History of the Library
A library was established within the Village of Beaverton as early as 1853; it was located in the court house on the north side of Simcoe Street where the existing post office and bank are situated. This reading room was later renamed to the Mechanics Institute in 1890. The public requested Council’s consideration for a new library in 1897 and the issue was raised in the editorial pages of the Beaverton Express.
The Carnegie Foundation of New York established a grant program for Ontario communities in 1901 which ran until 1917. An application for a grant to build a new library in Beaverton was made by the secretary of the library board, Mr. J.F. Givens. The Beaverton Library board received a grant in the amount $7000.00 on August 28, 1910. A further request for $1000 was denied by the Secretary of the Carnegie Foundation. The terms of grant required that the village council provide a suitable site for the library and that tax funds be used to maintain it on an annual basis.
An architect, Mr. W.E. Binning, was retained by the library board based on his earlier designs for a library in Mitchell, Ontario – complete with a tower! Construction of the library commenced in 1911; the general contractor was Mr. James Snelgrove and the masonry work was completed by a Mr. Halward of Cannington. The library was officially opened to the public at 3:00 p.m. on December 5, 1913.
This library is one of the very few Carnegie libraries (111 in Ontario) which continues to be used for this purpose and has been designated as being of architectural and historical interest under the Ontario Heritage Act, R.S.O. 1990.
The Peg Baillie Wing was added to the original Carnegie building in 2002. Built through the fundraising efforts of the community, led by the Beaverton Lions Club and generously supported by the Baillie Family, the addition encompasses a lift, is wheelchair accessible and doubles the collection and programming space. Maintained by the Township of Brock, the Beaverton Branch Library is a well-used community hub.
For a total cost of $7000 the Cannington Town Hall was constructed in 1887 on a lot that was purchased from Mr. James Johnston. The new building contained the Council chambers, municipal offices, fire hall, police office and jail, and until 1971, the town’s library (known as the Mechanics’ Institute). The second floor housed an auditorium which was used by the community for plays, musicals, and events. In 1897, a Thanksgiving Service was hosted in the Town Hall to honor Queen Victoria. Later, services were also held there to celebrate the Armistice on November 11, 1918. The first moving-picture show held in Cannington was presented in the hall’s auditorium in 1902 by the Sunday School of the Methodist Church.
Records from the Mechanics’ Institute on December 31, 1927 indicate that it housed approximately 275 books, including general works, religion, and natural science. In order to raise funds for the Institute, debates and lectures were hosted there and attended by members. During the Second World War, the hours of the library had to be cut because of fuel constraints but membership continued to rise from 89 patrons to approximately 300 patrons from 1940 to 1970. To accommodate for the growth of the library, in February of 1971, the police office took over the former library quarters while the library itself was relocated to Anne Street.
Following the amalgamation of Cannington into the Township of Brock in 1974, the Town Hall continued to be used for municipal purposes. Regular meetings of Council and committees were held there until the opening of the new central municipal administration building in 1996. Since then, the building’s main floor was used by the Board of Education and the Cannington & Area Historical Society.
Renovations to the Old Town Hall were conducted in 1993 to meet with fire code standards. New ceilings and extra lights were added and panelling and drywall were removed. In April 2011, the Cannington Library was moved back to Laidlaw Street in the Old Town Hall, where it was dedicated in honor of the acclaimed Canadian novelist and playwright, Timothy Findley. The Grand Opening of the Timothy Findley Memorial Branch was held on October 15, 2011.
The Sunderland Public Library was originally called The Brock Township Public Library. It was located in what was then a small room on the second floor (northwest corner) of the McDermott block on the main street (this building was gutted by a disastrous fire in 1949).
It was Frank Doble, at the turn of the century, who thought Sunderland needed a Library. With the help of his daughters, Margaret and Florence (acting as the Librarians) he collected a number of books and placed them on the shelves that bordered the room. As the demand for more reading material grew, it became obvious that they needed more room, so they moved down the hall to a larger room. This was the location of the library until 1923, when it was moved to a room on the east side of the Township hall. It was located on the main floor of the buildings so the patrons were no longer required to climb steep flights of stairs as they had in the previous building.
The Library was open twice a week- on Tuesday and Saturday (afternoon and evening). Saturday night was the busiest time due to the people from the country driving into town to do their weekly shopping, etc. In order to assist in covering the expenses for new books, etc. The patrons were charged user fees- five cents per book or fifty cents for a one year subscription and of course there were still fines for overdue books.
Two of the first head librarians were Mona St. John and Bessie Oliver. In the late 50’s Pearl Miller volunteered her time. The next librarian was Jean Christie who was helped out by Enid Martin and other board members.
The library was officially opened on June 11, 1972 at the 14 Church Street location. The opening marked the beginning of a new era for the library in Sunderland. The Governor-General Roland Michener did the honors and drove a sliver spike in place and unveiled a commemorative plaque located at one corner of the building. Margaret Doble was the Chairperson of the Brock Township Library Board and addressed the public at the opening as well. Margaret held the position of librarian form 1975 to 1991. She was also appointed the Secretary-Treasurer of the Brock Library Board.
In 2002, the Sunderland Branch of Brock Township Public Libraries relocated to 41 Albert Street South within the Sunderland Public School. This branch is an icon of what can be accomplished with a progressive, community spirit. This is evident still today with the local groups, such as the Lions Club, the Maple Syrup Festival and the Friends of Sunderland Branch working together to keep improving the library.