Since 1894, the Windsor Public Library has been a meeting place for people, ideas, learning and culture. Deeply rooted in the community and rapidly evolving with it into the 21st century, WPL remains the familiar, well-trusted public institution that is has been since inception. It continues to be an award-winning innovator on behalf of the community; ensuring residents have innovative and universal access to information.
Windsor’s first free library came into existence in Lambie’s Hall on Ferry Street, where the Windsor Star building was located. It offered 5,254 books and 60 magazines and newspapers. Library users paid five cents for a library card.
By the turn of the century, Lambie’s Hall became inadequate and in 1901 a formal request was made to American Philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, for $20,000 to construct a new library. A site was selected at the corner of Park and Victoria streets to build Carnegie Library which opened in October, 1903.
Following closely the expansion and growth of the City, the library developed resources and introduced new services. Branch locations were opened and library service was coordinated in the amalgamated areas.
In 1954, which was Windsor’s Centennial year and also the 60th year of library service in Windsor, the library system had seven branches in operation: circulation was 555,754. By 1957, an addition to Carnegie Library was built, and with the expansion the business and industry section and a central service for children was added.
During the following years, caught in the general swing of the technological age, Windsor experienced an educational and cultural boom. To assist the community face this change was a challenge the Windsor Public Library enthusiastically met. In 1964, through the organization of the Southwestern Regional Library System in Essex, Kent and Lambton counties, the combined resources of all libraries became available to all citizens. To make the library more accessible, hours were extended, rules and policies were amended and fees and fines were abolished. Branches were renovated and library service extended to rapidly developing area.
In 1971 property was purchased to construct the existing Main Library on Ouellette Avenue. The 101, 467 sq. ft. facility opened in 1973 to much acclaim. The new facility generated much pride in the community and a sense of belonging when visited. Since then new facilities have been constructed at Riverside, Bridgeview and Sandwich with the most recent being Fontainbleau which opened in 2005. Windsor Public Library has been recognized for its award winnnng children’s centre which opened in 2003.
Important firsts for the Windsor Public Library include being the first library in Ontario to offer eBooks to the community and it was the first North American library to actively deliver a library card to each household in the community. It was also the first Public Library in Ontario to offer a print-on-demand newspaper service which provides the capability to select from over 225 same-day edition newspapers from around the world and to tailor them to the WPL collection and customers.
Currently close to 50 percent of the population of Windsor uses their local library to access services and collections. In a recent survey conducted in Windsor, citizens ranked their public library as one of the top five most important resources (after the Fire Department and Ambulance Services) in the community. This is not surprising considering the innovative and award-winning programs offered by the Windsor Public Library to our community.