|1869-1887||New London Mechanics Institute / Hastings Literary Institute|
|1887-1903||Vancouver Reading Room / Vancouver Free Public Library / Vancouver Free Reading Room and Library|
|1957-1995||750 Burrard Street|
|1995 -||Library Square|
|1927 -||Branch Libraries|
New London Mechanics Institute / Hastings Literary Institute
The modern history of Vancouver began in 1867, when the area's first sawmill the Hastings Mill was built at the foot of Heatley Street. Eventually, a settlement known as Granville developed around the Mill.
In January 1869, the manager of the Hastings Mill, J.A. Raymur, started the New London Mechanics Institute, a meeting room and library for mill employees. In March 1869, it was renamed the Hastings Literary Institute,in honour of Rear Admiral the Honourable George Fowler Hastings. No official records of the Hastings Literary Institute have survived, but it is known that membership was by subscription. Among the half-dozen Hastings Literary Institute books owned by the Vancouver Public Library is A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith (Special Collections Reference no. 824 S66WS6m) , with the inscription presented by Thomas Saueville, M.A., Jan. 7, 1869. This date is interesting, because it suggests that the opening of the Hastings Mill Library may have occurred before the opening of the library at the Moodyville Sawmill Co. in what is now North Vancouver. The Memoir was probably the very first volume to appear on the shelves of the Hastings Literary Institute*. The Hastings Literary Institute continued to exist until the Granville area was incorporated as part of the new City of Vancouver on April 6, 1886.
*Gwen Hayball, "A history of the Vancouver Public Library, 1869-1900", in British Columbia Historical News.
Photograph credits from left to right:
- VPL 9389, 9390, 9391. These three photographs placed side by side form a panorama of Vancouver's waterfront showing from the Granville townsite to the Hastings townsite, including Hastings Mill, 1885, Photographer unknown
- VPL 922, Hastings Mill Store and employees, 1875, Photographer unknown
- CVAMiP36N29, Hastings Mill including the Hastings Literary Institute, July 1886, Photographer unknown
Vancouver Reading Room / Vancouver Free Library / Vancouver Free Reading Room and Library
Following the Great Fire of Vancouver on June 13, 1886, 400 books from the now-defunct Hastings Literary Institute were donated to the newly-established Vancouver Reading Room. This donation and the beginnings of the Vancouver Reading Room were described by Vancouver pioneer H.P. McCraney, a member of the first Park Board and Library Board:
...after Vancouver got started the boarding house at the Hastings Saw Mill was discontinued. There was no further use for the library there and the books were collected into a pile and lay unused. Richard Henry Alexander [then manager of the saw mill) mentioned the matter to the Rev. Henry G. Fiennes-Clinton [first rector of St. James Anglican church] and asked if he could make use of them. Clinton spoke to Mr.[Francis] Carter-Cotton [owner and editor of the Vancouver Daily News Advertiser] who lived at the same house as me. So the three of us got together and appointed ourselves a library committee and took over the books. We went around town, gathered up all the old books and some money. We hired a room...and put George Pollay and his wife in charge.
Vancouver City Archives, McCraney file
In December 1887, the Reading Room opened at 144 West Cordova Street, above the Thomas Dunn and Company hardware store. It was also known as the Vancouver Free Library and the Vancouver Free Reading Room and Library.
George Pollay was appointed as the first librarian at the Vancouver Reading Room in 1887. He remained in this position until his resignation in 1890. James Edwin Machin succeeded George Pollay as librarian. After Machin became librarian, a letter was sent to the Mayor and Council drawing their attention to the inadequacy of the space occupied by the Free Library on Cordova street. The City fathers were sympathetic. In January 1894, the Free Reading Room and Library leased a 46x46 foot room in the new Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) Building at 151 West Hastings Street, for use as a new library.
Photograph credits from left to right:
- VPL 13275, Richard Henry Alexander, Manager of the Hastings Mill, 1914, Howay & Scholefield
- CVA-SGN 1450, Looking east from Cambie St., Vancouver, B.C., 189-?, City of Vancouver Archives.The Vancouver Reading Room was located above the Thomas Dunn and Company hardware store located at 144 Cordova St. In this photograph the store is located on the south side of Cordova St. or right hand side of the photograph.
- PORT P271N24, George Pollay beside his wife, Janet S. Pollay, and her sister (sitting), date, location and photographer unknown.
- CVABuP118, Exterior of the new YMCA building and Vancouver Public Library on Hastings St., Vancouver, B.C. James Machin is standing at the foot of the steps in the doorway. 1890, Bailey Bros.
