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Mary J. L. Black

Mary J L Black Portrait
Mary J. L. Black. Accession P1298. Courtesy of the Thunder Bay Public Library.

Submitted by Thunder Bay Public Library

Name: Mary Joanna Louise Black
Date of birth: April 1, 1879 (Uxbridge, ON)
Date of death: January 4, 1939 (Vancouver, BC)
Accomplishments related to: Education, Community Development, Government
Major affiliations: Thunder Bay Library; Ontario Library Association; Canadian Library Association; Thunder Bay Historical Society; Women’s Canadian Club; Girl Guides

Appointed as the first librarian for the Fort William Public Library (now the Thunder Bay Public Library) in 1909, Mary J.L. Black came on board without any formal education or training. She went on to successfully lead the Library for 28 years, in addition to other major local and provincial accomplishments. Miss Black helped to bring the Fort William Public Library out of the City Hall basement and into a brand new Carnegie Library, which opened in 1912 (now the Brodie Resource Library). With a strong focus on service and access, Miss Black coordinated the first mobile library collections being sent out into “New Ontario”. These collections brought the Library into remote communities far ahead of the introduction of a bookmobile. Her contributions and achievements were commemorated in 1938 with the dedication of the Mary J. L. Black Library. 

Beyond the Library, Miss Black was the first female president of the Ontario Library Association in 1917. She also made significant contributions to the Canadian Library Association later in her career. She was an active member and preservation advocate with the Thunder Bay Historical Society, with whom she published a number of articles about the Library. Further, the Women’s Canadian Club welcomed her as their President from 1916-1918 and she held the post of district commissioner for the Girl Guides for several years.

Mary J L Black Library
M J L Black Library.  Accession P1306(4). Courtesy of the Thunder Bay Public Library.

Fort William Public Library
Fort Willliam Public Library (1910-12). Accession P-1388. Courtesy of the Thunder Bay Public Library.