Link to Accessible Catalogue

London Public Library History

1835 The third Mechanics' Institute, forerunner of today's public library, in Upper Canada is established in London, the first two being in York (now Toronto) in 1831 and Kingston in 1834. A self-improvement centre for "the working class", the Institute offers concerts, exhibitions, lectures and a lending library.

December 8, 1840 The Mechanics' Institute is revived in London.

January 5, 1841 The London Mechanics' Institute is re-organized with the adoption of a constitution and the election of officers. Marcus Holmes is elected the first president.

June 21, 1841 Peter Tissiman, recording secretary for the London Mechanics' Institute, is paid two pounds and ten shillings as librarian.

December 1842 A new building for the London Mechanics' Institute and Museum is completed on the original courthouse square, near the present-day corner of Dundas and Ridout streets.

January 8, 1849 The London Mechanics' Institute receives its first government grant of fifty pounds.

July 15, 1852 The London Mechanics' Institute is incorporated.

November 12, 1855 The Mechanics' Institute moves to Talbot Street at the western end of Queens Avenue.

November 1, 1861 The London Mechanics' Institute goes bankrupt.

May 9, 1870 Having been inactive during the 1860s, the London Mechanics' Institute is reorganized.

October 23, 1872 Marcus Holmes, first president of the reorganized London Mechanics' Institute, dies at 183 King Street at the age of 67.

July 18, 1876 Sgt.-Maj. James Gray is appointed the librarian for the London Mechanics' Institute.

November 2, 1876 The cornerstone for a new Mechanics' Institute building is laid on the south side of Dundas Street east of Clarence Street.

September 21, 1877 The new Mechanics' Institute building costing $24,000 is formally opened at 229-231 Dundas Street. This is the final location for the institute. The building still stands today (2020).

February 28, 1882 The Ontario Legislature passes the Free Libraries Act, enabling municipalities to establish public libraries supported by taxes.

January 7, 1884 The first attempt to establish a public library in London occurs when London City Council passes a free library by-law and a free library board of management is set up but a public library is not established.

July 8, 1885 Miss Mary Gray, eldest daughter of the last librarian of the Mechanics' Institute, Sgt.-Maj. James Gray, is appointed an assistant to her father.

June 11, 1888 London City Council puts the matter of establishing a public library to a public vote and the 1884 bylaw is repealed and the library board dissolved.

July 22, 1888 The former Mechanics' Institute building (1842) is heavily damaged by fire.

January 2, 1893 Londoners vote a third time on a free library bylaw and the results were in favour of a free library so a Free Library Board is re-established.

February 21, 1893 The inaugural meeting of the Free Library Board is held and Henry Macklin is elected as its first chair.

June 18, 1894 Mr. Henry Macklin, chairman of the new public library board, signs a deed to a lot on the southwest corner of Queens Avenue and Wellington Street, the future site of the new public library.

July 3, 1894 Sgt.-Maj. James Gray, the last librarian of the London Mechanics' Institute, dies.

February 11, 1895 Robert Reid is elected chairman of the Free Library Board.

April 2, 1895 Robert James Blackwell, a former bookseller, is elected from more than 80 applicants as the first librarian for the London Public Library with an annual salary of $750 .

May 3, 1895 The Mechanics' Institute building at 231 Dundas Street is sold at Keenleyside's Auction Rooms to William Gorman for $19, 400.

May 3, 1895 The first meeting of the London Public Library Board is held with Robert Reid as its first chair.

May 6, 1895 The last meeting of the London Mechanics' Institute takes place. Minutes of the institute from 1841 to 1861 and 1879 to 1895 are located in the London Room at the Central Library.

July 1895 Miss Mary Gray became the first library assistant for the public library, earning $300 a year.

July 27, 1895 The reading rooms of the London Mechanics' Institute are permanently closed.

October 15, 1895 Miss Katharine McLaughlin is hired as the second library assistant in the reference department of the public library.