- VPL 976, James Edwin Machin, City Librarian for Vancouver, 1892-1909, 190-, location and photographer unknown.
The Carnegie Library
By the late 1890s, the Free Reading Room and Library in the YMCA Building on West Hastings had become overcrowded. During this period, the American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was giving money to cities and towns to build libraries. In 1901, the City of Vancouver approached Carnegie about donating money for a new library to replace the space in the YMCA Building. The same year, Carnegie agreed to donate $50,000, if the City would agree to supply a site for the library and to support it at a rate of $5,000 per year. The City of Vancouver accepted the Carnegie gift and agreed to the conditions.
A site for the new library was chosen at the corner of Hastings and Westminster (now Main). It was to be located beside what was then the Vancouver City Hall. The architect for the project was George William Grant. The corner stone for the library was laid on March 29, 1902 (VPL photo 3422) and the doors opened to the public in October 1903 (VPL photo 3425 / VPL photo 3442).
In 1929, the old City Hall on Main Street, adjacent to the Carnegie Library, was acquired as an annex to the library (VPL photo 3395/ VPL photo 3458/ VPL photo 22641). The Vancouver Public Library continued to occupy the Hastings and Main site until the opening of the new central library at 750 Burrard Street in 1957. From 1927 until 1957, the library shared the Carnegie building with the Vancouver Museum. The Museum remained at the 401 Main Street location until 1968, when it moved to a shared facility with the Vancouver Planetarium. In January 1980, the Carnegie branch opened as part of the newly-opened Carnegie Community Centre in the old Carnegie Library Building.
Photograph credits from left to right:
- VPL 3422, Masons laying the cornerstone for the Carnegie Public Library at southwest Hastings and Main Streets, March 29, 1902, W.M. Bruce.
- VPL 3425, Carnegie Public Library, southwest corner of Hastings and Main Streets, 1908, Philip Timms.
- VPL 3442, Interior of Carnegie Public Library, 1932, Philip Timms.
- VPL 3395, Carnegie Public Library and City Hall at the southwest Hastings and Main Streets, 1932, Philip Timms.
- VPL 3458, Interior of the Carnegie Public Library, 1932, Philip Timms.
- VPL 22641, Miss Eugene Archibald, Head of Reference Department, Carnegie Public Library, 1927, photographer unknown.
750 Burrard Street
On December 12, 1945, the electors of Vancouver passed the first money by-law for library buildings in the history of the province. A majority of 83% voted to provide a new central library and three branches. The location for a central library still had to be chosen.
The site of the new central library was debated through the 1940s and 1950s. In July 1951, the northeast corner of Robson and Burrard was selected, and the choice sanctioned by the Vancouver City Council. In 1952, the City purchased the property. Even then, there were counter-proposals. As late as 1954, backers of the other sites were pressing the Library Board and City Council to reverse their decision. In September, however, the site was confirmed. Immediately following approval by City Council, the Board authorized architects Harold Semmens and Doug Simpson to proceed with building plans.
Harry M. Boyce, Chairman of the Vancouver Public Library Board, turned the first sod for the new library on April 18, 1956. The move from the Carnegie site to the new location at 750 Burrard began in mid-October, 1957, and the official opening of the new library was held on November 1, 1957. The library remained at the Burrard building until April 22, 1995, when it closed in preparation for the move to a new location at Library Square (350 West Georgia Street).
Photograph credits from left to right:
- VPL 3396, Harry M. Boyce, Chairman of the Vancouver Public Library Board, breaking sod for the new Vancouver Public Library, 1956, Province Newspaper.
- VPL 3404, Lieut. Governor Frank Ross cutting the ribbon to mark the opening of the new Vancouver Public Library, 1958, Province Newspaper.
- VPL 8595, Vancouver Public Library, 750 Burrard St., 1969, H.W. Roozeboom.
- VPL 3408, Library staff inside the new Vancouver Public Library, 1958, Province Newspaper.
- VPL 3407, Men, women and children at the opening of the new Vancouver Public Library, 1958, Province Newspaper.
- VPL 39068, Patrons in the Science and Technology Division of the new Vancouver Public Library, 196-, photographer unknown.
Over the years the Central Library at 750 Burrard Street had become increasingly outdated and overcrowded, making it unable to meet the needs of its users. In November 1990, Vancouver voters endorsed capital funds for a new central library. Next, the City bought the construction site at 350 West Georgia Street (Georgia and Homer) from the federal government. The provincial government agreed to a long-term lease of two floors in the proposed new building.
