The Bermuda National Library was founded in 1839 through the encouragement of Governor William Reid and was located in what is now the Cabinet Building. This Library started out with 276 volumes – most of which were donations from the Governor, his private Secretary, Lieutenant Papillon, R.A., and the Hamilton Club. The first Librarian was Mr. John Stephens and the Library was open to the public from 11 am to 12 pm and 1 pm to 2 pm.
The Dewey Decimal Classification system was introduced at the Library by Ms Katherine G. Seon in 1912 and has remained the method of classification and organization of the Library’s collections to this day.
In 1917, the Bermuda Library moved to its current Par-la-Ville location; at the time, the Library’s collection of books totaled approximately 40,000. Originally, the upper floor housed the museum collection which was then placed in one room on the ground floor, allowing the Library to move in to that space.
In 1954, the Colonial Legislature voted to have a new wing added to the old Perot home at “Par-la-Ville”. On 29th July, 1957 the new building was formally opened by His Excellency, Governor Major-General Sir John Woodall K.B.E., C.B., M.C.
Renovations took place in 1997 with the installation of the elevator and the creation of the new staircase. The former entrance to the Circulation Department, the cedar staircase leading from the Bermuda Historical Society Museum, was turned over to the Museum and has become a focal point for several of their displays.
The Bermuda National Library’s circulating and reference collections are now located in the ‘new wing’ of “Par-la-Ville” with the staff processing area located in the space formerly occupied by the Library before 1957. The collections have grown to an approximate 115,300 volumes.
The Bermuda Youth Library has been at its present location at 74 Church Street, Hamilton since July 1982. As of January 2002, the library’s holdings were approximately 12,700 and membership to the library is over 4,700 persons.
1839-1853 John R. Stephens
1853-1879 Joseph Richardson
1879-1880 Joseph H. S. Frith
1880-1886 Rev. Frederick D Ward
1886-1912 Florentius Frith
1912-1940 Katherine G. Seon
1940-1962 A. Elsie Gosling (MBE)
1962-1969 Mary Gray
1969-1985 Mary Skiffington
1985-1994 Cyril O. Packwood
1994-1999 Grace Rawlins
1999-current C. Joanne Brangman