Pettes Memorial Library

By Taylor McClure, Special to The Brome County News

The Pettes Memorial Library, built by Narcissa Farrand Pettes in honor of her husband, Federal M.P. Nathaniel Pettes, became the first free rural public library in Quebec following its foundation with an act of Parliament in 1894. The library has been a pillar in the community of Brome Lake for over 125 years and it is now expected to undergo future plans for expansion that will allow it to serve as an educational, cultural, and social hub for the village. In 1894, Quebec received its first free public library in what used to be known as Brome Township. “The library was built by Narcissa Farrand Pettes in memory of her husband Nathaniel Pettes,” said Jana Valasek, Director of Pettes Memorial Library. “She arranged with her brother-in-law to purchase the land here and she commissioned a library deeded to the community. She was giving it to the people of Knowlton and Brome Township.”
She added that, at the time, libraries were being built around the world, and more particularly in the United States, but that the Pettes Memorial Library predates many municipal libraries. “This was one resident who decided to leave this as her legacy.” The Pettes Memorial Library, a non-profit organization, has been serving the community ever since. “It’s been run by a board of trustees ever since then.” Over the years, the library has undergone some major changes to support the activities and initiatives they wished to carry out. “The upstairs level was originally a music hall,” said Valasek. “By the 50s, it was becoming less used, so it was converted in apartments. This helped the library financially.” If you walked down to the basement of the library 50 years ago, you wouldn’t find the library space that you see today. “The basement was where they stored coal. In the 1970s, it was converted into library space; more space was needed.” The back of the building was originally an apartment meant for the librarian, but again more space was needed. It was converted to library space in the 1980s. See full story in the Brome County News, March 17 edition.

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