The Halifax Literary Walking Tour

Second Floor, City Hall, Grand Parade

10. Citizens’ Free Library

On February 19th, 1864, the Honourable William Young, defense lawyer of Saladin pirates, purchased the old debt-ridden, subscription-based Halifax Mechanic’s Library. In an act of goodwill and love for his city, Young donated the collection to establish the city’s first free public library, The Citizens’ Free Library. Anyone “above the age of 18 who were of a known and respectable nature” could borrow one book at a time. Ratepayers, professionals, clergymen, teachers and their pupils were also patrons. Overdue fines were set at two cents a day. Visitors could use the facilities and borrow if registered in the “stranger’s book”.

For many years, The Citizens' Free Library moved around the city until it found a permanent home in 1890, on the second floor of City Hall, now the official office of the Mayor of Halifax. The Library closed in 1949 to make way for the new Halifax Memorial Library and its long serving Librarian, Miss Elizabeth Barnaby, finally retired to read all her favourite books.

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