In the New Glasgow library above the 3D printer and a computer, history is hung.
Newspaper clippings and pictures tell the story of a century of library service in the town of New Glasgow, which began with a humble collection of 1,400 books and has grown to more than 65,000 titles in the New Glasgow collection today.
Thursday the library held a special celebration with some guests from the town and former staff and a cake for all to enjoy honouring the 100th birthday of library service in Pictou County.
The first library was called the Fraser-Bell Memorial and was housed in the town hall which in 1917 was located across from the Dock in the Carmichael Building. It was named after New Glasgow’s first town clerk, D.C. Fraser and the first mayor, Adam Bell.
“Judge Patterson in presenting the library to the town, noted that though the library was at present small, containing about 1,400 volumes, he felt that in a very short time the room in the Town Hall where it is situated would be too small to contain the books,” wrote a reporter in the Dec. 4 edition of the Eastern Chronicle.
His words have certainly proved prophetic, but even he couldn’t have predicted how much libraries would change in the 100 years that would follow.
In that time, the library has moved, gone through renovations and changed to meet the demands of residents of the day including adding events for kids and computers for public use.
“When libraries first opened up they were very much a place where you went and picked up your book and took it home,” said Greg Hayward, technical services librarian for the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library. “You didn’t spend time in the library necessarily other than the time you spent to look for what you wanted. They would have been very small rooms with books everywhere.”
Over the years they’ve changed to become much more community-oriented spaces where people can be comfortable to stay a while, hang out and meet up, he said.
The content on the shelves has also changed.
“At that time it would have been much more of what we would consider literature today as opposed to fiction for pleasure reading,” Hayward said. “They would have been focused on collecting literature of historical significance or things that had some sort of literary merit to them.”
The library then was the primary source of knowledge of the world.
Despite all the changes, the one thing that has remained constant is the interest from residents of New Glasgow.
“It’s interesting to see over 100 years how much the libraries have changed, but from the get-go this was a community-driven initiative that started it. I think all the changes that have occurred throughout have been community-driven,” Hayward said.
The library would later move over to Market Square on Dalhousie Street. That building burned in 1957, however, destroying much of the collection. It was replaced with the existing library building, which was constructed in the 1960s and renovated in 1989.
On the shelves in 1929
According to an annual report to the Town of New Glasgow in 1929, these are the types of books contained at the Fraser-Bell Memorial Library, which at that time had 3,150 volumes:
Fiction – 1,124
Young People’s – 226
Poetry – 231
Literature and Essays – 256
History and Biography – 412
Travel – 155
Religion – 126
Science – 196
Reference – 236
The Great War – 188