With the building of a “state of the art” Church Hall at the junction of Main Street and Hunthill Road in 1893, High Blantyre Parish Church had added a great community asset not just for the people of the congregation, but a useable asset for everybody in the town. With immediate effect the church hall was used for fete’s , galas, dances, games, social events, funeral wakes, weddings, christening celebrations, christmas parties, social clubs for adults and kids, sunday schools and not forgetting “The Circulating Library”. (I can almost hear you cry out, what is this Blantyre Project?!).
The Circulating Library came into existence around 1897. With no official library in the town at that time, a place was needed for reference, for education and knowledge. The proposed library was planned for one of the downstairs rooms in the new hall. With 30 people on the committee, it was foreseen the plan would be on a grand scale with guidelines to be strictly followed. A series of 7 local patrons, including Lord Blantyre would be responsible for the provision of the initial books. (click picture on left for larger image). The scale of the number of committee members reflected the proposal to run the library as a business, where members would have to pay per quarter to use the facility. (and if you were from outwith Blantyre, even more!). The business profits, being part of the Church, would likely have been reinvested into replenishing the library stock.
A constitution was set up for the Committee members setting down guidelines as to how the library should be run and managed. The Byelaws indicated how the members should act, and we note with interest abusive language and gambling were NOT allowed! Books were supposed to be retained in the library, but with special permission, a member could take a book out for up to 14 days. The library and reading room was not for children, with no member under 16 permitted. With the town’s rapid explosive population growth in the 1900’s, Blantyre’s requirement for an official library became apparent including the need to cater for the post war baby boom children. The council authorities eventually provided a new library in Calder Street which i’m sure many of our readers will remember. That library has since closed and been built on by flats, and of course the 1893 Church Hall lasted 100 years, being demolished in the early 1990’s. Sadly, reading and books seems to be giving way to TV, the internet and games these days and the want for a library appears greatly diminished. A sign of changing times, the current small Blantyre library is now located at the corner of Victoria Street and Glasgow road (in the old Caspers site).
Blantyre Project can only wonder at the marvellous old books that must have been on the shelves in 1893 in that reading room.