Waterloo’s Mechanics’ Institute was formed in late 1875 when a group of interested citizens got together in the market, which at the time was located in the new Town Hall, built in 1874.
On February 18, 1876, the first account for books was passed ($38.55) but the matter of shelving was laid over for consideration until after the town council election. In the meantime a table was provided and the books purchased by librarian David Bergey were displayed. So, Waterloo’s first library consisted of one table of books on the main floor of the Town Hall.
There was a subscription fee of $2.00 per year to “join” the library. These monies were used to purchase more books and, eventually, shelving.
A constitution was adopted and the objective of the Institute and conditions of membership were developed. The objective of The Mechanics’ Institute was “…the mental and moral improvement of the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood.” The organizing committee agreed that “All well conducted persons shall be eligible for membership.”
A list of rules was also posted:
- The Library Room will be open from 7 to 9 o’clock on Tuesday and Friday evenings.
- German Books only will be distributed on Tuesday evenings.
- English Books only will be distributed on Friday evenings.
- No person under the age of fifteen years will be allowed to select books.
- Not more than two persons from one family will be allowed in the Library Room on the same evening.
- The utmost good order and decorum must be observed by all persons while in the Library Room. Smoking prohibited.
- Fifteen minutes will be allowed each party for the selection of Books, which when chosen, must be presented to the Librarian for entry in his books. Whether a selection is made or not, the party must retire at the expiration of fifteen minutes so as to give place to others.
- Any Book taken from the shelf and not selected must be put back into its place.
- Membership was a privilege and “If any member … bring dishonour upon the institute, he may be expelled by the Directors.”
- The subscription fee was two dollars and subscribers were asked to state their preference of books written in English or German.
Due to the public’s demand for better reading material and facilities, the Free Library of Waterloo was formed. Subscription fees were abolished and a Board of Directors was appointed.
After twelve years, the Mechanics’ Institute decided to “…transfer its assets and liabilities” to the “Municipal Corporation of the town of Waterloo.” The Institute would become known as the Waterloo Free Library.
There were a number of fairly strict rules for library users, including “Noise and loud conversation in the Reading Room, also the use of tobacco and the filthy practice of spitting on the floor, are strictly prohibited!”
No persons under the age of 15 were allowed to borrow books, and only 2 people from one family were allowed in the library at the same time.