Brantford Public Library celebrates 135 years

The Brantford Public Library has been at its current location on dowtntown Colborne Street since 1992. Brian Thompson / Expositor file photo

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The Brantford Public Library is celebrating it’s 135th anniversary in 2019.

On Jan. 7, 1884, citizens of Brantford voted in favour of adopting what was called the Free Libraries Act. This put in motion the creation of the Brantford Free Library, which officially opened May 1, 1884.

The creation of the free library was a major milestone for Brantford.

As far back as 1835, something called the Mechanics’ Institute operated a fee-based library, which only had a few books in its collection, frequently moved locations and was always in danger of closing because of a lack of resources.

A Brantford Expositor article noted the institute raised funds by offering boat cruises on the Grand River. One creative, if not risky, way to extend their profit margins was to use water from the Grand to water down alcoholic drinks.

When the free library opened, the institute supplied it with 1,600 volumes of books.

The popularity of the free library was instant.

And, within a few years, it was determined a large dedicated space was needed.

A letter was written to steel industry tycoon Andrew Carnegie, who agreed to provide $30,000 to build a library, provided certain conditions were met.

On July 4, 1904, a beautiful new library – what became known as the Carnegie Library – was opened on George Street in downtown Brantford. By 1910, a juvenile department was created with dedicated space and Carnegie pledged another $13,000 toward the expansion of the George Street building.

To serve the needs of a growing city, a second branch on St. Paul Avenue was opened in 1975.

Soon after, it was determined the Carnegie Library, had limitations, including a lack of space.

In 1989, the city bought the former Woolco store on downtown Colborne Street and a major renovation project was undertaken to create what Brantford now knows as the library’s main branch.

A number of major changes have occurred since moving into the main branch in 1992.

Information is just a click away with the widespread adoption of the internet. These changes in technology have created new needs, including opportunities for digital literacy.

The library also offers many digital resources, including free access to Ancestry.com, LinkedIn’s online learning platform Lynda.com and an eBook/Audiobook collection with more than 60,000 titles.

At Your Library is a weekly column provided by the staff of the Brantford Public Library. Readers requiring more information can call the library at 519-756-2220 or visit www.brantford.library.on.ca.

Brantford Expositor 2019 ©

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