By Ken Hirter

This months Walkabout finds me at “The Hamilton Public Library” main branch location in the heart of the Downtown corridor. Throughout this beautiful architectural marvel you will find 6 floors of stories and the history of the past & present of Hamilton Ontario in the history blocks and mounted museum display cases documenting the history of this fair city on each given floor with topic & themes. From the beautiful artwork and ephemera, audio E-books, archival materials (related to the region), Blue Ray discs, books, DVD’s and music and much, much more.

A brief History:

Since the 1830’s libraries have been built here in Canada. Public Libraries had their start in the Mechanics Institutes, established to encourage a more literate and skilled class of ‘working men’. In 1895, the Ontario government legislated the transformation of Mechanics institutes to public libraries. Locally, William Lyon Mackenzie established a private storefront circulating library in Dundas in 1822. In 1889 citizens of Hamilton voted to fund a free public library and in February 1890 the first Main Library was built. The first branch library, Barton, was built in 1908.

Did you know?:

Hamilton was the first city in Canada to erect a new building for the express purpose of housing a Library. This building was on the north side of Main Street. In 1913 a new building, funded by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, was erected across the street.  Construction started in 1911 and opened in 1913. It was to remain Hamilton’s Main Branch till 1980. The Current Central Library at 55 York Boulevard was built alongside and blends in nicely with the Hamilton Farmers Market. Each publicly accessible floor set up to provide study spaces and access to computers. The 4th floor houses Connect 4.0 and connects the community to a collaborative creative space featuring a digital media lab, makerspace, video and sound studios as well as performance space. Other floors are home to Circulating and reference books, CDs. The ground floor houses the Children’s department and a large number of public access computers. DVDs, newspapers and magazines and more. The Local History and Archives department is located on the 3rd floor and provides access to a wealth of photos, maps and historic materials.  Look online at hpl .ca for listings of programmes, online research resources, photographs and much more. During the restrictions of COVID, many of the services and programmes are offered online. Best of all the cost is FREE. Fun for all from the kids, adults and family fun fares though limited for the time being.

So, with the winter months now upon us who doesn’t like to curl up and read a good book and/or a movie or 2 (pop corn optional). I know that l am stocked up with my reads and movies that will take throughout March. Hopefully with more openings to ease this juggernaut and pause that we are presently experiencing. Hopefully come Spring the library will be up and operating once again for visits in person vs virtually.

Please note that the HPL has launched a new programme called Grab and GO. Fill our the form at  Grab and Go Bags | HPL and staff will select up to 10 items based on your interests. Discover a new author, musician or film.

Who doesn’t remember their first library card or first library when growing up and the rite of passage from the study halls and getting your first book in any city or town? The library has been a staple within history, time and place and holds fond memories for many, dating back to the days of the early General stores, City Hall and the police on horse back of the 1880’s to the 2020’s. We all have those fond cherished memories. Even though things appear to be a bit different given the present-day circumstances, the library will remain a staple in any city or town right down to the mini libraries book depots throughout the city and the North End Wood Street block.

Support your public library and all the wonderful experiences, this wonderful piece of architecture and the history of Hamilton.

Past, Present and Tomorrow…..

Cheers till next month.