Muskoka Lakes Township Public Libraries

Muskoka Lakes Township Public Libraries

Muskoka Lakes Library, Ontario, consists of the Norma and Miller Alloway Muskoka Lakes Library main branch in the town of Port Carling, and three small branches housed in the community centres of Bala, Milford Bay, and Walker's Point. Each branch library has its own unique history.


Port Carling Library History

Humble Beginnings

The free Public Library maintained by public taxation, is a relatively modern institution. It was not until 1852 that the first Public Library was opened in Great Britain. Previous to this time there had been Mechanics Institutes dating from 1823. Eventually they spread to Canada and in 1835 the Legislature of Upper Canada made a special Act to grant money to these Institutes. It was on 19 August 1887 that a public meeting was called for the purpose of forming a Mechanics Institute in Port Carling. The meeting was held in the Victoria Hall, a building on the main street owned by Mrs. Wm. Hanna, and ten gentlemen of the village attended. Officers were elected, directors were appointed, and Mr. George Sutton was made the first Librarian.

The first books received by the Mechanics Institute were donated by Mr. Charles Blachford of Toronto. Another Toronto visitor, a Mr. Harvey, subscribed for the first daily paper, 'The Toronto Mail'. The first magazines subscribed for were: Judge, Grip, Century and Illustrated London News. A few of the first books were: 'Pre-Historic Man', 'Evidence to Man's Place in Nature', 'The Dawn of History', 'The Story of Creation', and others of a similar nature. The membership fee was one dollar a year, and fifty cents additional for each member of a family using books. For years Mr. Fraser covered all the books with cloth before they were put in circulation.

The history of the Library is really the history of the Community. In 1890 the Mechanics Institute was instrumental in starting a Night School for the benefit of those who were unable to attend day classes. Miss Stewart conducted these classes. In 1891 Mr. Sutton resigned as Librarian and Mr. William Bailey was appointed to take the position. He held this office for five years and was succeeded by Mr. Fred Hanna who served for ten years. At this time the salary was thirty dollars a year.

To help pass the time profitably during the long winter months the Board arranged for lecturers to come twice a month.

In May 1895 the name was changed from Mechanics Institute to Port Carling Public Library, and in accordance with government regulations. one hundred members had to be secured. The fee was lowered to thirty cents for adults and twenty cents for children.

For a few years there seemed to be difficulty in keeping a Librarian. Messrs. Stephen Cope, Rod Wallis, and John Cope held the position about a year each. At this time, the library was having financial troubles. Concerts were quite frequently given to raise funds with the Debating Society usually setting up the program. Mr. F. D. Stubbs succeeded Mr. Penson, and agreed to combine the offices of librarian, secretary and treasurer for $55 a year.

In 1905 the new Town Hall was built and the Library was moved to a room at the back of it which also served as a dressing room and sometimes a kitchen when concerts and plays were put on—much to the disgust of the Librarian! In this same year (1905) the Library was taken over by the municipality thus putting it on the tax roll where it has remained ever since. It was now in a position of an assured income, the Act setting apart the amount it was entitled to draw from the tax payers, namely, one mill.

On February 8, 1918, something heretofore unheard of happened when a woman, (Mrs. John Matheson) was appointed a member of the Library Board! For a short time Mrs. Arthur Nott took over the duties of Librarian when Mr. Stubbs withdrew due to illness. Next came Mr. Fred Andrew who was appointed and held the office until his death in 1934. Although handicapped by deafness Mr. Andrew carried on faithfully for sixteen years.

Mr. Orlando Stubbs succeeded Mr. Andrew and carried on with the help of his sisters until 1940 when he moved to British Columbia. During his term, the new Dewey System of cataloguing was started and membership cards were reduced to ten cents.

Mrs. John (Leila) Cope, was appointed librarian in October 1940 and held the office until 1959. In May 1951 upon the completion of the new Port Carling Memorial Community Centre, the Library was moved to the room at the front of the building and the membership doubled.

The library remained in this location with a variety of librarians. Whereas the initial group of librarians were men, the remainder of the librarians have been women. Betty Amey, Kitty Tassie, Joan Young, and Elizabeth Glen have held the position in turn. Mrs. Glen started in 1980 and continues to be not only the head librarian, but the CEO of the library in Port Carling as well as the branch libraries in the Township of Muskoka Lakes.

New Era

A 49-year-old history came to an end on Saturday, August 19, 2000 when the last book was borrowed and stamped and the doors of the Library housed in the Port Carling Memorial Centre closed for the last time. The Township of Muskoka lakes had agreed to provide the funds to erect a new Library building. However, the fundraising for the outfitting of the interior was the responsibility of the Library Board, and with the help of the community and the Friends of the Muskoka Lakes Library group, the fundraising goals were met. However, along the way, as construction costs went over budget, certain elements of the original design had to be cut from the plans. It was at this time that a generous financial contribution from Graham and Kara Alloway, in honour of Graham's parents Norma and Miller Alloway, made it possible to re-include the axed elements. The funds contributed by the Alloway family furnished, decorated, landscaped, automated, and signed the new library. The Alloway gift also contributed to the aesthetics of the building, such as the tower and the slate shingles which had been removed from the original plans due to lack of funds.

During demolition of the old and construction of the new, the Library was housed in the building directly opposite (now Grandma Penney's). There it remained until the new building was ready for operation.