November 26, 1895 The first London Public Library is opened by the Hon. George W. Ross, Minister of Education. The new building costs $14, 818 including furnishings and took over the book collection of the Mechanics' Institute, some of which are housed in the London Room.

April 11, 1896 Frederic Martlett Bell-Smith donated the first painting, A Breaking Wave, an oil on canvas, ca 1892-1894, to London Public Library's permanent art collection.

card catalgoue 1903

Printed catalogues. Patrons would look at lists of books, write the number of the book they wanted on a piece of paper and hand it to a librarian at the desk. The librarian would then find the book in the closed-to-the-public stacks and bring it back to check out for the patron.


June 1, 1897 Mr. Blackwell, issued in book form, the library’s first published catalogue (taken from the card catalogue) using the new Dewey decimal classification system. Copies of this catalogue are in the archives at the London Room.

January 23, 1900 Robert Reid, the first chairman of the London Public library, dies at 422 King Street at the age of 78.

November 19, 1901 Dr. Clarence T. Campbell presides over the first monthly meeting of the London and Middlesex Historical Society held in the London Public Library.

December 1902 So quickly did the library’s services grow that an addition is built at the rear of the building.

March 19, 1906 Robert J. Blackwelll, the first librarian at the London Public library, dies of cancer at 62 Stanley Street at the age of 51

May 11, 1906 Joseph Henry Wilberforce McRoberts, a high school teacher, is appointed as the second librarian with an annual salary of $1000.

June 7, 1906 Joseph H.W. McRoberts begins his duties as librarian.

December 6, 1906 Joseph H.W. McRoberts resigns as librarian, effective January 1, 1907 to return to teaching.

December 14, 1906 William Oliver Carson becomes London's third librarian.

1908 Public access to the bookshelves is introduced

March 5, 1908 The Finance Committee is instructed by the London Public Library Board to consider the advisability of opening a branch of the library in East London.

1909 The circulation of books exceeds 100,000 for the first time.

October 6, 1910 The London Public Library Board is asked to consider the advisability of introducting a dictionary catalogue into the library.

November 1, 1910 The Reference Room opens and modern reference service begins.

December 1, 1910 The Library Committee of the London Public Library Board recommends that 50,000 cards, a card catalogue cabinet with sections for 50,000 cards and a typewriter be purchased for $310.

February 28, 1911 Miss Mary Gray, the first library assistant for the public library, dies at St. Joseph's Hospital of acute appendicitis at the age of 58.

May 10, 1912 The Glanworth Library Association is formed by Eunice Mary (Meadows) Dawson and Mrs. Robert Fisher.

July 28, 1912 Glanworth Public Library is established with Eunice Dawson as the first librarian.

Summer 1913 The Children’s Room opens in the west end of the ground floor of the Central Library, formerly used as a ladies’ reading room.

November 18, 1913 Rev. Dr. James Ross, a member of the London Public Library Board, is struck and killed by an automobile while in New York seeking an Andrew Carnegie library grant of $125,000 for building and furnishing a new central library. The library never receives a Carnegie grant.

August 1, 1915 Miss Marjorie Flanders is appointed as the first children’s librarian.

December 11, 1915 The first story hour for children is started.

December 23, 1915 London’s first branch library, East End (presently Carson) Branch, opens in a store in London East’s former town hall at the southwest corner of Dundas and Rectory Streets (now the Aeolian Hall, 797 Dundas Street).

black and whilte photograph of interior of the libarry showing bookshelves on one side with books and 2 long wooden tables with wood chairs in middle of room
Inside of reference room, 1916.


April 6, 1916 William O. Carson resigns as chief librarian of the London Public Library to become the inspector of public libraries in Ontario.

May 1, 1916 Fred Landon becomes London's fourth chief librarian.

November 29, 1917 The former Mechanics' Institute building (1842) is demolished.

October 16 to November 11, 1918 London’s public libraries are closed due to the flu epidemic.

