Friday 10 June 2011

Ontario Library History

Uxbridge Public Library - late 1900s
Beyond the books and bookplates of private libraries, are those ex libris associated with public libraries.  Now, some collectors won’t bother with the bookplates of public libraries as they consider them not to be “true” ex libris; Canadian bookplates especially tend to be functional rather than artistic.  Usually they're just labels, or worse, lists detailing lending rules instead of displaying interesting scenes, and in many cases they lack the pictorial attractiveness and detail often observed in British and American public library bookplates.  Regardless, personally I like our public library bookplates.  Not only are they very collectible in my opinion, they also provide a tangible material artifact from which more can be learned about how public libraries performed their primary function – lending books.

Hosted by Lorne Bruce
Naturally, as my “addiction” (or affliction as my kinder companions call it) for collecting and researching all things associated with Canadian books and ex Libris continued to evolve, so to did my interest in learning more about the history of Canada’s public libraries.  Digging around for more information on the history of these institutions in my own province, I came across a wonderful website and blog named Libraries Today.  Hosted by Lorne Bruce, this site contains great photographs, capsule histories of public libraries, the biographies of several historical librarians, as well as links to several interesting and important historical primary source documents related to the evolution of libraries in the province of Ontario.

George H. Locke (1870-1937)
Surfing this site I was especially interested to learn more about various librarians such as George H. Locke (1870-1937), who served as the chief librarian of the Toronto Public Library during the early 20th century and was also at one time president of the American Library Association .  During his presidency, he even organized the ALA’s annual meeting to be held in Toronto (June 1927).

There’s actually a lot of interesting history to uncover in our public libraries, and needless to say, many unique bookplates as well.  In an upcoming blog I’ll look at Canadian public library bookplates in a bit more detail, but for now I simply wanted to share Lorne Bruce’s great website and blog with you.  Be sure to check it out.

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