Margaret Beckman is Chief Librarian, University of Guelph, and is the author of numerous publications and presentations in the fields of library building planning, library management and library systems. She has served as a member of both the Waterloo Public and Midwestern Regional Library Boards, and was also on a task force in the recent Ontario Public Libraries Programme Review.
The Best Gift
This book is a vivid reminder of the early days of library development in Ontario. The beautiful buildings which still grace Ontario towns and villages, as illustrated, are a part of our provincial heritage.
By the turn of the century, a public library was perceived as an important element in the civic fabric of almost every Ontario community. However, the introduction of the Carnegie grants for library buildings gave impetus to the Ontario government programme for library development, and provided a focus for increased support of library services. Rivalry among neighbouring communities to secure a Carngie library heightened this awareness, as did the publicity – in some instances even controversy – which surrounded each step of the grant seeking, site selection and plan approval process.
As well, the hitherto unexplored story of Carnegie grant process in each community has been examined, and the role of one man, James Bertram, secretary to Andrew Carnegie, is revealed in absorbing detail. Library plans and design elements are also discussed, and the influence of a few architects on the building designs is revealed; the fascinating involvement of Frank Lloyd Wright in the Pembroke Carnegie library building is one such example.
A factual record of those wonderful buildings [built by Carnegie], 79 of them still standing and in use...and its dry tone masks a nostalgia that left this reader thoroughly awash in sentiment.
Stephen Langmead is an architect in private practice in Toronto, and was project architect for the McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph. He now combines architectural consulting for libraries and building renovations with the part-time teaching of design at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
John Black is Associate Librarian, University of Guelph, and also holds an appointment as an Associate Professor of Political Studies. His fields of interest are information and communication technologies, and in addition to lecturing in that field he is the author of a book on propaganda and several articles on international communications and library information systems.