The Timmins Public Library – originally known as the Timmins Free Public Library – was established in 1924, following a three year campaign initiated by Mr. C.S. Carter, principal of the Timmins Public School . Mr. Carter’s rationale for establishing a public library was simple, and direct: the town needed one in order to encourage a love of reading in its young people. Moreover, he added, (perhaps trying to foster a little competitiveness) smaller communities like Iroquois Falls or Cochrane were already planning to build libraries, and it would look badly on Timmins – a larger city and therefore, of greater need – if it had no such place of its own. Finally, as part of his argument, Mr. Carter addressed a particular concern, assuring town fathers that the Public School could be used to house the facility, leaving minimal expense for taxpayers.
Transforming Mr. Carter’s idea into an actual library, however, was a complicated alchemy: first, petitions were presented demonstrating the support of townspeople; a committee then set out to determine the feasibility of the project; the matter was put to a (restricted) vote; once the vote passed, a Library Board was then created as required by law to oversee all necessary steps in establishing the hoped-for library. Throughout the process, support for the library remained constant. A letter penned by “Bookworm”, printed in the Advance, reminded readers of the library’s importance by saying, “A man of one idea gets morose…Just as a man is in a greater or lesser degree known by the company he keeps, so a man or boy is known by the literature he reads…”
The Timmins Free Public Library was formally opened in the summer of 1924 (though by now plans had shifted and it would be located in the basement of the Gordon Block). Within its first week it would have a membership of 117, with 142 books signed out to patrons. By Christmas of that year, membership had increased to 849 people, a trend that would continue, prompting the library’s relocation to the basement of the post office in 1931. Two years later the library had a membership of more than four thousand. In 1938 the library moved for a third time, occupying the second floor of city hall; interest was still strong and the library staff endeavored to bring bibliophiles useful activities, such as classes in book repair. In 1960 the library moved yet again, assuming the ornate grey stone building that once housed the Post Office. It would remain there for approximately forty-four years, until the new facility was opened in September of 2005.
Today, the Library has over 45 public workstations, a training area with 10 workstations, multiple study rooms, meeting rooms and a 3D theatre. We provide access to 50+ databases and over 100,000 print and audio-visual material. Please enjoy your online visit, and do come in and experience our libraries. Both our branches are wheelchair accessible.
Our sister library, The C.M. Shields branch in South Porcupine, opened to the public in November 1967. It remains in its original location, with an active membership.
Charles M. Shields History
A long road to the library
By DIANE ARMSTRONG
A South Porcupine pioneer, Sylvester Kennedy was an unschooled businessman who taught himself to read. In 1912, and with his own money, he built South Porcupine’s first two-roomed school on the corner of Broadway and Crawford Street. By 1919, the student population had grown and a new school was built on Golden Avenue. An avid reader, I’m sure Kennedy would have been pleased to know then, there was going to be a library in the old school’s future.
Beginning in 1920, Charles V. Gallagher was the Reeve of Tisdale Township and during his era, he saw the need for a library and encouraged the efforts of local clergy and mining officials towards this end. On October 18, 1924, and on an initiative by a local pastor, Rev. McVitty, the Porcupine-Dome Public Library was opened in a small building next to the new school on Golden Avenue. According to the Porcupine Advance, there was a “representative offering of books including biography, travel and literature together with the best fiction,” but was only open to the public for two hours on Wednesday evenings, two and a half hours Saturday afternoons and two hours on Saturday nights.
Meanwhile, the old school was moved to the south-east corner of Shamrock and Main Street. With more financial assistance from the Dome Mine, the front room of the old school became the ‘new’ Porcupine-Dome Public Library in 1927. The back room became the Boy Scout Hall.
After the Boy Scouts had built their own hall on Legion Drive, the library in the old school expanded to include the whole building. However, the land where the library was located, was needed to build the new Municipal building. Again, the building was moved – this time to the northwest corner of Shamrock and Main Street. David Kerr was elected Reeve in 1937 and during his one-year term, the groundwork was begun on the construction of the new building. Victor H. Evans became the next Reeve – a position he would hold in annual elections until 1956.
In 1938, Evans cut the ribbon on the new, multi-purpose Tisdale Township Municipal building where the Porcupine-Dome Public Library was now located on the top floor.
Mrs. Marion Pryor was the librarian who oversaw generations of families climb the three long flights of stairs to choose their reading material. Always willing to help students find the right research material for school projects, she is remembered fondly by many for that assistance, but is also remembered as a stern keeper of library rules. Personally, I was always irked when she would not allow me to borrow a book that was deemed to be a grade or two level higher than my school grade. Many years later, Mrs. Pryor (I could never call her Marion) was a neighbour of mine. Once I knew her better, I confessed my displeasure at not being able to borrow books beyond my grade level. It was then she told me it was because there simply weren’t enough books in the library to allow it. A long time in coming, but an explanation, at last.
Charles M. Shields became Reeve of Tisdale Township in 1957. Except for one year, “Charlie” held the position until 1970. Prior to Canada’s Centennial year, government funds were made available to municipalities for major projects. The long climbs of three flights of stairs to the library were sufficient cause for the Tisdale Township Council to request funding for a more accessible facility. It was granted.
In 1967, the C.M. Shields Centennial Library opened its doors at 99 Bloor Avenue. The bright, modern building became a branch of the Timmins Public Library. This new facility offered more than just books. It was ‘user friendly’, open for 44 hours each week and also offered a variety of programmes for children, access to inter-library loan services as well as access to the main library’s reference service. Today, there are also public computers, FAX and photocopying services as well as e-books, audio books, DVDs and much more.
The most recent head librarian was Kathi (Maki) Martin. After a lengthy career, Kathi retired in 2016 and her position has been filled by Louise Gaudette
It has been a long 93-year history from that first little library in South Porcupine.