings, apparatus, models or specimens, the General Committee shall determine the sufficiency of the article returned.

7. The General Committee shall have the power of determining what books, apparatus, drawings, models or specimens are to be for reference only, and which are on no account to be removed from the library except for the purposes of a lecture before the Institute.

8. The Librarian shall prepare and keep complete an alphabetical Catalogue of the Books, apparatus, drawings, models and specimens for the use of the members. The

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Catalogue to contain the numbers and value attached to each article ancd book.

9. The nights and hours for exchanging shall be the Wednesday and Saturday of every week from seven to nine o'clock.

10. Any member wishing a particular work to be procured for the Library shall submit the title, value and publisher's name to the General Committee at any of its ordinary meetings; who shall determine on its purchase or reject it. In case of rejection they shall state the reasons to the member proposing it.

11. The names of members or other parties making a donation of books, apparatus, drawings, models or specimens to the Institute, shall be recorded in a Journal to be kept for that purpose by the Librarian.
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Niagara Public Library - A Brief History