December 28, 1918 London’s second branch library, South (presently Landon) Branch opens at 14 Askin Street.

black and white photo of women's back facing shelf piled high with books and newspapers
Basement workroom in the Library circa 1920. Note with the photograph states, "The only workroom in the library is in the cellar. It houses over 5000 volumes of reference material, stacked two deep, besides the school dept. with 6000 books, the branches dept, the accessioning and reception depts with the book repair and bindery depts. Any one of these departments should have a separate room for efficiency."


November 3, 1921 The London Public Library secured a one-year lease of premises in the Bourne Block at 435 Hamilton Road for London's third branch library, Southeast (presently Crouch) Branch.

1922 London’s third branch library, Southeast (presently Crouch) Branch moves to the basement of the Trafalgar Public School.

January 17, 1922 The Board of Education grants the use of a room in the new Victoria Public School to the London Public Library Board for its South (presently Landon) Branch Library. .

1923 The Glanworth Library, built with community funds, opens.

November 24, 1923 Before leaving for the United States, Guy Lombardo plays his last London performance at 305 Queens Avenue, site of the Winter Gardens which was a Hudson-Essex car dealership by day and a dance hall at night.

1924 The South (presently Landon) Branch Library moves to its present location at 167 Wortley Road.

1924 The Lambeth Library Association is formed.

April 1925 The Southeast (presently Crouch) Branch Library settles in a house at 550 Hamilton Road (at the northwest corner of Sackville Street)

1926 The East (presently Carson) Branch Library moves into the former Quebec Street School at the southwest corner of Dufferin Avenue and Quebec Street.

1930 The circulation of books exceeds 500,000 for the first time.

1931 The Lambeth Library opens on Talbot Road.

1932 Two of the three branch libraries are closed due to decreased funds during the Great Depression.

1933 London’s three branch libraries were closed due to the Great Depression.

1934 London’s branch libraries re-opened after more funds were granted by City Council.

1934 Elsie Perrin Williams, the only child of Daniel S. Perrin of the Perrin Biscuit Company, dies, leaving a large bequest to the city, a portion of which was used to build the new Central Library.

1934 Branch libraries are reopened when more funds are granted to the London Public Library Board by the Council Council.

1935 The Byron Memorial Library is founded by the Women’s Institute.

November 17, 1939 The cornerstone for the new central library at 305 Queens Avenue is laid by Mayor Allan J. Johnston.

September 20, 1940 The Central Library at the southwest corner of Queens Avenue and Wellington Street, closes.

October 4, 1940 The Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial Building housing the art gallery, central library and historical museum, is opened by the Hon. Duncan McArthur, Minister of Education at 305 Queens Avenue on the site of the former Princess Rink and Winter Gardens. It had room for 48,000 volumes, a second-floor art gallery, and an auditorium and children;s library in the basement.

December 7, 1940 The Active Service Club, a recreational centre for soldiers, opens its doors in the former Central Library building which was bought by the YMCA after the Second World War ended.

Female librarian handing male patron a metal film canister in black and white photo circ 1945 sign says film department
The Film Department at the Central Library circa 1945


1942 The library begins lending 16mm films.

1942 The London Public Library is the first library in Canada to circulate sound recordings.

1942 The lending library of art is established. Museum London continues to offer an art rental service.

March 31, 1942 The world premier showing of Canada's first feature-length film in colour, Here Will I Nest, is held in the auditorium of the Central Library.

Black and white photograph of a class of children learning how to use the card catalogue
School children learning to use the card catalogue in 1945


March 1946 Miss Katharine McLaughlin, the second library assistant for the public library, retires after 50 years of service.

1947 The Argyle Community (formerly Eastwood, presently East London) Library is established.

1948 The Broughdale Library opens.

September 17, 1950 Miss Katharine McLaughlin, the second library assistant for the public library, dies.

November 21, 1950 London is the first city in Ontario to establish a bookmobile service which provided library service to areas of the community not servies by library branches.

1952 The beginning of the library’s extensive microfilm collection begins with the acquisition of microfilm copies of the Globe and Mail and the London Free Press.

