WPL Milestones & Events

“It was William Kay who inaugurated the library’s motto: ‘Aude Sapere’ (Dare to be Wise)  (Library History in the City of Windsor – Local History Pamphlet File #93)

The Windsor Public Library has witnessed significant milestones in its long history which has surpassed a century.  WPL librarians and staff takes pride in important anniversaries and milestones.

60th with reproduction of Lambies Hall cornerIn 1954, the WPL acknowledged its 60th “Jubilee” with a nostalgic look back at the 19th century by recreating Lambie’s Hall, the first Windsor library, in one corner of the Carnegie Library with librarians in historical costumes of the Victorian era.  The “Library of the ‘Nineties” featured two sections of shelves closed off with bars to “give the effect of the closed stacks of the early library with a wicket, behind which was the librarian’s desk” (Hume, 60 Years of Service of Windsor Public Library, 1954).  The WPL had recently acquired back issues of the Windsor Daily Star on microfilm, so librarians showcased their new technology with a retrospective of the paper. Vintage signs were posted, warning customers, “’Closed stacks – choose books from posted lists,” “Library Catalogues for sale – 15 cents including supplements as issued,” and the motto, “Let your thoughts be gentle and your voice be low” (Hume, 1954).  For added atmosphere, a shiny spittoon was placed far away from a table bearing a sign, “Reserved for Ladies.”

The Carnegie librarians researched and presented an exhibition on the Art of Bookmaking, which traced the history of shared knowledge from cave paintings on.  The highlight of this exhibition was a 1585 bible, one of the earliest printed, donated by a neighbour of the Carnegie Library, a Mrs. Bennett.  Named after the printer, the Charles Barker Bible was tucked away in the archives for safekeeping afterwards and generally forgotten until it was found again in 2011 by Local History librarian, Tom Vajdik.

The Walkerville Branch at Willistead staged an exhibition about children’s books, including one of the first dedicated children’s picture books, a “’horn book’, a child-sized wooden paddle which had a piece of printed paper attached to it” (Windsor Star, April 23, 1954).  Similar displays were available at the South Branch at John Campbell School, and the library’s modern new branch at Seminole featured a retrospective of films, books and photographs relating to 50 years of the automobile, Windsor’s chief industry of the time. Commemorative cotton bags were sold with a jubilee motto, “Our Hope for the Future.”

A Centennial Committee of WPL staff led by Laurence Grant, Curator of Windsor’s Community Museum, planned a series of events and commemorations of the 100 years of service of the Windsor Public Library in 1994. A mobile exhibition giving an overview of the history of the Windsor Public Library system debuted at Windsor City Hall in June, 1994, and then “toured” each branch so that the public could share it in their neighbourhood branches.  A flower bed in Jackson Park replicated the WPL’s Centennial logo and, in the tradition of the early library, a centennial tea was held in December of that year. As a fundraiser, the library sold book bags with the Centennial logo at all branches – pioneering the move to reusable bags replacing plastic.


Librarians have taken part in many local broadcasts over the history of the Windsor Public Library in order to let listeners know about programing at the library, or as part of the WPL’s education program.  In 1954, Anne Hume offered thanks to local radio media, CKLW, CBE, the Radio Committee of the A.F.L. and C.C.L. which annually donated its scheduled weekly half-hour to Young Canada’s Book Week.

In 1957, WPL librarians had their first taste of television fame when Eileen Kelly and Joyce Taylor appeared in a children’s puppet show presentation for Canada Book Week.  The WPL commissioned its first television commercial in 2011 produced by Media Street Productions.


The Windsor Public Library has long been a leader of excellence in innovation and service in the community and boasts a long list of awards that can be viewed on its website.  Some highlights include technology and service awards.

In time for the WPL’s Centennial celebration, former library Director Fred Israel was named Librarian of the Year by the Ontario Library Association in January 1993, for his work planning the move of the Main Library from the Carnegie building to the new Main Library on Ouellette Avenue. In recognition of this, the WPL Board decided to name the new auditorium after Mr. Israel.

In April, 2003, CEO Steve Salmons was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for his “work in raising the profile of public libraries as an essential information resource for children, seniors and all Windsor residents” (WPL Board Minutes, April 9, 2003).

R. Alan Douglas, the first curator of François Baby House Museum (now Windsor’s Community Museum) received a Canadian Museum’s Association Award of Distinguished Service in April, 2008 for his 34 years of service to the community and Ontario museums.  He had also received the E.J. Lajeunesse Award for his service to local history by the Essex County Historical Society and the Carnochan Award for the Ontario Historical Society in 1990 and 1992.

In a WPL Information Technology Update for the WPL Board in June, 2005, it was noted that the WPL “embraced technology to expand services and programming” (WPL Board Minutes, June 8, 2005) and had as a consequence won 15 awards in a short span of five years for “technological leadership and innovation.” One of these awards included recognition by Alan Rock, then Minister of Industry, announcing the WPL’s groundbreaking use of the internet by a Canadian public library for its project iCity – Historic Sites of Walkerville.  In 2012, the WPL continued this tradition with the CLA/OCLC Award for Innovation Technology for the Tomorrow Today project.  This “innovative project has shown libraries that there are limitless ways to reach current and future customers.  One of the most innovative aspects of the project was how WPL uses portable devices to create a mobile library branch” (WPL Press Release, November 2, 2012).