It was a proud day for the Township, the Library Board, and the community of Port Carling when on Saturday, August 18, 2001 the ribbon was cut for the official grand opening of the new 8,000-square-foot (700 m2) Norma and Miller Alloway Muskoka Lakes Library, named to honour and recognize the generous donation made by the Alloway family. Many dignitaries of the day were in attendance including Mayor Susan Pryke MP Andy Mitchell, MPP Norm Miller, along with the Alloway Family.

The library continued in the old ways of ink and stamp pad for check out and hardcopy card catalogue until the launching of the automated system on December 1, 2004. After many, many months of inputting book and patron data the staff was ready to put away the stamps and stamp pads and move into the era of automation and patrons were issued with plastic credit-card-sized library cards that are in use today.

Alloway Family

Miller Alloway began a lifelong involvement with printing and publishing while working at the Oshawa Times, which was owned by his father. He then went on to build a name for himself in the world of printing, publishing and graphic arts throughout North America.

Norma Alloway was an author, as well as a contributor to many newspapers and magazines. She was also a member of the antique and Classic Boat Society, the Muskoka Lakes Golf and Country Club and a board member of the Port Carling Pioneer Museum.

Both Norma and Miller dedicated much of their time and energy to numerous Christian causes. They also felt very passionately about education and learning.

“It is in recognition of my parents' Christian philanthropic heritage that we have gladly contributed to the funding of the library”, said son Graham Alloway.

Bala Library's History

Information is scarce as to when the first library started in Bala. It is known that many of the early settlers brought a collection of books with them. E.B. Sutton brought his own personal library to Bala when he emigrated in 1882. Apart from building the Bala Bay Inn in 1912, he was a prolific writer and historian until his death in 1917.

Thomas Burgess who started the first school, the first church, the first general store and a sawmill, no doubt contributed to the literacy in the community of which he was afounder.

It is known that the Women's Institute did tremendous work in the community and shared their books with anyone interested. Initially the books were kept in private homes, particularly in the home of the Gowland family which is where Tom Edwards Real Estate is today.

In those early days great credit must be given to Edna Templeton and Ruth Stainer Orchard for their endless work and enthusiasm in establishing a small library in the Bala Public School under the direction of Jess Johnston. This is home to the Bala Legion today. Through the 1950s the library flourished until the school moved to Glen Orchard. Once again the Women's Institute were responsible for finding space in the United Church building.

Finally the library moved to the Community Center on Maple Street in 1970 and continued to be well supported by the Women's Institute. The space was very limited however and far from ideal. In 1994 an addition was built to the Community Center and this is where the library stands today with Mrs. Mari Carson as librarian. This branch has a wonderful selection of current adult fiction, a large children's selection, and an internet connected computer with internet access and scanner available for public use. Our selection of books continues to grow as we receive support from the community and an annual generous financial donation from the Cranberry Festival.

Milford Bay Library's History

The Milford Bay Public Library opened up in 1972 in the original Community Centre location which was also the Council Chambers as the village of Milford Bay had not yet been amalgamated with Port Carling and the surrounding villages to form the Township of Muskoka Lakes. This library was set up as a branch of the Township of Muskoka Lakes Public Library System and continues as such today.

The humble beginnings started with books donated from the residents of Milford Bay, and the Port Carling branch library donated books and some shelving and approximately $100.00 cash. Neil Donald, a resident of the community, volunteered his time to build the remaining shelving and was assisted by Don Goltz. The Port Carling Library hired Jan Reeves to be the Milford Bay Librarian and Pat Williams generously volunteered her time until 1979 when Jan Reeves retired. Pat then took over the post. It was that year, 1979, when the new Milford Bay Community Centre was completed, built entirely with volunteer labour. The library was moved to this site where it continues to reside today. (The old Community Centre became the existing Fire Hall.) In 1993 Nancy Kirkpatrick took over the reins from Pat, and in November 2000 Wendy McHugh became Milford Bay's librarian. Today the library has Cynthia Michaud as the librarian.

This branch has a wonderful selection of current adult fiction, a large children's selection, and an internet-connected computer with internet access and scanner available for public use.

Walker's Point Library's History

Walker's Point and Barlochan is a peninsula of 3,000 acres (12 km²) thinly connected to the mainland on the West Shore of Lake Muskoka. The southern half of the peninsula was Walker's Point after the original property owner, the northern half is Barlochan, Gaelic for "By The Lake". It was sometimes called Long Point and was used by First Nations peoples until 1868. Under the Free Grant & Homestead Act of 1868 the first settlers arrived in 1869 to develop agriculture. The only connection was by lake in summer and horse and foot in winter. Due to the poor terrain they went into logging. With the influx of tourists from the south they then turned to the tourist trade.

In the years of waiting for electricity people read papers and books by the light of the oil lamps in the evening. The school had a small library. The Sunday School Library was quite large and was constantly replenished with used books from city libraries. An excellent library of classics, including Shakespeare, Dickens, Scott and many others were lent to those who enjoyed them.

A Branch of the Township of Muskoka Lakes Public Library System, the Walker's Point Library was opened September 29 of 1990 and is situated in the Walker's Point Community Centre at the entrance of the peninsula. The library services both residents and tourists with books of varying interests and is well supported by both.

This branch has a wonderful selection of current adult fiction, a children's selection, and an internet connected computer with internet access and scanner available for public use. The librarian is currently Mr. Randy Thomson.

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