1952 Three new galleries are added to the second floor of the Central Library.

1954 Marion Currie became the first woman to sit on the London Public Library Board.

February 1954 The old Central Library building at Queens Avenue and Wellington Street is demolished to make way for an addition to the YM-YWCA.

1955 A mobile library is purchased.

September 8, 1955 A new building is opened for the South Branch Library and it is renamed the Fred Landon Branch Library.

December 7, 1956 Canada's first Art Mart, sponsored by the Western Art League, is held at he London Public Art Gallery at 305 Queens Avenue.

1957 Marion Currie became the first woman to chair the London Public Library Board.

April 10, 1958 A new building is opened for the Southeast Branch Library and it is renamed the Richard E.Crouch Branch Library.

1960 Eldon House, the former Harris family residence built in 1834 and London’s oldest surviving private residence, is given to the City of London by the Harris family.

1961 The circulation of books exceeds 1,000,000 for the first time.

1961 A second mobile library is purchased.

2 children, 1 adult and 1 librarian inside library bus. books are on shelves around the perimeter.
Inside of the bookmobile, 1960's


January 1, 1961 With annexation, the library acquires its fourth, fifth and sixth branch libraries - Argyle, Broughdale and Byron - and eight bookmobile stops formerly operated by the Middlesex County Library Co-operative. The Argyle (presently East London) Branch is moved to quarters in the Argyle Mall.

September 1961 The East Branch Library is renamed the W.O. Carson Branch Library.

1962 Community Relations Department is established to develop and coordinate the library's relationships in the community.

1963 The Glanworth Library joins the new Middlesex County Library system.

January 1, 1963 The London Public Library Board becomes responsible for two historical museums - Eldon House and Victoria House Museum.

June 1963 The seventh branch library, Westown (presently Cherryhill) Branch, opens in the Westown Plaza Mall.

1965 The Victoria House Museum closes.

1967 The eighth branch library, Northland (presently Beacock) Branch, opens in the Northland Mall at 1275 Highbury Avenue.

1967 The former Victoria House Museum is demolished to make room for Centennial Hall.


black and white photograph of a group of children sitting on the floor facing a standing woman in a dress, Eleanor Donnelly, in front of a fireplace
Storytime in the 1960's. Eleanor Donnelly was a children's librarian who also appeared on the CFPL "Sunshine School" weekly TV show reading stories to children. She was awarded the W.J. Robertson Medallion in 1980 presented by the Ontario Library Boards' Association to a public librarian who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the advancement of public library service in Ontario.


July 31, 1967 The London Room, a research facility for local history, opens.

April 26, 1968 The new million-dollar addition to the Central Library was formally opened by Ontario Premier John P. Robarts, providing a new children’s wing, more book space and more gallery space and increasing overall floor space from 39,600 square feet to 97,480 square feet.

May 9, 1969 The Centennial Museum, built and donated by the London and District Construction Association, is opened. It has a floor plan in the shape of a maple leaf.

June 6 -19, 1970 The first walkout by professional librarians in Canada and only the second in North America takes place as the staff at the London Public Library goes on strike. It is also the first work stoppage ever staged by public employees in London.

July 1970 The Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre is created.

December 3, 1971 The Historic Sites Committee of the London Public Library Board erects its tenth plaque to commemorate London's first public library at the southwest corner of Queens Avenue and Wellington Street. This plaque is now in the London Room.

1972 The ninth branch library, Northridge Branch, is opened at 1444 Glenora Drive as an extension of the Northland (presently Beacock) Branch Library.

January 1972 The Shut-In Library (formerly home Library, presently Visiting Library) service begins.

April 7, 1972 The Byron Memorial Branch Library opens in a new enlarged building at 1295 Commissioners Road West.

July 26, 1972 The Historic Sites Committee of the London Public Library Board unveils its twelfth plaque on the third and last building of the London Mechanics' Institute at 231 Dundas Street.

