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Oakville Public Library Celebrates 125 Years!

For 125 years, OPL’s values of trust, to inspire discovery and creativity, and provide access to literacy and information, still hold true today as they did when we came to be.

OPL is located on Indigenous lands and we acknowledge that we are gathering on traditional territory that has been inhabited by the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation for thousands of years before us. We are grateful for the opportunity to meet here, and because we are all treaty people, we re-affirm our collective commitment to make the promise and the challenge of Truth and Reconciliation real in and with our community and libraries.

Letter of Recognition from the Office of the Mayor and Council


OPL’s Beginnings

The site of the library’s Central Branch at 120 Navy Street, tells the story of OPL’s humble beginnings. An enterprising William Chisholm of Burlington Bay had recognized the potential of the beautifully wooded area around the mouth of the Sixteen Mile Creek for developing his oak barrel stave business. In 1827 he purchased just under 1,000 acres and launched the village of Oakville as the region’s shipbuilding and wood exporting centre. Development was rapid: streets were built, and ships that left laden with barrel staves, wheat flour and potash, returned with immigrants. It was boom time.

That same year, a wooden meeting hall was erected on Church Street, west of Navy Street at the top of the creek bank. It was used as a community meeting place, a church on Sundays, and a school on week days. William Tassie started as the schoolmaster in the area in 1834 and established the public reading room in the meeting hall in 1836. In 1839, the Wesleyan Methodist organization sent Oakville 100 books that formed the collection of the first Village Library. Unfortunately, as the collection was made up of religious works, it fell into disuse and was revitalized as a Mechanics’ Institute in the 1850s. It and the public reading room merged to into one library and it was housed in the tower of the Oakville Common School, built to the north of the Meeting Hall the late 1860s.

Fast-forward to 1895, when the name “Oakville Public Library” was first used, thanks to an amendment to the 1882 provincial Free Libraries Act to allow the adoption of the term “public library.”

At a Glance

  • 1836 – William Tassie opens Public Reading Room at meeting hall on site of current Central Branch
  • 1839 – Village Library opens with a modest 100-book collection
  • 1895 – First use of the name “Oakville Public Library” due to the provincial Free Libraries Act
  • 1958 – Launch of the first bookmobile, a joint partnership of the Oakville-Trafalgar-Bronte Library Board
  • 1962 – Woodside Branch opens
  • 1967 – Central Branch opens (as part of the Centennial Project in honour of Canada’s Centennial)
  • 1973 – White Oaks Branch opens with White Oaks Secondary School, a new school/library concept in Oakville
  • 1980 – Implementation of the library’s first computerized circulation system
  • 1988 – OPL’s logo of a sailing ship is introduced. The distinctive logo, of a ship’s hull made from an oak leaf, with billowing sails depicting leaves of a book, bring together several familiar images synonymous with Oakville and the library
  • 1990 – Glen Abbey Branch opens
  • 1990 – Bookmobile reintroduced
  • 1990 – Unveiling of library’s first online catalogue
  • 1993 – Launch of Friends of the Library
  • 1997 – Free internet access offered for the first time at branches
  • 2000 – DVDs introduce to library collection
  • 2001 – Iroquois Ridge Branch opens
  • 2004 – Introduced a mascot, OPaL the dragon
  • 2005 – Launch of the first Teen Advisory Group (TAG)
  • 2005 – OPL becomes first Canadian library to introduce a booking service for use of library computers
  • 2007 – Clearview Branch opens, later reopened in 2011 as part of James W. Hill Public School
  • 2008 – “Welcome to Canada” newcomer hubs introduced in all branches
  • 2012 – Launch of first mobile app
  • 2014 – Paws for Stories kids program pilot launches, in partnership with St. John’s Ambulance Therapy Dogs
  • 2014 – OPL acquires first 3D printer for customer use
  • 2017 – Opened first Creation Zone at Iroquois Ridge Branch
  • 2018 – Introduced a community Food Shelf, providing access to non-perishable items for community members in need
  • 2018 – OPL rebrands with a new logo and tagline, “Connecting Community”
  • 2019 – Sixteen Mile Branch opens
  • 2019 – Opened second Creation Zone at Glen Abbey Branch
  • 2020 – OPL Express services expand with Browse and Borrow kiosks located at St. Luke’s Community Centre and Queen Elizabeth Park Cultural and Community Centre

Learn more about Oakville Public Library’s history