Elgin County Library provides a welcoming, inclusive and supportive environment that fosters lifelong learning, creative expression, community engagement and cultural vitality in harmony with a rural way of life.
• provides gathering spaces for sharing, learning and support.
• employs staff with the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to deliver service that best meets County residents’ changing needs.
• is recognized for its partnership approach to library service, its cultural stewardship, and important contributions to local economic prosperity and community inclusiveness.
• Provide open, safe, and welcoming environments that are universally accessible.
• Facilitate modern and vibrant new libraries that are of appropriate size to serve the community.
• Include large communal zones for learning, sharing and support as well as individual quiet places.
• Create innovative and flexible space that is environmentally friendly and sustainable.
• Offer collections and services that adapt to the community’s changing needs.
• Engage knowledgeable, well-trained, professional staff who provide excellent customer service.
• Promote patron ownership of the library and its services.
• Encourage an enthusiastic, innovative, friendly staff culture.
• Deploy staff appropriately to maximise individual and corporate strengths.
• Create opportunities for professional development.
• Pursue inclusive community partnerships that are mutually beneficial.
• Develop and increase outreach opportunities.
• Maintain strong relations with municipal partners through active communication.
• Facilitate effective governance by County Council in alignment with the County’s strategic goals.
• Strengthen ties with library networks, educators, local business and all levels of government.
• Provide reliable and up to date technology.
• Offer online services and resources that are accessible to all County residents.
• Improve efficiency by employing tools that are appropriate and cost-effective.
• Meet the programming needs of our community’s changing demographics.
• Support access to our cultural heritage.
• Effectively communicate and promote library resources and services.
• Strengthen support from stakeholders through recognition of the library’s contributions to economic prosperity and quality of life.
• Promote the library’s integral role in community vitality.
• Safeguard our responsibility for the protection of intellectual freedom.
• Invite user feedback to inform future services.
Many of Elgin County Library’s branches originated as Mechanics’ Institutes, which provided adult education particularly in technical subjects to working-class men. In 1883, the Ontario Free Public Libraries Act enabled the conversion of larger Mechanics’ Institutes into public libraries. In 1895, supplementary legislation allowed chartered institutes to change their official names to “Public Library.”
By the early 1930s, Ontario government policies and financial incentives were changed to promote more effective and cost-efficient delivery of library services to rural communities, such as a county-wide or regional book-buying cooperative or association. In an Association, member libraries pooled funds to buy and circulate more books than could be purchased by an individual library.
As a result of those political changes, in 1934, the Rodney Public Library board asked its secretary and librarian Mrs. Della Ludy to investigate county-wide library associations and the possibility of an Association for the County of Elgin. In a letter dated March 6 of 1935, Mrs. Ludy asked Miss Florence Cameron, librarian of the St. Thomas Public Library, to assist in its establishment. Miss Cameron agreed to assist and suggested a meeting of the interested libraries. Thereafter, Mr. G. V. Thornicroft and Mrs. H. Paterson began to tour Elgin County to rally interest in a library association.
In November, the first meeting to establish the cooperative was held at St. Thomas Public Library, but only representatives from two of nine existing libraries attended due to bad weather. A temporary slate of officers was chosen and a second meeting was arranged for the spring. On April 28 of 1936 at 8pm, the Elgin County Library Association was established when its constitution was adopted at inaugural meeting in the auditorium of the St. Thomas Public Library. It was composed of the existing public libraries in Bayham, Rodney, Shedden, Sparta and West Lorne. Its head office was located in St. Thomas Public Library, where its staff performed the cataloguing and other services such as compiling book lists at no cost to the Association.
Elgin County Library originally formed in 1936 as an association representing libraries in Bayham, Rodney, Shedden, Sparta and West Lorne. In 1948, the Association became the Elgin County Library Cooperative with a county-appointed Library Board. By 1966, Elgin County Library was incorporated with twelve branches and a county library board that replaced all the previous library boards.
Over the years, library services have been extended to elementary and secondary schools, airmen in training and disabled veterans in hospital, communities without library facilities, nursing homes and homes for the aged, and up to fourteen member libraries (Avon, Aylmer, Bayham, Belmont, Dutton, Port Burwell, Port Stanley, Rodney, Shedden, Sparta, Springfield, Vienna, West Lorne and the R.C.A.F. Technical Training School outside St. Thomas during World War II during the war).
Books have been distributed by various methods including personal vehicles, commercial courier, bookmobiles, mail and a delivery van. Other materials were later circulated such as paperbacks, large print books, stereo records, millimetre films, microfilms, magazines, newspapers, cassettes, videotapes, music CDs, DVDs and continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of the communities it served.
New programs and services were developed including puppet shows, storytimes, workshops, microfilming, photocopying, government information, etc. Most importantly, Elgin County Library helped to raise awareness, promote preservation of and make the history of Elgin County available through the development of the Elgin County Archives and the Elgin County Museum.
Technology has been key to our ongoing success. From the first office computer in 1986 to the beginning of automation in 1992 to an online catalogue in 2002 and eventually, wireless internet access in all branches by 2008. Additionally, buildings have been relocated, renovated, upgraded and constructed to make their location and environment more comfortable and accessible.
Today, Elgin County Library operates ten branches in Aylmer, Belmont, Dutton, Port Burwell, Port Stanley, Rodney, Shedden, Springfield, Straffordville and West Lorne, and has a head office just south of St. Thomas, Ontario. With a library membership card, residents of all ages in Elgin County have access to various materials, programs and services at no charge.