From Then to Now: A Look at the Evolution of King City Public Library

A public library is a space for everyone in the community. No matter who you are or how old you are, you are always welcome in the library. That is why public libraries are so focused on being an inviting place for everyone and offering a variety of services that people can use and enjoy. When a public library is built or renovated, it is always with the community in mind. Would the community get more benefit from more books and shelving or should there be a space for reading and studying as well? Will they want these spaces to be more innovative and creative or a community room they can take advantage of?

The King Township Library is no different. We are constantly striving to make the library accessible and inviting to everyone, as we have always done, not only within the walls but with the walls themselves. This is demonstrated most notably by the King City branch.

Word of the King City Library’s upcoming renovation and expansion has already spread and the excitement has grown. But what are the origins of this library the King City community knows and loves?

The people of King City have always been book lovers and in 1893 a library was organized, known as the King City Mechanics and Library Association. The books were housed in the office of Bailiff J.W. Crossley, 15 Keele Street South. The membership fee was $1 per family or 50 cents per person. Unfortunately, it was difficult to find a supervisor and the library was discontinued.

Just over 50 years later, The King Memorial Library was founded in 1947 by members of the Women’s Institute as an Association Library, named to commemorate local soldiers fallen during WWII. During this time it was housed in an old barn and later moved to a small framed building, both in Memorial Park. The Lake Marie Athletic Association kindly donated both the space and shelving for the library.

In 1956 the Library moved to 45 Springhill Road (now King Road) and achieved Public Library status as voted by the King City taxpayers: only one voter was against this idea at the time. This library operation continued until the assets were absorbed into the Township of King Central Library in 1969.

In 1970 the “little gem of imaginative design and practical structure” opened its doors in its current location at 1970 (ironic, we know) King Road, opening on Saturday, January 10th, bringing the library into the 20th century. The library’s 5,000 square foot building cost $84,000 to build. The architect, Denis Bowman, was chastised for designing a public building that didn’t fit the current mold of being very square and stark. In fact when it first opened it was described as being “light and airy, [with a] homelike atmosphere”. On opening day a total of 150 people registered to be members of the library, many from outside the area.

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The Library as it looked in 1970.

Dennis Bowman, the architect, designed and incorporated a wood and wool mural into the foyer of the new library. The wood piece was made from hundreds of pieces of African pango-pango, redwood, maple and teak pieces and the wheel-themed wool portion was hand hooked by Mrs. Norman Etheridge of Kingcraft. One of the iconic features of the King City branch library are the oversized Douglas fir beams that dominate the main floor of the library, a feature that is planned to be incorporated into the new design. When the branch was built in 1970, the materials were chosen for being sturdy, easy to care for and visually appealing; a theme that is being emulated in the new building.

At the 1970 opening the library was gifted numerous items still housed in the library today, including a watercolour of the former frame building on Springhill Road by Susan Hally.

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The Library as it looks now.

The new King City branch will grow from the current 7,839 square feet to be more than 2 ½ times as large and incorporating the King City Senior’s centre into the state-of-the-art building. The design for the new building will take the library from the 20th to the 21st century with many exciting new features without losing the elements people love most about the current building. Some of the special features of the new building will include a dedicated maker space (a creative and collaborative space), quiet study rooms, iPad bar, a larger community room, and lounge areas for reading and relaxing. All this to say, upon the proposed grand opening of its doors in the Fall of 2019, the King City Library will be the epitome of a 21st century library, and act as a “centre of innovation and a vibrant community hub”.

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A rendering of what the new library will look like.