The first institution committed to the sharing of information in what was then known as Berlin, Ontario was a Mechanics’ Institute established in 1854 by a group of interested citizens.


Forty years later, in February, 1884, the Berlin Town Council approved Bylaw 310, creating a free public library. By April of that year, a Reading Room was opened with newspapers and periodicals, and that September a book collection of nearly 3,000 volumes was made available.


In those early years, the Berlin Public Library was located in the Town Hall, but it quickly outgrew the available space. In 1902, the Carnegie Foundation approved a first grant of $15,000 for a library building, followed by additional grants for furnishings. The new Berlin Public Library opened on January 8, 1904.


In 1908, Mabel Dunham was hired, the first professionally trained librarian to be placed in charge of a library in Ontario. She pioneered several services to children, introducing a Children’s Story Hour in 1912 and arranging for a separate children’s room to be added to the Library in 1916.


She was succeeded in 1944 by Dorothy Shoemaker, who administered the Library during a time of burgeoning growth in the City of Kitchener. In May, 1962, after seventeen years of planning and advocacy, the present Main Library was opened to the public. And, in 1971, the first Community Library was opened in Stanley Park.


Mr. Lynn Matthews served as Chief Librarian from 1973 to 1993, during which time extensive development of all library services and resources took place. Additional library branches opened in Forest Heights (1976) and Pioneer Park (1982). In 1978, an extension was added to the Main Library building and shortly thereafter, the Library introduced its first automated computer catalogue system. KPL marked its 100th anniversary celebrations in 1984 with the opening of the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History.


Margaret Walshe served as Chief Executive Officer from 1993 until her retirement at the end of 2003. In August 2004, Sonia Lewis was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Kitchener Public Library.



Library Development


The last twenty years have seen many changes for the Kitchener Public Library. The Main Library has undergone several renovations, with the most recent being completed in 1994. This renovation was underway when Ms. Walshe became Chief Executive Officer in 1993, so she immediately had to deal with all the challenges that accompany such a large project.


Each Community Library has been either renovated or rebuilt completely. The Forest Heights Community Library has been renovated, to improve the layout and provide better public service. The Pioneer Park Community Library moved to its present location in 1989, and in 2002, the new Grand River Stanley Park Community Library opened, as a shared facility next to the Grand River Collegiate Institute. This initiative is a result of a partnership between Kitchener Public Library and the Waterloo Region District School Board. Country Hills Community Library is the latest project, opening in September 2004, in partnership with the Waterloo Region Separate School Board.


Partnering has had a long tradition at the library, dating back to 1912 when Kitchener Public Libary and the Waterloo Historical Society joined forces to preserve the history of our community. We now have ties with many organizations and service groups in Kitchener, including the Kiwanis Club of Kitchener-Waterloo who help with the Library Links for Life program. As well, we now share resources with Waterloo Public Library. Both libraries use the same automated library catalogue, and other electronic databases.


Kitchener Public Library has had to respond to the rapidly changing technology available in the 2000s. The Computer Centre, located at the Main library, opened in February 2001. Twelve computers, purchased with the aid of grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Urban Community Access Program, can be used by members of the public for free. A year later we opened the Homework Centre at the Main Library, a valuable learning resource for students.


As CEO, Ms. Walshe encouraged us to look beyond the traditional roles of a library and to incorporate technology into our everyday working lives. She worked with us to develop a strategic plan entitled "Connecting Tradition With Technology", which put that philosophy into practice.


During Ms. Walshe's tenure, the library moved from a totally text-based environment to an almost completely graphical one. Now the library can offer not only 24/7 service via our great new website, but also services like KidTech workstations, public Internet access, public access to Microsoft Office computer products, remote access to a wonderful roster of online databases, a Computer Centre and a Homework Centre, to name a few.


In August 2004, Sonia Lewis was appointed the new Chief Executive Officer of Kitchener Public Library. Previous to her move to Kitchener, she held the position of Director of Service Development at the Burlington Public Library.


During her time at Burlington Public Library, Ms. Lewis led a major expansion and renovation project for the Central Library, an experience which proved helpful as the Kitchener Public Library board began examining the feasibility of a new Main library in Kitchener.



Central Library Renovation and Expansion


In October 2008, a proposed Central Library renovation and expansion project, led by Ms. Lewis and the Kitchener Public Library board, was formally approved by the City of Kitchener.


The $40.1 million construction project will see the completed renovation of all three floors of the current main library building, located at 85 Queen Street North, along with a 25,000 square foot addition to the rear of the building. The project also includes the construction of a 412 space, three level underground parking complex, to be shared by the library and Civic District neighbours.


Construction began in November 2010. The renovated and expanded Central Library opened on May 27, 2014.