Showing posts with label association libraries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label association libraries. Show all posts

Sunday, March 11, 2018

SUBSCRIPTION LIBRARIES FOR THE PUBLIC IN CANADIAN COLONIES, 1775-1850

From 1775 to 1850, small membership subscription libraries acted as public libraries dispensing educational resources and recreational reading to Canadian users on a geographic-community or common-interest reading basis. The variety, number, and collective status of subscription libraries ushered in the persistent nineteenth-century concept of the semi-private public library administered by trustees and populated by members who voluntarily agreed to accept entry charges, annual dues, and fundraising. The collegial space provided by the subscription library fostered a greater sense of publicness in an emerging Canadian nation before 1850. It also forged numerous associative identities in localities for like-minded reading groups. Subscription library development reveals that significant attributes of post-1850 municipal public libraries--especially the public library association which continues today--were inherited from Canada's colonial library era.

Beginning at Quebec City (1779) and Montreal (1796) and spreading to other colonies and the Canadian west, a variety of subscription libraries were established ranging from the exclusive share-holding archetype (e.g., at Halifax) to the more inclusive, general interest library supported by modest entry charges and annual fees in small towns and cites. Over time, these libraries developed on an irregular, parochial basis in differing colonial environments, although common public features are evident, such as claims for societal betterment. It was not unusual for a subscription library to be integrated with the work of specialized societies and associations (esp. in Quebec), or for the library to be aligned with news or reading rooms. This multifaceted public interface helped to bridge reading from the private to the public realm, to improve access to print resources, and to invest libraries with a communal significance in the Victorian period before Confederation. By the mid-point of the nineteenth century, subscription libraries occupied the middle ground between the personal realm and the state where formation of ideas on private liberality, community interests, and governance converged.

In the course of seven decades, subscription type libraries evolved into "library associations" regulated by public statutes stipulating control by the members and an elected a governing board. These libraries were identified less with earlier joint-stock, proprietary, or subscription business terminology and more with the appellation "public library" that was in use throughout the entire period, i.e. a library that was accessible to all residents of a community, but not generally free because it required voluntary personal payments. These small libraries performed a public function but were not state agencies. In some instances, they received token payments from different government levels, but legal sanction for state financial aid did not exist in legislative acts. In the evolution of public libraries in Canada, attempts by subscription managers to achieve a public profile by seeking financial support from colonial parliaments and by staking claims to publicness (the interests of the people as a whole) were significant steps.

At the midway point of the nineteenth century, the Library Association and Mechanics’ Institute Act of 1851 became a critical foundation for the subscription library’s conversion to the Canadian "association library." In accordance with enabling legislation that would become the hallmark of twentieth-century Canadian provincial public library legislation, the 1851 law for the two Canadas (Ontario and Quebec) recognized that a public library association was to be available for persons on a voluntary membership basis. The law established that library associations would be governed by local boards of trustees independent from control by municipal politicians (a "special purpose body" later identified by political commentators and academics on local government). Further, it provided public recognition of association libraries, thereby creating the opportunity for provincial grants which supplemented local fundraising efforts. Similar legislative arrangements in other provinces, such as British Columbia, ensured that the subscription model, re-labelled as a ‘public library association,’ would continue to coexist with its "free library" cousin well into the twentieth century and beyond.

Complete information is available in my article published in Library and Information History, a quarterly journal publishing articles by authors on all subjects and all periods relating to the history of libraries and librarianship and to the history of information. The article can be viewed at:

https://doi.org/10.1080/17583489.2017.1413037

For access to a free link with a limited number of PDFs, go to

https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/xNpDQbtFGIhgcdeiTxib/full

Friday, November 03, 2017

CANADIAN LIBRARY LEGISLATION BEFORE CONFEDERATION: THE 1851 ACT FOR LIBRARY ASSOCIATIONS AND MECHANICS' INSTITUTES IN THE PROVINCE OF CANADA

By the middle of the 19th century in the Province of Canada (present day Ontario and Quebec) many local groups had formed library associations and mechanics' institutes. A few organizations, such as the Toronto Mechanics' Institute, Quebec Library, or the Montreal Mercantile Library Association, were incorporated under separate laws in the 1840s. Legislators recognized the need to provide general public legislation regulating the establishment, holdings, and activities of dozens of existing and potential new subscription/membership organizations. Robert Bell, the MP for Lanark (Ontario), introduced a Bill to facilitate the formation of institutes and library associations in the 3rd Parliament of the United Provinces in summer 1851. The Act did not stipulate public funding, however, legislative grants were made to dozens of institutes and associations (as well as combinations of both) each year until 1858 when funding ceased due to an economic downturn.

