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1800 Canal

United Empire loyalists began arriving in the Welland area between 1776 and 1788, followed in the 1790s by groups of Mennonites, Quakers, and Tunkers (German-speaking Pennsylvania Dutch) who were granted lands in the Crowland area.

First anniversary meeting of the shareholders of the Welland Library Company at the School House near Brown’s Bridge on Saturday, November 26, 1825. Shareholders compiled by-laws including charges for damaged books. James Brown was chosen to be honorary librarian. For a period of 30 years the Welland Library Company flourished and held annual meetings at the School House near Brown’s Bridge, or near O’Reilly’s Bridge.

The Village of Merrittsville incorporates into the Village of Welland, population 750. The Mechanic's Institute of Merrittsville have an officer's meeting on August 11, 1858. Secretary of the Welland Library Company C. Park's communication is read and a resolution is passed that the Institute will receive books and property belonging to Welland Library Company, and in return members of the Association will become members of the Institute. Then at another meeting on November 3, 1858 the members are told a successful negotiation had been concluded with the Welland Library Company to amalgamate. The organization became known as The Welland Mechanic's Institute. The library comprised upwards of 300 volumes.

In the fall, a new Welland Mechanic’s Institute is founded, as the previous Institute had ended due to lack of funds and problematic organisation.

On January 1, 1878 the Village of Welland incorporates into the Town of Welland.

Miss Jeannie Ross was the first named salaried librarian. At a board meeting on August 6, 1891, the accounts show she received a salary for July of $6.50. She was later replaced by her sister Miss A. Ross in September of the same year.

The first Board of Directors for the Welland Public Library was elected at the annual meeting on May 3, 1897.

Late 18th




July 4










It is believed the majority of settlers in the original area known as Welland were Irish, because in 1824 large numbers of Irish people were brought here to build the first Welland Ship Canal. The United Empire Loyalists together with many of the Irish were concerned about the possibility of having access to reading material, due to books having a large ingrained influence in their culture, and so began an agitation for a library. In November 1824 a meeting was held and resulted in the creation of the Welland Library Company.

On February 10, 1858 the Mechanic's Institute of Merrittsville is organized after a meeting at the Court House. It was created “for the promotion of scientific pursuits and the advancement of knowledge.” The Institute organized lectures twice a month and encouraged members to make use of their library. John Hellems was elected the first president. Mechanic’s Institutes were established in many villages, towns, and cities of Canada at that time. Their purpose was to provide some means of extended education for the adult working class.

At the committee meeting of October 3, 1869 (the last meeting until 1877) it was moved “That the librarian be allowed to issue books to parties not members of the Institute depositing the value of such Books for a consideration of 5 cents for 24 hours subject otherwise to the regulations of the Institute.” This indicates that members of the Institute were eager to extend the benefits of reading educational literature to a wider public.

On February 9, 1877 (after not meeting for 7 years), a meeting of Welland Library Association shareholders determines to amalgamate with the new Institute, which had just purchased $300 worth of books and received $100 in local contributions and a $200 grant from the Provincial Bureau of Agriculture.

The library was situated at J. H. Burgar’s Drug Store. The total number of members was 142, with 885 volumes in the library.

The library became officially known as “Welland Public Library” in accordance with the changes in the Public Libraries Act from May 1, 1895. The Town Council paid a grant of $150 towards the cost of the library, and $204.75 was granted by the Provincial Government. The library was situated in a room over McCaw’s Shoe Store on East Main Street, and had a collection of 3085 volumes, with 3916 reader checkouts during this year.

During July 1898 new shelving was installed and all books were classified and numbered, the library was closed for a month while the work was done. 300 copies of the first library catalogue were also printed.

1900 Library

On August 19, 1901, the library was moved to rooms in the new Town Hall on King Street.

The first steps are taken about building a Carnegie Library in the town, which was eventually built in 1923.

Many ethnic groups begin to arrive in Welland. Negotiations continued between the Library Board, City and Carnegie Foundation. The library is moved to a new place in the Municipal Building in September.

On May 10th, the Carnegie Corporation’s offer was accepted for a $30,000 building. $25,000 being from the Carnegie Corporation and $5,000 from the City of Welland.

The library offered 5,201 books for adult readers and 882 for children, with a circulation of 27,412 for adults and 6,421 for children. Fiction book checkouts were, and remain, a large proportion of the total books borrowed for both young and older readers.

Within 5 years the circulation of materials nearly doubles, with 39,978 checkouts to adults, and 16,862 checkouts to children. In September work is begun to catalogue the library, with a cabinet for the card catalogue being purchased the next year. This made it much easier for patrons and staff to find materials with a growing collection.

The librarian began to be entrusted this year with being responsible for the selection of materials for purchase. This had previously been the sole responsibility of the Board.

A film library was started this year, the library receiving a projector and screen along with films, from the National Film Board on June 6, 1945. There were 328 checkouts of films this year.

Deposits of books from the Juvenile Department were placed in some schools on an experimental basis this year. This was the beginning of our Outreach services, and by 1957 two members of staff visited Riverview School each week to exchange books and give story readings for some classes. The next year J.C. Bald, Ross, and St. Kevin’s Schools were added. However, it was determined it was not fair to not provide the service for all schools, and since staff could not visit all the schools in Welland the service was ended in 1961. The Board of Education established libraries in the schools as part of the curriculum shortly afterwards.

The library was open for a total of 58 hours a week. 3070 adults had library cards and 3382 children were using the library. 129,612 books were circulated, 67,007 were children’s materials, 15452 films were borrowed along with 410 records. Welland celebrated its first 100 years, and the population of the city was 17,433.