Architects Moshe Safdie, Richard Archambault and Barry Downs won the design competition for the new library. PCL Constructors Pacific Ltd. were the general contractors for the project. The ground-breaking ceremony took place on February 1, 1993, and Library Square was officially opened on May 26, 1995.
Photograph credits from left to right:
- Mayor Gordon Campbell holding a horse shoe discovered at the Library Square building site, 1993, Photographer unknown.
- Aerial view of Library Square, 1994.
- DCP_3917, Study carrells, Vancouver Public Library, 2003, Kim McCarthy.
- DCP_3915, Patrons in the Special Collections Department, Vancouver Public Library, 2004, Kim McCarthy.
- DCP_3926, Vancouver Public Library from Robson Street, 2003, Kim McCarthy.
- DCP_1304, Patrons in the Children's Division, Vancouver Public Library, 2001, Kim McCarthy.
- DCP_3935, Vancouver Public Library from inside the concourse, 2002, Kim McCarthy.
For information including sketches, planning & architectural drawings, and photos see:
In 1911, the Vancouver Library Board was approached with a request to establish branches in outlying parts of the city. These "branches" were to consist of book collections in various stores throughout the city. In 1912, four "branches" were opened at the corner of Denman and Nelson Streets (Cunningham's Drug Store), Fourth Avenue and Vine Street (Boyle's Drug Store), Broadway and Heather Streets (Cameron's Drug Store) and Commercial Street and Third Avenue (Frost's Drug Store). The branches were so successful that four more were established in 1913. These were located at Robson and Broughton Streets (Love's Drug Store), Granville Street and Thirteenth Avenue (Cunningham's Drug Store), Main Street and Seventeenth Avenue (Gordon's Drug Store) and Powell Street and Victoria Drive (Cochrane's Drug Store). Over time, the names and ownership of the stores changed, but the library outlets remained.
World War I (1914-1918) and the years that followed saw financial cut-backs for the library. As a result, the eight "branches" were permanently closed in 1919, or shortly thereafter. It was not until 1927 that the first permanent branch was opened in Kitsilano (2375 West Fourth Avenue). Sixteen years later, in 1943, the second branch, Kerrisdale (Forty-second Avenue and West Boulevard), came into service.
- E.R. Gordon Drugs on the corner of 17th Avenue and Main Street, 1912, W.J. Moore, photographer
1927 - Kitsilano
- Opened at 2375 West 4th Avenue in February 1927.
- A new branch, located at 2425 Macdonald, opened in November 1963.
- Vancouver Public Library Talking Book Service began at the Kitsilano Branch in the mid-1970s.
- In 1988, all outreach services (Talking Books and Homebound Delivery) were consolidated at the Kitsilano Branch.
- In 1989, major renovations (1,600 sq. feet of new space, including elevator, disabled access, etc.) were completed.
- In December 1998, Outreach Services moved from the Kitsilano Library to the Central Library (Library Square).
1943 - Kerrisdale
- Opened at a location at 42nd and West Boulevard in September 1943.
- Moved to larger quarters in the newly-constructed Kerrisdale Community Centre at the same location in December 1954.
1949 - Gordon House
- Opened at 1334 Nelson Street in November 1945.
- Closed in 1957.
1949 - Hastings
- Opened at 2674 East Hastings in January 1949.
- In 1989, a new and larger Hastings Branch opened on the same site.
1949 - South HIll
- Opened at 6076 Fraser Avenue in September 1949.
- Closed in September 1989 for major renovations. Re-opened in March 1990.
1950 - Dunbar
- Opened at 4515 Dunbar Street in November 1950.
- Closed in August 1990 for major renovations. Re-opened in January 1991.
1951 - Collingwood
- Designed by Semmens & Simpson Architects, the Collingwood Branch opened at 2985 Kingsway in July 1951.
- The Mobile branch (“Bookmobile” or Book Bus), based out of Collingwood Branch, went into service in March 1956. Homebound book delivery services were also based out of Collingwood. Both were relocated to Kitsilano Branch and joined with Talking Books to form Outreach Services in the late 1980s.
1956 - Mobile
- The Mobile Branch (“Bookmobile” or Book Bus), based out of the Collingwood Branch, went into service in March 1956. The Mobile Branch was designed to bring library service to people who did not have a library branch nearby. As more branch libraries were built in Vancouver, the Mobile Branch was used less and less. The Book Bus service was officially retired in 1991.
1959 - Oakridge
- Opened at the Oakridge Shopping Centre (690 West 41st Avenue) in May 1959.