The 1851 legislation continued in force after Confederation in Ontario and Quebec under Chapter 86 of the Consolidated Statues of Canada, 1859. The law was important because it fortified the concept that a "public library" could one that was accessible to all residents of a community, but not generally free because it required voluntary personal payments. This type of public library formation was readily accepted by the mid-19th century in British North America. The Act served as a guide for other provincial jurisdictions to formalize library development. Nova Scotia passed a similar law, ‘An Act Respecting Library Associations and Institutes,’ on 18 April 1872, as did British Columbia on 24 February 1871, ‘An Act Respecting Literary Societies and Mechanics’ Institutes.’ Association Libraries would coexist into the Twentieth Century alongside Free Libraries--ones supported with municipal taxation and not requiring membership fees at point of entrance.

The 1851 Act was 'enabling legislation' which became the basic foundation for general provincial public library acts in post-Confederation Canada. The 1851 law (and subsequent similar provincial acts) contained influential ideas about public libraries. It recognized that a public library would be available to persons through voluntary decisions, not mandated legal provisions. It established that libraries would be governed by local boards of trustees independent from control by municipal politicians, a ‘special purpose body’ in public administrative terminology. Further, it provided public recognition of libraries as incorporated bodies through public legislation, thereby creating the opportunity for provincial grants in the public interest that supplemented local fundraising efforts. Consequently, hundreds of library associations and mechanics' institutes were formed and continued in provincial legislation into the 20th century.

The re-quoted 1851 text follows:

1851—14 & 15 VICTORIAE, CHAPTER 86


An Act to provide for the incorporation and better Management of Library Associations and Mechanics' Institutes

                                                                                           [30th August, 1851]

WHEREAS it is expedient to encourage the establishment of Library Associations and Mechanics' Institutes, and for that purpose to provide for the incorporation of such Institutions, and to grant them certain powers enabling them better to protect their property and manage their affairs: Be it therefore enacted by the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council and of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, constituted and assembled by virtue of and under the authority of an Act passed in the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and intituled, An Act to re-unite the Province of Upper and Lower Canada, and for the Government of Canada, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That any number of persons, not less than ten, having subscribed, or holding together not less than Twenty-five Pounds in money or money's worth, for the use of their intended Institution, may make and sign a Declaration (in duplicate) of their intention to establish a Library Association or a Mechanics' Institute, or both, (as the case may be,) at some place to be named in such Declaration, in which they shall also state the corporate name of the Institution, its purpose, the amount of money or money's worth subscribed by them respectively, or held by them for the use thereof, the names of those who are to be the first Trustees for managing its affairs, and the mode in which their successors are to be appointed, or new Members of the Corporation admitted, or in which Bye-laws are to be made for such appointment or admission, or for any other purpose, or for all purposes, and generally such other particulars and provisions as they may think necessary, not being contrary to this Act or to Law: or in case of a Mechanics' Institute or Library Association (or both united) already established or in existence, then, that the Directors, Trustees or the Office Bearers and Committee thereof for the time being, may make and sign a Declaration as aforesaid, of their wish or determination to become incorporated, according to the provisions of this Act, stating in such Declaration the Corporate Name to be assumed by such Institution or United Institutions,—and also with such Declaration, to file in the manner hereinafter provided, a copy of the Constitution and Bye-laws of such Institution and or United Institutions, together with a general statement of the nature and amount of all the property, real or personal, held by or in trust for such Institution or United Institutions: and one duplicate of such Declaration shall then be filed in the Office of the Registrar of Deeds for the County by one of the subscribing parties, who shall, before such Registrar, acknowledge the execution thereof by himself, and declare the same to have been executed by the other parties thereto, either in person or by their Attorneys; and the Registrar shall then keep one of the said duplicates, and deliver the other to the person filing the same, with a Certificate of the same having been so filed, and the execution attested before him, and such duplicate, or any copy thereof certified by such Registrar, shall be primâ facie evidence of the facts alledged in such Declaration and Certificate.

  II. And be it enacted, That when the formalities aforesaid have been complied with, the persons having signed such Declaration as aforesaid, or the Directors, Trustees or the Office Bearers and Committee for the time being, of any such Institution or United Institutions now established or in existence as aforesaid, and their successors, shall be a body corporate and politic, and shall have the powers, rights and immunities, vested in such bodies under the Interpretation Act and by Law, with power to such Corporation, in their corporate name, from time to time, and at all times hereafter, to have, take, acquire, hold, possess and enjoy to them, and to their successors, to and for the uses and purposes of such Corporation, any messuages, lands, tenements or hereditaments, of what nature or kind soever, situate within this Province; but the yearly value of the real property to be held by any such Corporation, shall never exceed One Hundred Pounds currency.