1973 Marion currie's terms of office as the first woman on the London Public Library Board ends.

1977 A new building for the W.O. Carson Branch Library is erected on the site of the former building.

1978 The tenth branch library, Westminster (presently Pond Mills) Branch, opens.

1980 The eleventh branch library, White Oaks (presently Jalna) Branch opens.

1980 The art gallery separates from the library and moves to its new facilities at the Forks of the Thames, the London Regional Art Gallery.

1980 Grosvenor Lodge opens as a historical museum at 1017 Western Road.

June 1980 The twelfth branch library, Westmount Branch, opens in quarters adjoining the Village Green Baptist Church at 507 Village Green Avenue.

1981 The GEAC automated circulation system is completed.

1981 Major renovations were made to the Central Library when the art gallery's former space of 12,940 square feet was renovated and a new staircase provided easier access to the newly expanded second floor. The London Room moved to the second floor.

November 13, 1981 The Historic Sites Committee of the London Public Library Board unveils a plaque to honour the library's longest serving chief executive, Richard Edwin Crouch.

March 14, 1982 The Northland (presently Beacock) Branch Library moves to a new building at 1280 Huron Street.

1985 The Northland Branch Library is renamed the E.S. Beacock Branch Library.

1985 The COM (computer output microfiche) catalogue replaces the card catalogue.

May 7, 1985 The thirteenth branch library, Sherwood Forest Branch, opens in the Sherwood Forest Mall at 1225 Wonderland Road North.

1986 The Library stops lending 16 mm films.

1986 The circulation of books exceeds 2,000,000 for the first time.

June 25, 1986 The Argyle (presently East London) Branch Library relocates from the Argyle Mall to the Eastwood Plaza and is renamed the Eastwood Centre Branch Library.

December 1986 The Centennial Museum closes.

1987 The lending of video cassettes which replaced the 16mm films begins

January 1987 The London Public Library Board and the London Regional Art Gallery Board enter into a two-year trial period of cooperatively managing museum services.

July 1, 1987 The Children’s Library rejoins the Central Library after almost twelve years in Branch services.

1988 The lending of compact discs begins.

January 1, 1989 The library’s museum division separates from the library board and merges with the London Regional Art Gallery to become the London Regional Art and Historical Museums.

Large white truck that has London Public Library Book mobile painted on the side with orange silhouettes of chidlren reading and playing
The last London Public Library Bookmobile, 1989.


November 30, 1989 The bookmobile service ends as the number of branch locations has increased.

December 14, 1989 Westminster Branch Library closes permanently.

December 30, 1989 White Oaks Branch Library closes permanently.

1990 Westown (presently Cherryhill) Branch Library becomes the first full service branch with six full-time staff.

March 1990 The Pond Mills Branch Library opens at 1166 Commissioners Road East in the Pond Mills Plaza Mall to replace the Westminster Branch Library.

April 1990 The Jalna Branch Library opens at 1119 Jalna Boulevard to replace the White Oaks Branch Library.

1991 A new building is erected for the Lambeth Library.

1992 Friends of the London Public Library is founded.

1993 Access, the library’s publication of library events and news, begins distribution through the London Free Press and circulation increases from 8,000 to 86,000.

January 1, 1993 With annexation, the Library acquires its fourteenth and fifteenth branch libraries - Glanworth and Lambeth.

1994 Telefact, a telephone reference service, begins.

September 1994 The GEAC Advance online public access catalogue replaces the CD-ROM public service catalogue.

September 1995 The Broughdale Branch Library closes.

October 14, 1995 The sixteenth branch, Masonville Branch Library, opens at 30 North Centre Road.

December 18, 1995 Marion Currie, the first woman to chair the London Public Library Board, dies.

September 16, 1998 The Employment Resource Centre opens at the Beacock Branch Library.

February 8, 2000 It is announced that the Central Library would be relocating to the former Hudson’s Bay Department Store at 251 Dundas Street - in effect returning to its roots with the former Mechanics Institute building still standing next door at 231 Dundas Street.

February 5, 2001 The exterior facade, foyer and central hall of the former Central Library at 205 Queens Avenue is designated a heritage building by the City of London.

