The First London Public Library

The Ontario Legislature passed the Free Libraries Act in 1882, providing for the establishment of libraries financed through public taxes. In 1884, London attempted to establish its first public library. On municipal election day a free library by-law was passed, and a Board of Management established. The Board negotiated with the trustees of the Mechanics’ Institute for the transferral of assets according to the Act. The deal fell apart when the City refused to accept the Institute’s liabilities.

In 1888, the London Trades and Labour Council petitioned the City Council to implement the 1884 by-law. A new Library Board was appointed, but when Council realized the cost of converting the Mechanics’ Institute into a public library it referred the question to a public vote. On June 11, 1888, the citizens of London repealed the 1884 by-law.

Concerned that London lagged behind other Ontario communities which had already established public library service, City Council granted funds to the Mechanics’ Institute on condition that they provide free public access to their library and reading room until Christmas 1892. In November a petition signed by 100 ratepayers as required by the Act was presented to City Council. On January 2, 1893, the people of London voted for the third time on a library by-law. The vote was favourable, and a Library Board was re-established. In April 1894, City Council issued debentures for $20,000 to erect a library.

On November 26, 1895, a fine new red brick library building at Queens and Wellington was opened, with Robert J. Blackwell as the first librarian. 17

This site presently houses One London Place.

The First London Public Library
South-west corner of Queens Avenue and Wellington Street
London, ON
42° 59' 8.3616" N, 81° 14' 47.49" W