THE SCLA WAS BORN
From the Minutes Book of SCLA - dated January 1, 1890
...to establish a library association at the Town of Barrie in the Count of Simcoe pursuant to and in accordance with the provisions of the Statute Chapter One Hundred and Sixty Eight of the Revised Statutes of Ontario 1877 entitled "An Act Respecting Library Associations and Mechanics Institutes".
A CONDENSED HISTORY OF THE SIMCOE COUNTY LAW LIBRARY
The Simcoe County Law Association signed its Declaration of Incorporation on January 1st, 1890 and was officially incorporated on February 6th, 1891 with 33 members. The Association kept meticulous notes of its annual and other special meetings in which the library was featured prominently.
Throughout a large part of its history, the minutes recorded every single book that was added to the collection in the year. Almost from its inception, the library has been the exemplar of good fiscal and library management; its accounts with rare exception have always been solidly in the black and its collection and service to the profession excellent. However, during the tough times from 1931 to 1933, the books showed a deficit of $100.00 representing its indebtedness to the librarian for half of her annual salary.
LAW SOCIETY INSPECTIONS
The Law Society conducted inspections regularly at various points in the Association's history. In 1896, the Society's Mr. Eakins' comments which were recorded verbatim in the minutes were as follows:
"This Association is among those which in February last sent in to the Law Society returns so full and so satisfactory as to leave little for me to report upon. Its library is located in the Judge's Chambers on the first floor of the Court House. The room opens directly into the Court room and, though, small, is most attractive and comfortable and quite large enough for present purposes... This Association is thoroughly alive, and its affairs are managed in such a business like way that it may well serve as a model for all others of its class ... "
The next year, he followed this with:
"All that I said in praise of this Association and its library twelve months ago can be repeated this year. The library room is one of the most comfortable and attractive in the Province and its contents are well selected, well bound and most carefully looked after ... "
However, in 1907, the library was becoming crowded and a movement was growing to agitate the County into providing more space. The Society's Mr. Donald appeared to become an ally in this effort with his lukewarm "favourable reports" over the past few years giving way to a report of crowding in 1907. By 1908, the Association had obtained more space in an area removed from the Judge's Chambers. In the 1920's, Mr. Daley of the Society focused on the management of the books and commented on their arrangement on the shelves as well as the need for regular dusting. In 1981, Chief Librarian, Glen Howell, addressed the Association and commented on its fine library, excellent state of accounts and the fact that its dues were lower than the provincial average. This was not the first time our low dues had become a subject of Society comment. The Minutes recorded a similar scolding in the twenties on the same subject.
After the addition of space in 1908, a Barristers' lounge came in 1939 and was described as a very fine room, one to be proud of, but after about ten years, members were commenting that it was becoming rather shabby having apparently endured a fair bit of wear and tear. In 1961, the old court house was expanded and the Association received more space. However, the big change took place in 1977 with the move to the new court house which included an excellent library and barristers' lounge.
It has been said that there is nothing new under the sun. On May 19, 1899, the Hastings Law Association wrote to the Simcoe Association to advise that it had passed the following resolution:
"That steps be taken by this Association to obtain the cooperation of the County Law Library Associations of the Province in an effort to induce the Law Society of Upper Canada to permit all members of County Law Library Associations to deduct from the annual fee payable to the Society the amount of the annual membership fee paid to the various County Law Library Associations by their respective members not exceeding the sum of $5. 00" (Note: Simcoe's annual fee at the time was $4.00)
The Simcoe Association called a special meeting and approved a motion to support the resolution. Former President and Bencher, Charles Seagram, made a similar suggestion in 1978. the previously mentioned 1981 address, Glen Howell also forecast a day when all of the local libraries could be linked to the Great Library research facilities by computer.
What is striking throughout the Minutes is that prudent and diligent local management produced an excellent product over the years. Association members must surely be asking themselves whether reform will build on past successes or erode the library to a coordinated average. It is the reformers' challenge to bring the best practices of libraries like this one to all of those libraries that could benefit from them.
Credit to Michael Adams