Other outreach programs at the Windsor Public Library have received awards, such as the long-serving Literacy program.  It won the 2009 Canadian Library Association/Stan Heath Award for significant advancements in education and literacy in the community and was presented to Rachel Blok.


As early as 1913, the Windsor Public Library began publishing with a four-paged circular called The Bulletin.  The monthly publication, which was distributed free, contained lists of books added to the library, lists of books on special subjects and literary news.

Librarians continued these advertisement throughout the years with the publication “What Goes on Inside” which reported on circulation and library services and was sent to thousands of homes in the Windsor area.

As a result of a news item in the Ontario Library Review, requests were made to Windsor Public librarians for publications they published, including bibliography on “Problems of Demobilization, Adjustment and Rehabilitation of Men and Women from the Armed Forces”, “Library Trends in Canada”, “Canada in the Post-War World” and histories of library service in Walkerville, Sandwich and Windsor.

Sixty years of serviceHead librarians took advantage of anniversary milestones in the Library’s history to compile commemorative pamphlets and reports outlining the Windsor Public Library’s achievements to date.  A pamphlet for the 60th Anniversary was published in 1954, Sixty Years of Service – 1894 – 1954 written by librarians Anne Hume and Hilda Brooke, was printed by Sumner Printing Co. for the library.  32,000 copies were hand-distributed by Boy Scouts to every household in the city.   Fifteen years later, an illustrated, mimeographed 75th Anniversary Annual Report was published in 1969 – this time illustrated with photographs of the director and board members, with an in memoriam page acknowledging the work of long-term board member Mrs. Kerr.

The WPL celebrated the opening of the new Main Library in 1973 with a full-colour illustrated souvenir brochure.  This offered a virtual tour of the new facilities and background about the artworks commissioned for the new building.

Windsor Public librarians also produced professional reports and contributed to on-going research on the role of libraries in the community.  For example, Anne Hume was instrumental in starting up the Cataloguing in Publication (CIP) list, which announces new books to be published early so that librarians can order them in a timely manner.  Librarian David Eady produced a neighbourhood report on how the Seminole Branch might best approach drop-in users in the early 1970s, Seminole Branch Library, 1974.

Various newsletters and events listings have been published by the WPL and distributed to the public.  In the 2000s, the WPL produced a newsletter called, Shelf Life: News from the Windsor Public Library.

The WPL has produced a series of reports and catalogues of subject specialties. To augment literacy studies in 1981, David Eady produced a list of Adult New Readers: a Bibliography of books that met the criteria of a grade 8 reading level, but of interest to adults.  Included were Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and a book on Jack Miner by the Council of Adult Education.  Many such lists and reports are now published on the WPL website.

In partnership with Employment Ontario, the WPL has published its first e-book, Cultural Engines: Celebrating Windsor’s Cultural Community in March, 2013. It is this book and website.  The aim of the publication is to shed a spotlight on three of Windsor’s longest-serving cultural organizations: the Art Gallery of Windsor, the Windsor Symphony Orchestra and the Windsor Public Library (including Windsor’s Community Museum and Windsor’s Community Archives).  Program coordinator Jean Foster and the community partners recognized that although the WPL’s history was well-documented, the seven-decade histories of the Art Gallery of Windsor or the Windsor Symphony Orchestra were not easily available to the public.  The Windsor Public Library and the Art Gallery of Windsor have a shared history, and had operated under the same administration in the same building for a time at Willistead Manor.  The Windsor Symphony Orchestra has often worked in partnership with the other two organizations, also performing in their buildings.  In a small, close-knit city such as Windsor, many of the Board Members, volunteers and fundraisers who have supported one organization have also supported the others.  The aim of the publication of these histories is to celebrate the passion and dedication of those who have supported these organizations as professionals and as volunteers, and to encourage others to do in the future.


1894 – First public library opened in Lambie’s Hall on Ferry Street.

1903 – Carnegie Library opened at Victoria and Park with a grant from Andrew Carnegie.

1914 – First branches opened at Lanspeary’s Drug Stores, east and west locations.

1922 – Walkerville Library moved to Willistead Manor

1937 – Library system was 8 libraries: Carnegie, John Richardson, Prince Edward, Victoria, Willistead, South Branch, Sandwich and J.E. Benson

1940 – St. Luke’s Road Barracks Library opened.

1943 – Deposit of Children’s books placed in a Wartime Housing Clubhouse

1945 – A Friends of the Windsor Library Group organized

1953 – Golden Anniversary – Carnegie Library

1955 – AutoPage Book Return Box installed at Carnegie

1957 –  Headquarters moved from Willistead to Bartlet House

1958 – Opening of Hiram Walker Historical Museum

1959 – Art Gallery Administration assumed by Art Association

1963 – First meeting of Southwestern Regional Library Co-operative held in Windsor

1964 – Telex installed

1966 – Budimir and Riverside Libraries added; Sunday Service at Carnegie initiated

1969 – 75th Anniversary of Windsor Public Library

1973 – New Main Library opened

1975 – Art Gallery moves out of Willistead

1978 – Willistead Library closed

1980 – Adult Literacy Program starts

1994 – Windsor Public Library Centennial

2000 – Website introduced

2013 – Cultural Engines e-book and website published




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