Although the Public Libraries Act received Royal Assent in 1882, the village of Barry’s Bay and surrounding area was without a public library for many years. The local schools through the local school boards and the teachers provided the only library type services for borrowing books to the children attending the schools.
Then in 1960, through the dedication and foresight of several residents of the Village, a request was made to the Barry’s Bay town council to pass a by-law to allow for the establishment of a public library. This resulted in the passing of By-Law No. 176 of the Village of Barry’s Bay to establish a public library thus opening the way for the next-to-free public library services.
On November 26, 1960, the first meeting of the Barry’s Bay Public Library Board was held in the municipal hall. John Germain was appointed as the first chairman of the Board and Mrs. Ethel Matthews was the first librarian. Many local volunteers offered their time and services to purchase, sort and cover books for the opening of the library. On Friday, August 11, 1961 the library opened for business for the first time in the newly constructed municipal hall. The borrower’s fee was ten cents per local resident. The library was well received by the Barry’s Bay people and book circulation continued to increase steadily each year thereafter.
1967 was another major landmark in the development of the library. The Board, under the chairmanship of John Trant, requested the village fathers to purchase the Bell Telephone building which was to be going up for sale. Again the council complied recognizing the need for expansion for an ever-growing service and the project became the Centennial Project that year. The necessary renovations were carried out and the library, now under the librarianship of Helen Kern, has its contents moved to the new location on Opeongo Line. By this time the library for open three times a week and more often during the summer months.
In 1970, the United Townships of Sherwood, Jones & Burns, seeing the need for library services for their ratepayers, contracted an agreement with the Barry’s Bay Public Library Board for services and a service point was opened up in the hamlet of Wilno. Later in the decade, the Township of Radcliffe decided to contract for services with the Barry’s Bay Library also. The Barry’s Bay Library by now had also added a record collection and offered a children’s program during the months of January and February on Saturday mornings.
In 1973, the Library Board again noted that the library needed more room for expansion and in June of that year, after renovations to the basement were completed, partly with a grant from the Eastern Ontario Regional Library System, a children’s section, now separated from the adult’s, was officially opened.
In 1981, with the arrival of the Canadian Oil Substitution Program which gave grants for converting to electric heating, the library, now under the librarianship of Angela Lorbetskie underwent renovations, again with the help of a municipal grant, and the COSP grant. The old heating system was removed and new baseboard heaters were installed. These renovations resulted in the enlargement of the children’s section and the addition of a separate “Reference Room”.
In the last twenty-three years, the physical facilities and services of the library have shown marked improvement. In 1962 the total book circulation was 4,998. In 1982, it was 27,314. Membership has increased from 340 to 925. The library now serves not only the Village of Barry’s Bay residents but also residents from the United Townships of Sherwood, Jones & Burns, Radcliffe Township and Hagarty & Richards Townships as well as persons from other localities who come to use and enjoy the many library services.
The members of the 1983 Barry’s Bay Public Library Board are:
Chairperson – Annamary Ewing Secretary – Treasurer – Angela Lorbetskie
Helen Kern Anne Burchat
Grace George Douglas Mayhew
Paul Recoskie, Reeve
The Head Librarian is Angela Lorbetskie since November 1980.
In 1985, the library required a large expansion, and after grants, donations and much fundraising, the library’s size was tripled. The new wing was called the 'Dominic Recoskie Wing' after Ted Recoskie (now deceased) made a $25,000 donation in memory of his father. All the lumber for the new addition was donated by the Murray Bros. Lumber Co. of Madawaska and Barry's Bay.
In 1991, after obtaining a grant to record memories of Valley Seniors, the Library published Volume One of 'Madawaska Valley Memories'. Another grant two years later saw the publishing of Volume Two.
On January 1, 2001, after Township amalgamation, the Library Board became legally known as the
Madawaska Valley Township Public Library Board. However the community and the Board chose to have the common name for the library to be the Barry’s Bay & Area Public Library.
In 2004, after extensive fundraising, funding from the Township of Madawaska Valley and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, a handicapped lift and washroom (with a baby change table), were added to the library.
In 2005, the library completed computerizing its holdings and was now able to circulate its materials to patrons and have its inventory on computers within the library for the first time.
In 2006, thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and fundraising donations, new shelving, furniture and a reading corner were added to the children's section.
In 2010, the Library, with assistance from the Township of Madawaska Valley received funding for an updated cataloguing and circulation system and a new website. Patrons were now able to view the library's catalogue, reserve and renew materials and access its electronic databases on-line. In that year, the library also received grants from the Ministry of Culture, through the assistance of the Ontario Library Servicve, to purchase an Early Literacy computer station for the Children's Section and have, after permissions were sought and granted, its local newspapers (Barry's Bay Review-published from June 1959 to April 1965; Combermere Free Press-2003-2010; This Week in the Madawaska Valley-published from Feb.1971 to Jan 1987; Barry's Bay This Week from Feb 1987 to present-2010; and the Valley Gazette the 2010 issues published) placed on microfilm.
In 2011, the library celebrated 50 years of service to the community with an Offical Open House. It also chose that event to honour its retiring CEO/Head Librarian (since 1980), Angela Lorbetskie.
(Above history of the library was researched, written and updated by Angela Villeneuve Lorbetskie)
The CEO/Head Librarian as of June 20,2011 is Karen Filipkowski.