   III. And be it enacted, That the affairs of such Corporation shall be managed by the Directors or Trustees thereof for the time then being, appointed as hereinafter, or by any By-law of such Corporation provided, who, or a majority of whom, shall have full power to exercise all the powers of the Corporation, and to act in its name and on its behalf, and to use its Seal, subject always to any provisions limiting the exercise of such powers in the Declaration aforesaid, or in any By-law of the Corporation; and such Trustees, or a majority of them, shall have power to make By-laws binding the Members and Officers thereof, and such others as shall agree to be bound by them, for all purposes relative to the affairs and business of the Corporation, except as to matters touching which it is provided by the Declaration aforesaid, that By-laws shall be made in some other manner.

   IV. And be it enacted, That the Members of such Corporation, at their Annual Meeting, to be held on such day as may be provided by any By-law of the said Corporation, may choose from among themselves a President, and may appoint (except in so far as it may be otherwise provided in the Declaration or By-laws) a Librarian, Treasurer, Secretary, Lecturer, and such other Officers and servants of the Corporation as they may think necessary, and fix and pay their remuneration; and also a Board of Directors or Trustees of such Corporation, who shall hold office for one year, or such further time as may be hereinafter limited or permitted.

   V. And be it enacted, That a failure to elect Trustees on any day appointed for that purpose by the Declaration aforesaid, or by any By-laws, shall not operate the dissolution of the Corporation, but the Trustees then in office shall remain in office until their successors are elected, which they may be (if no other provision be made therefor by the Declaration or By-laws) at any Meeting of the Members of the Corporation at which a majority of such Members shall be present, in whatever way such

   VI. And be it enacted, That any such Corporation shall have power by its By-laws to impose a fine not exceeding One Pound, on any Member contravening the same, or on any person not being a Member of the Corporation, who shall in writing have agreed to obey the By-law for the contravention whereof it is imposed; and any such fine, if incurred, and any subscription or other sum of money which any Member or other person may have agreed to pay to the said Corporation, for his subscription to the funds of the Corporation for any certain time, or for the loan of any book or instrument, or for the right of entry to the rooms of the Corporation, or of attending any lectures, or for any other privilege or advantage afforded him by such Corporation, may be recovered by the Corporation by action in any Court having jurisdiction in civil matters to the amount, on allegation and proof of the signature of defendant to some writing by which he shall have undertaken to pay such subscription, or to obey such By-law, and of this breach of such undertaking, which breach shall be presumed until the contrary be shewn, as regards any promise to pay any sum of money, and may be proved by the oath of any one credible witness, as regards the contravention of any such By-law; and in any such action, or any other to which such Corporation may be a party, any Member or Officer of the Corporation shall be a competent witness, and any copy of any By-law bearing the signature of the defendant, or bearing the Seal of the Corporation, and the signature of some person purporting to have affixed any such Seal by authority of the Corporation, shall be primâ facie evidence of such By-law; and all fines so recovered shall belong to the Corporation for the use thereof.

   VII. And be it enacted, That any such Corporation may,  if it be so stated in the said Declaration, be at the same time a Mechanics'  Institute or a Library  Association,  or either of them, and their business shall accordingly be the ordinary and usual business of a  Mechanics'  Institute or of a Library Association,  or both,  as the case may be,  and no other,  but may embrace all things necessary and useful for the proper and convenient carrying on of such business;  and their funds and property shall be appropriated and used for purposes legitimately appertaining to such business,  and for no other.

   VIII. And be it enacted, That if it be provided in such Declaration as aforesaid, or by the By-laws of the Corporation, that the shares of the Members, or of any class of Members, in the property of the Corporation, shall be transferable, then they shall be transferable accordingly, in such way, and subject to such conditions, as shall be mentioned in such Declaration, or in the By-laws of the Corporation, if by such Declaration, such transfers are to be regulated by them; and all such shares shall be personal property, and by such Declaration of By-laws provision may be made for the forfeiture of such shares in cases to be therein named, or for preventing the transfer thereof to others than persons of some certain description, or resident within some certain locality.

   IX. And be it enacted, That provision may be made for the dissolution of such Corporation, by the Declaration aforesaid, or it may be therein provided, that such provision may be made by the By-laws of the Corporation to be hereafter passed: Provided that no such dissolution shall take place until all the liabilities of the Corporation are discharged.

