"It is intended by the reading room to bring the members together... to attract them by pleasurable as well as profitable society, away from the haunts of drunkenness and vice. "Milton Public Library had its roots in the old Mechanics Institute and Library Association. The Mechanics Institute was an organization created in the late 18th century to provide education and entertainment for the working-man. Starting in England, it soon spread across the English-speaking world and by 1855 Milton formed its own Mechanics Institute.
By today's standards the resources seem few. However, it was indeed a good library for its time. As well as a large collection of books, there was also a reading room (not a regular feature of lending libraries of the period). In addition there were regular programs, generally of a morally uplifting or educational nature.In 1882, the Mechanics Institute was absorbed by the Free Libraries Act, with which the government provided the framework for modern public libraries. By 1888, the Library was publishing an annual book catalogue which could be read in the library or purchased for 10 cents. This catalogue offered such edifying titles as Brigand Life in Italy, Anecdotal British Parliament, Animal Parasites and Messmates, and the works of H. Rider Haggard, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain. Oddly, neither of the 1888 or 1901 book catalogues mentioned any of the plays or poems of Shakespeare, a curious omission by modern standards.This omission has long since been corrected. The book collection in 1999 contains a wide variety of styles, from science fiction to science fact, biographies, bestsellers, romances, horror, comedy, literature, magazines, newspapers and pamphlets.
The Library has evolved from having only print material to a multi-faceted collection of books, videos, music cassettes, books on tapes, compact discs, microfilm and microfiche, online and CD ROM reference sources, online magazine subscriptions and more. Embracing automation has been a hallmark of the library over the last two decades. From our early start with computerized circulation, to the library you see today with many public Internet workstations, an online library catalogue, a highly evolved website with links to terrific and informative sites, the library continues to do what our earliest Milton library did to bring the members of the community together.
As we look to the growth of our community, and the changes that will mean for Milton Public Library - a much enlarged main library and two smaller branches - we know we will be following a path that has been set throughout the history of the library: to meet and anticipate and grow with the changing demands of our community.