Happy 55th!

On June 11, 1966, the Main Library at 35 Albert Street, Waterloo opened for business. As the Main celebrates its 55th birthday, I felt a little stroll through the library’s history was called for.

The first public lending library in the then town of Waterloo was located on a selection of tables in the Town Hall. The “Library Room” initially was only open 2 evenings a week, for 2 hours each night. Borrowing commenced in February 1876 under strict guidelines, some due to the nature of the times, others due to the limited resources on offer. These included:

  • persons under the age of 15 were not allowed to borrow books
  • only two people from one family were allowed in the Library Room at one time
  • utmost good order and decorum must be observed at all times
  • 15 minutes was allowed, per person, for book selection
  • any member bringing dishonour upon the institute may be expelled by the library’s Directors

By 1900, the need for a proper building was evident. A grant was applied for and received by Scottish philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, and construction began on the first Waterloo Free Library at Albert and Dorset Streets. On November 1, 1905 the first purpose-built library in Waterloo began lending books. The “Carnegie Library” was an immediate success and would be in use as a public library for 61 years.

WatPL29826fBy 1964, the Waterloo Library had outgrown its location. The site chosen to build an exciting, new, modern library was the corner of Albert and Dupont Streets, the former location of the old fire hall and Market House (Waterloo Market). The 17,000 sq. ft. building was designed by architects Horton & Ball and included an auditorium-gallery, separate departments for adults, reference and children, and outside reading balconies. The grand opening on June 11, 1966 was cause for much celebration.

The Main Library has seen huge changes over its 55 years, including:

  • an expansion on the Dupont Street side of the building to double the size of the Adult Department to include an audio visual department, a reference area, new reading areas, and more room to display the books (1987 to 1989)
  • the card catalogue (remember those?) being replaced with the Dynix computer system (1991)
  • “DialPAC”, a computer service that allowed customers, for the first time, to “dial in” to the library directly from their home or office to place holds and access other limited services (1994)
  • free internet for customers (1999)
  • computer workstations for customers with MS Word, Excel, Publisher, PowerPoint and more (2000)
  • the library’s first website is launched (2001)
  • a major, multi-year re-design takes place at both the Main Library and the McCormick Branch, including introducing a popular new lending collection, DVDs (2004)
  • WPL joins the social media bandwagon, creating accounts on both Twitter and Facebook (2009/10)
  • the library bids farewell to date due cards as RFID technology and self-checkout stations arrive (2009)
  • a circulation record is broken as customers borrow over 2 million items in 2012

Of course, 2020 and 2021 have been very unique years at the library with curbside service, virtual programs and services, book bundles and more. And while we don’t know what the next 55 years will hold for the library (aside from the Eastside Branch opening at RIM Park in spring 2022!!), we are sure that with our incredible customers and awesome community, it will be fun and exciting!

— Sandi H.

Note: click here to learn more about WPL’s 145 year history and click here to view more photos of the Main Library in the 1960s



Over 900 children registered for the Summer Reading Club and read over 9000 books.

139 volunteers worked over 2360 hours shelfreading (putting books in order), shelving, covering book and delivering books to people who are unable to visit the library themselves.

Free Internet service became available in all departments.