UXBRIDGE PUBLIC LIBRARY BOOK LOVERS’ BALL & BENEFIT
SATURDAY APRIL 14, 2012
Excerpts from the speech by MASTER OF CEREMONIES: DAVID PHILLIPS, CHAIR OF THE LIBRARY BOARD
It is indeed an honour and pleasure to welcome you this evening to our Book Lovers Ball. We have a room full of library lovers from many walks of life. I would especially like to welcome our two guest authors, Terry Fallis and Douglas Gibson. As well to welcome our Township Council that supports the library both financially and through the time that they give to help us to best library we can be. I would like to welcome and thank our sponsors that have contributed so much to this evening. There will be more about our sponsors shortly. To all of you that are gathered this evening, welcome and thank you for showing the importance of the public library in our community.
First and foremost, we must thank Joseph Gould… a name many of you are no doubt familiar with. In 1886, he announced that he wanted to construct a new building for the Mechanics Institute on the piece of land he owned on Toronto Street. Unfortunately, Mr. Gould passed away a couple of months later… fortunately for all of us, he had the foresight to include his wishes in his will and he had moved the project forward quickly too… he had already approved the architect’s plans for the new building. What a generous gift he made to the Township of Uxbridge. It was built by John Stokes of the nearby community Sharon, who also built Joseph Gould’s home here in Uxbridge, along with the old mansion house hotel.
The official opening was on December 9, 1887. The Minister of Education was present and he proclaimed that the building was the first donation of its kind in the province, and, that the library was the best in the province for the size of the town! The building cost $4,200 and had about 5,000 books in its collection… the clock cost $315.
In 1895, the name was officially changed… from the Mechanic’s Institute to the Uxbridge Public Library… and in 1898, it officially became a “free library”. Before this time, patrons would actually come up to a wicket at the front entrance of the library where the librarian took requests. Not surprisingly, membership doubled within a year… once the public had direct access to the collection… and it has grown steadily since then.
Over the years, as many of you will probably remember, the library has gone through several renovations… continually adapting to the needs of the community… the exterior was restored in 1985… including a sizable and complementary addition to the south end in 1986. Most of this could not have been accomplished without the generosity of our amazing community… through volunteer work, donations and various fundraising projects… all of us here this evening now share in that long history of community support for its library.
What does the future hold for libraries? Of course books are different now. We have the traditional book, still widely read in our community and globally. We have e readers and other electronic devices that are gaining in popularity. However, I believe that the library will always be a very important part of the community. It will be a meeting place and communication center for the exchange of ideas and a place to learn more and more about the world. I sit on the provincial library board and as I travel to other libraries, I see that focus on a place to gather. It is amazing to see the two genders, various cultures, ages and socio-economic backgrounds gathering in that special place called a library.
The philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie, who financed many libraries and put millions of dollars into libraries, felt that the acceptance of the idea was that free libraries should be available to all. But the design of the idealized free library was the subject of prolonged and heated debate. That was over a century ago and the debate about the role and place of public libraries continues today. I believe this debate is crucial as we look to libraries and meeting places of the future.