September 7, 2001 Hilary Bates Neary, president of the Friends of London Public Library accepts the Friends of the Year Award.

October 16, 2001 The former Westown Branch is expanded and relocates within the Cherryhill Village Mall. It reopens as the Cherryhill Branch

February 2002 The former Crouch Branch building at 550 Hamilton Road is demolished and service is resumed at 220 Adelaide Street North dutring the construction of the new Crouch Branch building.

February 18, 2002 Beryl and Richard Ivey announce a $300,000 gift for the London Room, the largest donation by a single donor in the library's history.

August 9, 2002 The deed and keys to 305 Queens Avenue are officially turned over to the City of London.

August 10, 2002 This is the last day of library service at 305 Queens Avenue.

August 25, 2002 The new Central Library opens at 251 Dundas Street.

September 21, 2002 The new Westmount Branch Library opens at 3200 Wonderland Road South.

February 1, 2003 Dr. Keith Crouch unveils a plaque honouring his father, Richard Crouch, at the opening of the new Crouch Branch Library.

June 5, 2003 A 20-week long project officially begins for the construction of the Rotary Reading Garden on a former parking lot just east of the new Central Library.

August 14, 2003 A total power outage affecting the Eastern Seaboard including London occurs.

November 29, 2003 The Rotary Reading Garden officially opens.

March 12, 2005 The Sherwood Forest Branch officially opens in a new location within Sherwood Forest Mall with a distinct children's area, computer commons, additional meeting rooms and an expanded popular reading area. The library shares the facility with the Northwest London Community Resource Centre.

April 13, 2005 Anne Becker becomes the tenth chief executive of the London Public Library and the first woman to occupy the position.

June 11, 2005 A renovated Beacock Branch with an enlarged children's area, renovated meeting rooms and newly built reading room, opens.

July 1, 2005 The renovated Jalna Branch opens, sharing a common entrance with the South London Community Centre.

July 8, 2005 A refurbished Byron Branch officially reopens, now fully accessible with a new elevator.

August 29, 2005 The former Centennial Museum building is demolished.

September 17, 2005 The completely renovated Landon Branch opens with enlarged children's and collections areas, a new community meeting room, the addition of an elevator and new exterior entrance ways, ramp, sidewalk and stairs.

September 24, 2005 The new East London Branch Library opens in the former White Rose building at 2016 Dundas Street to replace the former Eastwood Branch Library.The library shares the facility with the East London Community Centre and a daycare and fitness centre operasted vby the London Y.

October 5, 2005 Betsy Reilly and Father William B. "Bill" Thompson become London's first inductees into the Teachers' Wall if Fame at the new Central Library.

July 6, 2007 The Library starts providing access to downloadable eBooks and eAudiobooks.

2007 The library stops ordering VHS tapes.

May 30, 2008 Anne Becker ends her term of office as the first woman CEO of the London Public Library.

June 2, 2008 Susanna Hubbard Krimmer becomes the eleventh chief executive of the London Public Library and the second woman to occupy the position.

June 13, 2008 The Libro Road Show debuts with Community Outreach and Program Services staff driving the vehicle for the first time without the help of Facility Services.

January 2009 The Library Settlement Project is started at four locations: Beacock, Central, Jalna and Sherwood. The project is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada in partnerships with the Centre for Lifelong Learning, the London Cross Cultural Centre, LUSO Community Services and the South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre,

February 6, 2010 The newly renovated Carson Branch reopens with a ergonomically designed book chute; new carpets, circulation desk, flooring, furniture and paint; redesigned shelving units and a revamped meeting room.

January 15, 2011 London's seventeenth branch, the Stoney Creek Branch, is officially opened.

January 29, 2011 An open house is held at the Lambeth Branch Library to celebrate recent renovations.

June 23, 2012 Employment Resource Centres close at Beacock, Pond Mills and Westmount branches.

July 7, 2012 Employment Resource Centres close at Central, Crouch and Jalna branches.