History

The library is in sight at last. Let us work together and make it a good one.

-D.K. Crowdis, Chair of Halifax Memorial Library Committee & Curator for the provincial museum.

On November 12, 1951, Halifax finally had a full-service public library. Its reality was born out of a true spirit of collaboration and of steadfast persistence from a variety of service clubs and citizens' groups active at the time. Like the Halifax Central Library, the Halifax Memorial Library can be said to have been created by the city for the city.

Long time coming

With 14 branches active in the same number of unique communities, today's library users and supporters may find it hard to imagine that Halifax had been 'disgracefully' lacking a public library similar to others for at least 50 years.

At the turn of the century, many cities in North America had benefitted from a surge of investment, and ideology, from American philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. Halifax instead had “a single over-crowded, under-equipped room at the end of a corridor” (January 15, 1948, From Here On?, The Halifax Mail-Star) located in the City Hall building. The conditions and poor services of the Citizens' Free Library room even failed in comparison to other towns in Nova Scotia, such as Amherst.

A meeting at the Lord Nelson Hotel

Finally, in 1945, the deciding momentum began. The ideas of a war memorial and a public library building had merged in some minds and now began to take shape. A committee was struck to explore the possibility of the memorial, for which there were funds already dedicated, taking the form of a library, cultural centre, or a recreation centre.

By the end of the meeting, a public library was favoured as the memorial. The advocates for veterans, such as the Royal Canadian Legion, agreed and an historical sequence of events began.

  • Spring, 1945 - Halifax Memorial Library Committee (HMLC) meets at The Lord Nelson Hotel
  • January 23, 1946 - expanded HMLC plans public fundraising campaign
  • April 1, 1946 - resolution passed by City Council approving in principle the idea of erecting a library as a living war memorial
  • December 4, 1947 - HMLC issues a letter and petition for support of library funding
  • December 12, 1947 - City Council approves of library funding and orders construction to commence on or before 1949
  • October 15, 1948 - Grafton Park approved as the library location
  • April 21, 1949 - ground breaking ceremony
  • November 20, 1950 - full list of memorial artifacts and their placements decided
  • November 12, 1951 - opening of Halifax Memorial Library

The lack of such a library in Halifax is felt by many to be a disgrace. Nothing could be more symbolic of the sacrifices of those we wish to honor than a library housing books which Adolf Hitler burnt. A well-designed library would be a lasting Memorial, and with the passage of the years would evermore fittingly hallow the memories of those who died that others might enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of study.

–Petition to Mayor and Council, December 4, 1947

Petition Documents

Fairn Postcard Sketch of Library

Credit: Leslie R. Fairn, F.R.A.I.C. Architect.

The Committee, believing that those who served in the Second German War deserved a living rather than an inanimate memorial, urged that a library should be established to honor them.

–The Halifax Mail-Star, January 12, 1948

City Council Minutes

Newspaper Articles

The Halifax Herald Ltd. Photos:
Posted with permission from The Halifax Herald Ltd. Interested in buying these photos? Contact The Chronicle Herald Library 902-426-2811, ext. 3080 or 3384; library@herald.ca

An even greater memorial to those heroes of our wars is the ideal on which the whole building is erected – faith of the citizens of Halifax in the democratic ideal of making freely available knowledge to each and every resident of the city.

–Library Press Release, 1951.

On November 12, 1951, the residents of Halifax got their first glimpse of their new public library – Halifax Memorial Library.

Newspaper Articles

The Halifax Herald Ltd. Photos:
Posted with permission from The Halifax Herald Ltd. Interested in buying these photos? Contact The Chronicle Herald Library 902-426-2811, ext. 3080 or 3384; library@herald.ca

Nova Scotia Archives Photos:
"Courtesy of Nova Scotia Archives, Halifax, N.S."