A History of the Carleton Place Public Library
In honour of Janet Baril’s Retirement, Head Librarian 1984-2013
Starting in 1829, the Ramsay and Lanark Circulation Library originally served the townspeople of Carleton Place. It had over 500 volumes, and was located in the Anglican Church which stood at Lot 16, 1st Con. Ramsay, opposite the Union Hall and schoolhouse.
Our present library began on March 14, 1846, as a Subscription Library with 65 original members. The entry fee was 2 shillings and the yearly fee was 5 shillings. The subscription list continued until 1850. By 1851, the Carleton Place library was operating out of the school house on Bridge Street, later Central School, which became the site of the post office. Some pages are missing until a partial list appears in 1864 when the record ends.
The officers and directors of the Carleton Place Library and Mechanics’ Institute for 1851 were:
President: James Duncan (blacksmith); Vice President: William Peden (merchant); Treasurer: Robert Bell, M.P.P. ; Secretary: David Lawson (store clerk, postmaster) ; Librarian: Johnston Neilson (schoolmaster) ; Directors: George Dunnet (merchant), Duncan McGregor, James C. Poole (newspaper publisher), Thomas Patterson (Ramsay farmer), John McCarton (Ramsay farmer).
April 5, 1865: “The Carleton Place Library will be open on Monday next, and on the first Monday of every month hereafter. Person wishing to read can on payment of .25 cent per quarter of a year.”
Interest in the library seemed to have dwindled until 1883 with the formation of the Carleton Place Mechanics Institute. The object of this Association was to: “establish a reading room and library, procure suitable apartments (sic) and deliver courses or lectures on useful and interesting subjects, as well as supply its members with the means of instruction in Arts, Sciences, Literature and General knowledge.” They housed the library wherever there was an empty building, or an individual would take it to their home. The Mechanics Institute looked after the library until 1895, when legislation was passed in Ontario whereby the Mechanics Institute became the Public Library, free of subscription dues. The Town by-law taking over the Library was not passed in its’ complete form until January, 1897. Upon completion of the Town Hall in that year, the Public Library began its’ long stay there. At this time the book collection was 2,458 volumes, and the number of books taken out during the year was 4,418.
In 1897, the Art Loan Exhibit, an exhibit of Lanark and Renfrew’s social and natural history was put together by the library at the Opera Hall in the new Town Hall.
Information from 1956 shows that “At present there are about 1,000 borrowers, approximately 8,000 volumes to choose from, and a yearly and growing circulation of over 20,000…on the library tables there is an excellent range of daily papers as well as periodicals of Canadian, English and U.S. origin, which can be read in the quiet and well-lighted main room…the library is housed in the town hall main floor, a central and convenient place for its users…”
In 1966 the Eastern Ontario Regional Library System was set up. This allowed for a pooling of book resources and interests of all Public Libraries in the ten counties of Eastern Ontario.
In 1970 the new library was built on land donated by the Town and funded by private individuals. It measured 3200 sq. ft., four times the size of the Town Hall library. Once again, in 1979, the Library needed more space and was expanded to double its’ size.
Then in September, 1986, the Library was vandalized and set on fire, destroying the adult fiction collection and causing water and smoke damage to the rest of the collection. The library was moved to temporary quarters in the Mews Professional Building on Lansdowne Avenue, until the library was rebuilt and the fire damage cleaned up. The Library returned to its’ home in February, 1987, with an official opening on May 23, 1987.
In 1994, the Library held 35,569 volumes and 93,040 volumes circulated during the year. Also, 910 volumes were loaned to other libraries in Ontario and 966 volumes were borrowed from them.
Computerization came to the library in 1992 in the form of an automated system. No more card catalogues, or hand-written patron library cards. The future had arrived!
As a millennium project, the library underwent a massive renovation starting in
June 1999, and ending in February 2000. At that time, the large Barbara Walsh meeting room on the east side of the building was turned into a much needed larger children’s area, with a new and smaller Barbara Walsh room added to the front of the building. Glass fronted offices were added close to the new circulation desk, along with public internet access terminals and storage areas. A local history/microfilm room was located near the Beckwith Street side of the building.
In December 2010, the library began to provide access to e-books through Southern Ontario Library Service, for all Carleton Place and area patrons. Ancestry Library Edition also became available early in 2011 for local family history buffs.
Statistics from 2011 show the Library holding approximately 63,000 items, with 108,280 circulating throughout the year. As well, patrons borrowed approximately 2,440 e-books, and Ancestry Library Edition saw approximately 11,691 research hits. Also, 1,273 volumes were loaned to other libraries in Ontario and 1,245 volumes were borrowed from them.
David Lawson 1846-1851
Johnston Neilson 1851-1887
Peter McRostie 1887-1909
Emma McRostie 1909-1941
Louise Elliott 1941-1960
Barbara Walsh 1960-1984
Janet Baril 1984-2013