Waterloo Free Library Book Plate

Waterloo Free Library bookplate for "The Works and Life of Walter Savage Landor, Vol. VIII", published 1876, London, England. Note the class number and call number and the value of the book ($4.00).

Photo courtesy of Waterloo Public Library

Waterloo Region Libraries Before 1900

Mechanics' Institutes

The libraries in the Waterloo Region before 1900 mainly consisted of smaller collections which were subsciption-based, meaning individuals payed an annual fee in order to use them. Many of the subscription libraries were replaced by Mechanics' Institutes in the beginning of the 1830's.

Free Libraries

The organization of libraries changed drastically with the passage of the Free Libraries Act in 1882. Municipalities were now alllowed to levy to a maximum of $500,000 as a Free Library rate after the establishment of a Free Library. At this time both Free Libraries and the Machanics' Institutes libaries co-existed.


In 1895, the Ontario government passed the Act to Amend and Consolidate the Acts respecting Free Libraries and Mechanics' Institutes in an attempt to consolidate the two differing library systems that were operating in the province. Free libraries were still inadquately funded and the one or two reading rooms they often rented could not accomodate the growing community demands or their collections.

News of Grants from Andrew Carnegie

In the Region of Waterloo at the turn of the century, none of the Free Libraries operated in separate buidlings. All were housed in one and sometimes two rented rooms in various locations. Therefore when communities in the region heard of Andrew Carnegies' library philanthropy, many of them took advantage of the grants that were availale in the hope that one day a new and permanent library would be a fixture in their community.

Back to top | c2011 Gayle Bushell | Last Updated August 1, 2011