Library celebrating bicentennial, Jan, 31, 2000
- Niagara Advance (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada), 31 Jan 2000
- Full Text
Library celebrating bicentennial
Even controversy over relocation fails to dampen spirits
By Blair Burgess
The grand old lady of Canadian libraries has turned 200, a milestone that will be marked by a year of celebration in historic Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The first event took place Saturday: a gala evening at the old courthouse building that drew dignitaries and politicians. Nearly 200 people, some dressed in period attire, paid $65 to attend, with proceeds going to library activities and programs
The festive event, which included cocktails, dinner, a silent fundraising auction and entertainment by a string quartet, even warranted a visit from legendary French Canadian author playwright Roch Carrier, who was named head of the National Library of Canada last October.
"We should all be celebrating the vision of the people of Niagara-on-the-Lake had at the time (they established the library)," Carrier said after posing for a photo with an old Eaton's catalogue Toronto Maple Leafs hockey jersey, the kind featured in his most famous story, The Hockey Sweater. "And we should be celebrating the commitment all our communities have 200 years later to making sure knowledge is available to their children, their people."
Carrier said one of his many missions as head of the National Library is to ensure that, like the people of Niagara-on-the-lake, every Canadian has the opportunity to "connect to the treasures of knowledge" housed in their local library.
Gerda Molson, Niagara-on-the-Lake's chief librarian for 30 years, couldn't agree more.
"I think the library in any community is one of the most important public institutions. It serves the entire community from birth to death," she said, noting that Niagara-on-the-Lake's library is reputed to be the oldest in Canada, the third oldest in North America. "It's where most citizens come to get their information and it acts as a community centre, a social meeting place."
It's a library, she said, that has grown with the community, an institution that has borne witness to the events that have shaped Niagara-on-the-Lake and the world beyond.
Molson said the library's founding declaration, printed on an elegant scroll along with the evening's menus and agenda, is a "stirring" commitment to the spread of knowledge - something the townspeople still believe in two centuries later.
"Sensible how much we are at a loss in this new and remote country for every kind of knowledge", the 200-year-old declaration reads, "and convinced that nothing would be of more use to diffuse knowledge amongst us and our offspring than a library..."
Housed in the basement of the old courthosue for more than a century, the library, which attracts researchers from all over the world, is slated to move to a new, larger building on Regional Road 55 on the outskirts of the old town in late November.
The move has raised the ire of conservationists, causing considerable debate at local council meetings and a barrage of media attention. It's a topic most partygoers wanted to avoid Saturday night. There were, however, a few people in attendance quietly expressing their opposition to the move.
Molson, who supports the relocation on the basis that the library's collection simply outgrew its home, said that once the move is complete, the old publicly owned site will likely house a community service agency and hall.
The new library will continue where the old one left off, said retired biologist Patrick Colgan, vice-chair of the library board. "It will house not only books, but electronic media as well," he said. "And it will maintain both the centrality and vitality of the old location."
A number of other events are scheduled throughout the library's bicentennial year, highlighted by a community wide celebration June 8, the actual anniversary of the declaration. It is hoped that officials from all levels of government will attend, including Governor General Adrienne Clarkson.
Robert Moorhead of Niagara-on-the-Lake, left, shows off his childhood Toronto Maple Leafs jersey to his literary hero, Roch Carrier. A similar Eaton's catalogue jersey was featured in Carrier's renowned story, The Hockey Sweater.
photo special to The Standard by Blair Burgess
St. Catharines - Niagara
Library marks 200 years of spreading the words
Appropriately enough, about 200 people turned out to celebrate the bicentennial of the Niagara-on-the-Lake library on the weekend.
Please see story page A5
Monday, January 31, 2000
- Blair Burgess
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- A photocopy of the newspaper article describing the Bicentennial Gala Dinner and other events scheduled for the NOTL Public Library's bicentennial year, including the change of location.
- Date of Publication:
- 31 Jan 2000
- Date Of Event:
- 29 Jan 2000
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- Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
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