   X. And be it enacted, That nothing in this Act contained shall prevent any Mechanics' Institute or Library Association (or both united) from being and becoming incorporated by a separate Act of Parliament, as if this Act had not been passed; nor shall this Act be held in any way to affect or extend to any Mechanics' Institute, or Library Association already incorporated.



Five years after its passage, the 1851 Act was amended to allow local boards of management to hold property of value up to £500. The amended act, which applied to Canada West (Ontario) and Canada East (Quebec)  follows:

CHAPTER 51 — 19 VICTORIA


An Act to amend the Act for incorporating Library Associations and Mechanics' Institutes.

                                                                                       [Assented to 19th June, 1856]

WHEREAS it is expedient to amend the second section of the Act passed in the session held in the fourteenth and fifteenth years of Her Majesty's Reign, and intituled, An Act for the incorporation and better management of Library Associations and Mechanics' Institutes, so as to enable such institutions in certain towns and villages to hold property to a larger amount than the sum therein limited: Therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council and Assembly of Canada, enacts as follows:

  I. From and after the passing of this Act, it shall be lawful for any Library Association or Mechanics' Institute incorporated under the said Act, and situate in any village or town having of more than three thousand inhabitants or more, to hold real property not exceeding in annual value the sum of five hundred pounds; and for any Library Association or Mechanics' Institute incorporated under the said Act, and situate in any town or city not having more than three thousand inhabitants, to hold real property not exceeding in annual value the sum of two hundred and fifty pounds; any thing in the said section to the contrary notwithstanding.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

ANGUS MOWAT AND ONTARIO'S RURAL LIBRARIES, 1937-40

Well, after years of research, I have published something on Angus Mowat, Ontario's irrepressible Inspector (later Director) of Public Libraries for three decades. And in the latest issue of Ontario History, a favourite regional journal for professional and local historians alike. The tweet just came out --> Great news! The Spring 2014 issue of ONTARIO HISTORY has been printed and is now available! More info: http://bit.ly/13AA8xu

"An Inspector Calls: Angus Mowat and Ontario's Rural Libraries, 1937-40" Ontario History (Spring 2014, vol. CVI, no. 1) covers a short period just before the Second World War when Mowat began his lengthy career in the Ontario civil service. Mowat was an inspirational voice for public library work during the Great Depression. In 1937, after he became the Inspector of Public Libraries in the Ontario Department of Education, he helped revive spirits and raise service ambitions in smaller libraries. Building on the "modern library" concept popularized after World War I, he re-energized trustees, librarians, and library workers with hundreds of visits to promote local efforts in the immediate prewar period. His inspections encompassed the advisement of trustees on management and financial processes; the promotion of librarianship and staff training; the development of adult and children’s collections; the reorganization of functional building space; the formation of county systems; and support for new school curriculum reading reforms. Mowat’s wide-ranging inspection method not only brought renewed optimism it laid the groundwork for genuine progress in the provincial public library system after 1945.

During the waning depression era, Mowat travelled to all parts of the province encouraging library development and making many friends. Unquestionably, he stimulated thought about enhanced services and helped libraries cope at a critical time. When his army duty (1940-44) ended, he resumed inspections with his usual enthusiasm; however, his term as Inspector ended when he became Director of Public Libraries in 1948. The regime of library inspections lingered into the 1950s, but Mowat’s new title signified his expanded role in advancing provincial policies, financing, and legislation for Ontario’s public library "system." By the time he retired in 1960, a colourful, personal period in Ontario’s public library organization had given way to more systematic, modern administration.

The article covers (1) Depression Era Public Library Service; (2) The Beginning of Inspections in Summer 1937; (3) Library Boards and Trusteeship; (4) Librarianship and Collections; (5) Library Accommodation and Buildings; (6) Library Cooperation; and (7) The End of Inspections in Summer 1940. Mowat's ups and downs in rural Ontario took many turns! Mowat was a library enthusiast for sure -- an administrator with an eye to the irreverent, but always able to cast a serious judgement or offer sage advice when necessary. By the time of his retirement party in 1960 at the Park Plaza, public libraries had undergone many changes and, although he retained many older ideas about how to do things, he was not adverse to try something new.

In recognition of Mowat's efforts, a provincial award, the Angus Mowat Award of Excellence, recognizes a commitment to excellence in the delivery of Ontario public library service. The award is made annually for services that can be old, new, and ongoing.