WPL acquires a microfilm reader, and the annual report for this year stated “There is a good collection of local history material for reference, and we can obtain through an inter-library system books, microfilms, and photostat copies from any other library in Canada or in the United States.”

A three-story addition was added to the rear of the library and included reference and audiovisual departments. By the end of this year the bookmobile was carrying 1,771 books and checked out 10,110 items, making seven regular stops in parts of the city that were distant from the library on King Street.

On December 22, 1998 computer stations with internet access were made publicly available at the library. The City of Welland population was 48,411.



























A copy of Melvil Dewey’s “The Decimal Classification of Books” was purchased, in order to implement a shelving scheme that WPL still uses to this day. The scheme wouldn’t be implemented until 1913, however. The population of Welland in 1905 was 1,795.

The Carnegie Foundation promised the City of Welland $20,000 to “provide a Free Public Library Building on certain conditions”. Welland’s population was 6,244.

On July 1, 1917 the Town of Welland was incorporated into the City of Welland. The population had increased to 9,876.

A new Carnegie Library on King Street is constructed quickly and the library moves in to their new home for the next 82 years. The architect, Norman Kearns, chose a Georgian Colonial style as the basis of the exterior design.

The auditorium in the basement of the Carnegie building was used by local organizations, but due to increased library usage by children it was determined in September 1927 to use the auditorium as a children’s library, also called the Boys’ and Girls’ Room.

At a Board meeting on November 10, 1931 “it was decided to ask the Hungarian priest for a list of Hungarian books suitable for library use.” This was the beginning of the Library’s multilingual collection, which today offers material in 14 languages. A request for materials in French was made by the French priest a few years later, which is now WPL’s largest collection in a language other than English.

Miss Kathleen Hume was appointed Head of the Juvenile Department on March 16, 1942, becoming the first qualified children’s librarian in Welland. The circulation of materials in the Juvenile Department increased to 25,056 for this year, leading the library to hire it’s first Library Page to assist in the department.

In November a list of children’s records amounting to $50 was approved for purchase for the Boys’ and Girls’ Department. This was the first collection of records for borrowing at WPL.

$450 was spent in January to start a record library for adult borrowers, which quickly became a popular collection.

With the library becoming cramped for space, a 4,000 square foot, two-storey addition (later named the James T. Mavor Annex) was added to the north side of the library and opened on June 10, 1961. It included a fiction area and a meeting room. At the time the Library had a book stock of 42,302 volumes, and 11,152 children’s books. There were 7,756 borrowers using the library. The 1960 circulation was 175,940. On January 1st 1961 parts of Crowland, Thorold, Humberstone and Pelham Townships were annexed to the City of Welland, making a population of 36,000.

The Northwest Branch Library on South Pelham Street, the first branch library in the system of the Welland Public Libraries, was opened on April 8, 1972. Later in the year a bookmobile was brought into service. Both the building on South Pelham Street and the bookmobile used to belong to the Welland County Co-operative Library Service. They were purchased by Welland Public Library when that Co-operative was discontinued due to the Public Libraries Act and the coming Regional Government. This was also the year WPL launched it’s visiting library service to incapacitated people in their own homes, which two years later had 22 regular patrons and with 1,000 books delivered per year, and continues to this day.

The library’s card catalogue is replaced with the computerized OPAC system (Online Public Access Catalogue), after over 2 years of staff entering all the books manually into the computer system.

The Library began subscribing to online databases offering a wide range of full-text periodicals, newspapers, and other research materials to library users.

Welland Public Library 2000

The Library received the Angus Mowat Award of Excellence from the Province of Ontario for its online digital site documenting the history of the Welland Canal.

On October 14, the Carnegie Building at 140 King Street, received a heritage designation from Heritage Welland. The former library was now the home of the Welland Museum.

The Library continued to introduce new technology with the recent introduction of downloadable audiobooks, Freegal: free music downloads and eReaders available for loan.

In January of 2016, the Library unveils its latest technological addition: a Flashforge Dreamer 3D Printer. 3D printers print three-dimensional objects by layering and building up thin planes of plastic or other materials.

A new initiative called the Library of Things begins, with the goal to offer patrons materials beyond books to foster lifelong learning, spark creativity, and empower our community. Items include outdoor sporting equipment, a telescope, a GoPro camera, board games and puzzles, video game systems, laptops, mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, and kits for knitting, podcasting, and geocaching, among many others.

On July 6 WPL launches a music instrument collection as an extension of its Library of Things, where patrons can check out many instruments such as a drum kit, a keyboard, acoustic guitars, or a bass guitar. On October 12 WPL launches another item for its Library of Things by making available Oculus Quest 2 Virtual Reality headsets, which can be used in the library by appointment.













In May, the Library occupied its new facility at 50 The Boardwalk as part of the new City of Welland Civic Square which held its official opening on June 28. The Library began publication of its first official newsletter: “Boardwalk Banter.”

On December 31, 2009 the Northwest Branch of the library closed its doors for the last time. It had been experiencing declining usage, and the building also needed expensive repairs that made remaining open not financially feasible.

On September 3, 2013, a new branch of the Welland Public Library opens at the newly built Diamond Trail Public School (formerly Matthews School) at 315 Southworth Street. It is a shared space with the school library, and the WPL branch opens to the public when the school day ends.

The Innovation Station takes centre stage at the Main Branch in January. Features include public access to our 3D printer, a scanner for old slides and photos, and a VHS to digital converter.

For the first time Welland Public Library began operating three branches when the Seaway Mall Branch opened on June 27, 2017.

In January WPL joins LiNC (Libraries in Niagara Cooperative), which sees resource sharing for all member libraries and uses an integrated cataloging system, and ultimately provides WPL members free access to 10 other library systems in Niagara and their materials.

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