The goal of the Huron County Library Association at its inception was “to bring library service within the reach of every man, woman and child in Huron County.”
On September 19, 1941, a meeting was held at the Goderich Public Library for the purpose of considering the organization of a Huron County Library Association. Delegations from Blyth, Brucefield, Dungannon, Exeter, Goderich, Hensall, Kirkton, St. Helens, Seaforth, and Walton, as well as guests from London Public Library, and the newly formed Middlesex County Library Association were present.
Miss A. Rose Aitken, Librarian at the Goderich Public Library, played a large part in organizing the Huron County Library Association. She became the first County Librarian, and held the part-time position until 1945. The books for the Association were ordered, classified, catalogued, and prepared for distribution from the Goderich Public Library.
Sixteen of the twenty-two libraries in the County joined the Association in 1941 and paid an annual fee of $25. They included Auburn, Bayfield, Blyth, Brucefield, Brussels, Dungannon, Ethel, Exeter, Goderich, Hensall, Kirkton, St. Helens, Seaforth, and Walton. Their fees purchased books which were rotated among the participating libraries. Huron County Council supported the association with a $200 grant in 1942. By 1946 it had increased to $1000 and was matched by the Ontario Ministry of Education.
After Miss Aitken’s resignation in 1945, the HCLA was operated from the home of the new County Librarian, Mrs. Alice Jean Eckmier. Mrs. Eckmier delivered books to the libraries from her own car, meeting the challenges of gasoline rationed by war shortages, stormy winter weather, and an increasing collection of books to rotate. To meet this need, in 1947, the now-called Huron County Library Co- operative purchased a bookmobile, the “Miss Huron,” the first self-contained library truck in Ontario. A film entitled “The Books Drive On” was made to record the hamlet to hamlet work of the county library bookmobile.
In 1966, changes in provincial legislation encouraged the development of county library boards, and on January 1, 1967, all Huron County libraries were brought under a single library board and administration. The late Sixties brought new developments in school libraries and a withdrawal of funding for the County Library from the Ministry of Education. This resulted in a decline in use of the county library resources by county schools, and a focusing on public library development.
In the mid-80s, the Huron County Library joined with other county libraries, and some mid-sized city libraries to automate together in the Ontario Library Co-operative, later the Ontario Library Consortium. Sharing of resources and expertise, economies of scale, and a greater purchasing power had formed county libraries in the first place; it was only natural that county libraries would take these benefits forward for further development of library service.
In recent years, a key strength of the system has been its ability to provide relevant services to its rural communities through traditional methods while forging ahead and providing core service through cutting edge technology. The balance that has been created between tradition and innovation has been one that has ensured equality of access for all library users.
In 2012, Huron County Library adopted a new Strategic Plan which includes new goals, mission and vision statements for the library system. Today, Huron County Library’s mission statement is to build “strong communities by serving as an inclusive community hub and ensuring universal access to information and ideas for cultural, economic, educational and recreational development.”
Beth Rumble is the current County Librarian and Director of Cultural Services.
The Books Drive On
Miss Huron was the name of the Huron County Library Bookmobile. This video captures a unique, fascinating time capsule of life in Huron County in 1947.