- Expanded and renovated as part of the new Oakridge Shopping Centre in 1984.
- Expanded again in 1990.
1963 - Mount Pleasant
- Opened at 141 East Broadway in November 1963.
- Relocated from 141 East Broadway to the Kingsgate Mall at 370 East Broadway in 1973. Closed Fall 2009.
- The new Mount Pleasant Branch opened in the Mount Pleasant Community Centre at 1 Kingsway in December 2009.
1968 - Killarney
- Opened March 1968 in Killarney Secondary School, at 6456 Killarney Street.
- Closed with the opening of the new Champlain Heights Branch in the Champlain Mall in 1980.
1970 - Grandview
- Opened at 1016 Commercial Drive in April 1970.
- Merged into the new Britannia Community Library at the Britannia Centre on Napier Street in 1976.
1971 - Fraserview
- Opened in the Neighbourhood Services Building at 1950 Argyle Drive in December 1971. The building was initially shared by the Library and various social service agencies.
1972 - Strathcona
- Opened late 1972 in the Lord Strathcona Elementary School at 592 East Pender Street.
- Operates in conjunction with the Lord Strathcona Elementary School Library.
1973 - Talking Books
- In 1973, money became available to various agencies through a Local Initiatives Project (L.I.P.) grant for the creation of a collections of talking books for distribution to visually-impaired and handicapped people in Vancouver. The Vancouver Public Library was among the agencies to receive funds for this purpose. Tapes were produced by a Greater Vancouver Library Council project.
- The Vancouver Public Library Talking Book collection was originally housed in the Kitsilano Branch.
- The Talking Book service later merged with Homebound Delivery to become Outreach Services in the late 1980s.
1974 - Marpole
- Opened in September 1974 at 8386 Granville Street.
1975 - South Granville
- Opened in August 1975 at 2805 Granville Street.
- Relocated from the Granville location and re-opened as the new Firehall Branch at 1455 West 10th Ave. in 1992.
1976 - Britannia
- Officially opened in June 1976 as the Britannia Community Library in the Britannia Centre at 1661 Napier.
- Jointly operated by the Vancouver Public Library and Vancouver School Board, serving both elementary and high school students, as well as the public.
1976 - Joe Fortes
- Opened at 870 Denman Street in May 1976, in co-operation with the West End Community Centre and King George Secondary School.
1978 - West Point Grey
- Opened in February 1978 at 4480 West 10th Avenue.
1980 - Carnegie
- Opened as part of the newly-renovated Carnegie Community Centre at 401 Main Street in January 1980.
1980 - Champlain Heights
- Opened February 1980 in the Champlain Mall at 7110 Kerr Street.
- Closed for major renovations in March 2001.
- Re-opened in September 2001 at nearly double the square footage.
1980 - Kensington
- Storefront branch—opened at 3927 Knight Road in March 1980. This branch officially closed October 2008.
- New 7,100 sq ft branch officially opened January 2009 at 1428 Cedar Cottage Mews—the first new branch in seven years.
- Is part of the King Edward Village development.
1981 - Riley Park
- Storefront branch—opened at 3981 Main Street in November 1981.
- Closed September 17, 2011 with the opening of the new Terry Salman branch in the Hillcrest Community Centre, October 2011.
1987 - Outreach Services
- Inaugurated in the basement of Kitsilano Branch in 1987, the purpose of Outreach Services is to extend library resources to partons who cannot travel to procure their own reading materials—the visually-impaired, those with extreme mobility limitations, and those isolated in care facilities.
- In the late 1980s, the services provided by Talking Books, Homebound Delivery and the Book Bus were consolidated as Outreach Services.
- Outreach Services relocated to a larger facililty at Library Square in December 1998.
1992 - Firehall
- Established as the South Granville Branch in 1975.
- Relocated to 1455 West 10th Avenue in June 1992, and re-opened as the new Firehall branch.
- Shares a building with the Vancouver Fire Department Hall no.4.
1994 - Renfrew
- Construction on a lot adjacent to the Renfrew Community Centre began in 1992.
- The new branch at 2969 East 22nd Avenue opened in October 1994.
- At 16,000 sq. feet, it is the largest branch library in Vancouver.
2009 - Kensington
- The new Kensington branch, located at 1428 Cedar Cottage Mews, opened in January 2009. The branch is part of the King Edward Village development.
2011- Terry Salman
- Named after VPL Foundation Board Chair, the new Terry Salman branch opened in October 2011. It is located in the Hillcrest Community Centre.