With more than 3,000,000 in-person visits and 2,800,000 on-line visits, Hamiltonians borrowed over 6,000,000 books, CDs, and DVDs from the Hamilton Public Library (HPL) in 2010. Hamilton is a port city with a population of just over half a million people.
It is part of the Golden Horseshoe, a densely populated region of Ontario at the west end of Lake Ontario, with Toronto at the center. This region is part of a still larger urbanized area that stretches from Quebec City in the north to Windsor, Ontario in the south, the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor, which has financial, social, and environmental ties with the other cities and industrialized towns in Upper New York, Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, with the Milwaukee-Chicago Corridor as the western anchor.
As with Toronto, the Province of Ontario consolidated Hamilton with its suburbs in a regional municipality before amalgamating the regional municipal government, city government, and suburban governments into one city government under the name of the city. The Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth replaced Wentworth County in 1973. The City of Hamilton amalgamated with the City of Stoney Creek, the Town of Ancaster, the Town of Flamborogh, the Town of Dundas, and the Township of Glanbrook in 2001.
On January 7, 1889, Hamiltonian voters approved the passage of a by-law to create a public library and by the following month the first Library Board had been formed. On March 7, 1889, the Library Board appointed the first chief librarian, Richard T. Lancefield.
The cornerstone of the first Hamilton Public Library was laid on October 23, 1889 and the library was officially opened by John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon (1847-1934), 7th Earl Aberdeenand his beloved wife Countess Aberdeen (Ishbel Hamilton-Gordon) on September 16, 1890. [John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon (known after 1916 as the 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair) served as the 7th Governor General of Canada between 1893 and 1898.] On May 7, 1908 the first branch library was opened on Barton Street East.
Soon, the Library Board desired to build a new Main Library. Much as the first Toronto Public Library (TPL) central library was erected with funds from industrialist-turned-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1912), the construction of the second HPL central library was paid for with funds from Carnegie. After receiving a Carnegie grant, the HPL erected a new building on the south side of Main Street West, across the street and west of the original library building. The towns with previously profiled public libraries that have or had facilities constructed with Carnegie funds are Highland Park, Illinois; Downers Grove, Illinois; Chicago Heights, Illinois; La Grange, Illinois; Glen Ellyn, Illinois; Aurora, Illinois; and Gary, Indiana in Chicagoland, plus Waukegan in far Northern Illinois, Delavan in Central Illinois, and Toronto.
The new Main Library was officially opened by the Lieutenant Governor (and Hamiltonian) Sir John Morison Gibson (1842-1929) on May 5, 1913. This Main Library served Hamilton for the next six decades.
In the 1960s, a campaign began to build a larger library. A location in the civic square was chosen and construction began in time for H.R.H. Prince Philip (Queen Elizabeth II’s consort) to officially open the Central Library in May of 1980 in Lloyd D. Jackson Square.
The Dundas Public Library had a much longer history than Hamilton as the radical reformer William Lyon Mackenzie (1795-1861) founded their first circulating library in 1822. Two years later, he founded a newspaper called The Colonial Advocate. [Mackenzie is remembered because he went on to become the first Mayor of Toronto in 1834 and led the Upper Canada Rebellion in Toronto in 1837-38. They wanted to establish a Canadian republic. Simultaneously, in Lower Canada there was the Lower Canadian Rebellion of 1837 – known in Quebec as the Patriots’ War.] The Dundas Mechanics’ Institute, incorporated in 1857, and became the Dundas Public Library in 1883.
In 1948, the Wentworth County Cooperative Library was founded. Soon, it had branches in all the small communities surrounding Hamilton and Dundas.
On January 1, 2001 the Hamilton Public Library (HPL) amalgamated with the Dundas Public and the Wentworth Public Library systems to become the Hamilton Public Library (HPL) in the new City of Hamilton conurbation. Today, the HPL serves the community through twenty-four facilities, a virtual branch (www.hpl.ca), and two bookmobiles.