The History of Kinmount’s Libraries
October 1, 2022
By Guy Scott
Education and libraries have been a large part of Canadian culture. In pioneer days, books were often hard to come by. Individuals had their own small libraries, often a few classic novels. They were passed from person to person on a loan basis. Only the very rich could afford more than a mere handful of books.
Likewise schools were starved for reading materials. Textbooks were provided on various subjects, but few novels or periodicals. Since most schools were of the small, one-room variety, they did not have their own library. In the 1850s, social reformers began to organize public libraries. The larger towns and cities had their public libraries, but the smaller villages could not afford a library. Thus an organization called the Mechanics Institutes was formed in Ontario. These were basically library boards whose goal was to create a free library open to the entire scope of society. But the Mechanics Institutes were only formed where the citizens took the effort to form and operate them. (Mechanic was a generic term of the era used to denote working class or the poor who could not afford books.) Many areas were still without a public library.
Kinmount never had a Mechanics Institute. But a smaller community organization called the Kinmount Public Institute was formed in the 1890s to operate a public library. They arranged for a reading room in the business of Charles Cole (harnessmaker) on the main street. Money was raised from fundraisers and donations and the volunteer group began to accumulate a small library, as funds allowed. The May 13, 1898 Lindsay Daily Post records the minutes of their annual meeting:
“The meeting was opened by reading the reports of the treasurer, secretary and librarian, which were very satisfactory, considering the short time the library has been running. The library was stocked with 178 volumes as follows:
Fiction – 54
General Literature – 49
Voyages and Travels – 31
History – 23
Biography – 6
Science & Art – 4
Poetry and Drama – 8
Religious – 2
Reference – 1
Total membership is 104 and perhaps the greatest surprise was that 75 have used the library since opening. The number of volumes issued was 433. The Reading Room contains 2 dailies, 5 weeklies, and 9 periodicals. Officers elected for the year 1898-1899:
President John Austin
Vice-President: Rev. E. Soward
Secretary: R.J. Graham
Treasurer: George Train
Directors: Mrs. Kelly, Mrs. Mills, Mrs. Bain, J.E. Walker, W.T. Craig, J.C. Train, Bert Hopkins
Librarian: C.E. Cole
Your correspondent would strongly recommend that our citizens should use every energy to make the above Institute a success by any assistance they can give in the way of donations, etc. as the cause is worthy.”
The same year, on April 8, the Public Library committee held a fund raising basket social. The highest offer for a basket (with attached female) was $1.75.
The new library was really expanding, for a December 23 report stated the number of volumes available had already risen to over 400. But the Library had also changed locations. It had moved in November down the street to the post office/store of George Train, who was appointed the new librarian. There was no reading room due to space issues, but the library was open for business.
Sometime afterwards, the Library Board was discontinued, and the library service was handled by George Train. He operated a post office/stationary/book store from his building on the east side of the main street at the bridge. The library was no longer free; users paid to borrow books. The initial fee was 50 cents per year and allowed the subscriber to sign out a set number of books per year. Mr. Train was responsible for updating the supply of literature. This private library service was ended some time before 1933, when George Train surrendered the post office.
For the next few decades Kinmount was without a library. In the 1960s the issue of library services arose again. The County of Victoria began a program to install library services in all its communities. The community libraries would be part of a county service, and share books on a rotating basis. The Community Centre was chosen as a library site, and part of the downstairs was converted for the purpose. The area now occupied by the Artisan’s Marketplace was renovated and the current entrance opened up. The new library only occupied part of the space.
This branch library continued for many years until the 1990s when the new Somerville Township office was built on the Cemetery Hill. The new facility included space for a library in the basement. The former site in the community hall was made available to the Artisan’s Marketplace.
In 2003 amalgamation into the City of Kawartha Lakes made Somerville Township Council redundant and the upstairs offices were remodelled for use of a new, improved library. The current library was created with buckets more room, an internet access centre and meeting room. The Friends of the Kinmount Library was created as a support group and they went on to hold book sales in the basement.
Today the Kinmount branch of the City of Kawartha Lakes Library Services operates a very successful library service in the modern building. Over 400 patrons a month take advantage of its services. When library closures were announced across the City, the Kinmount branch avoided the cuts (unfortunately Burnt River Library was closed). Even in the day of the internet, libraries still play a vital role in our communities. The number of people from all over the community who still patronize the Kinmount Library is gratifying to see. Long may it carry on.