Our History

The Brockville Mechanics’ Institute

The predecessor of the Brockville Public Library, the Brockville Mechanics’ Institute, was founded on October 31st, 1842 by a group of influential businessmen, among them W.S. Buell Jr. and William Buell Richards. Mechanics’ Institutes, first established in England in the 1820’s, began as voluntary associations of working men seeking self-improvement through education. These institutes offered evening lectures, lending libraries and periodical reading rooms. The Brockville Mechanics’ Institute was founded in 1842 with the purpose “to collect books of interest to clerks, apprentices and craftsmen; to sponsor lectures on a variety of subjects; and to conduct experiments in natural philosophy.”

The Public Libraries Act

In 1895, the Province of Ontario passed into law the first Public Libraries Act; soon after, Brockville’s Town Council passed a by-law officially establishing the Brockville Public Library, as an outgrowth of the collections and services of the Mechanics’ Institute. However, the Library did not yet have a permanent home.

The Carnegie Foundation

In 1902, the Town Council applied for a grant from American industrialist Andrew Carnegie to build a permanent home for the Library’s collection. This application was then approved in 1903, the Buell Street site chosen and Brockville architect Benjamin Dillon selected to design the building.

The Cornerstone of the Carnegie building was laid on October 29th, 1903 and the Brockville Public Library officially opened to the public on August 13th, 1904.

The total Carnegie grant was $17,000. The Town of Brockville supplied the land and committed to providing financial support for all future operating expenses.

The Library underwent two expansions and renovations in 1971 (east on George Street) and 1996 (south on Buell Street) to create the building we use today.

In the spirit of reconciliation, the Brockville Public Library acknowledges the land on which it was originally established, and the work that it does, takes place on the territories of the Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee, and Anishinabek Peoples. We are grateful for the significant and invaluable contributions First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples have made and continue to make across Turtle Island despite the historic and ongoing effects of colonialism.

As part of the Ontario Library Association, the staff and leadership at the Brockville Public Library are committed to active participation in reconciliation by amplifying Indigenous voices year-round, listening, learning, and providing resources so that we may work towards fulfilling CFLA-FCAB’s Truth & Reconciliation Committee Recommendations.