Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library Newsletter

October 2022

From Cathy's Desk

October is Canadian Library Month so we thought it was fitting to dedicate this month ’s newsletter column to the memory of long-time NOTL Public Library Chief Librarian, Gerda Molson. Gerda passed away this year on August 26 at the age of 83. She served as Chief Librarian here for 35 years, from 1969 until 2004 when she retired. Gerda lead the library through many changes and challenges including its move from the downtown courthouse to our current location. She worked hard to provide high-quality library service for the community.


Gerda’s many contributions to library and community are preserved in our heritage portal, specifically in the Gerda Molson Collection; Gerda Molson Collection: Niagara-on-the-Lake Heritage Portal ( Gerda donated her collection of newspaper and magazine articles about the library to us a few years ago and we scanned and uploaded them to the portal to make them available to all.


These clippings paint a vivid picture of the library’s history during her tenure. Upon her retirement in 2004, the St. Catharines Standard published an article with some interesting details about her life and work. She was born in Washington state and emigrated to British Columbia with her family when she was 13. After marrying in 1961, she moved with her husband Hugh to Niagara. Hugh eventually became the Chief Librarian at the Pelham Public Library while Gerda worked at the St. Catharines Public Library.


In 1969, after 7 years rising through the ranks in St. Catharines, Gerda was asked by Les Fowley, Director of the Niagara Regional Library System, to “pull the NOTL Public Library into the modern age”. At that time, the NOTLPL was located in the courthouse where it had expanded and moved around since 1848. It was only open 10 hours per week, had no phone and operated on an annual budget of $3,600. The collection was out of date featuring “how to” books from the 1940s and travel books from the early 1900s.


"Our first step into technology was getting a telephone. Then we did an absolute massive weeding of titles," she said in the article. Many of the weeded books were sold to a Toronto old-and-rare-books dealer. "Well, it sure was interesting," she continued with a laugh. "It presented an enormous challenge."


Gerda was always up for a challenge. In addition to her work as Chief Librarian in NOTL, she was also President of the Ontario Library Association (OLA) during the 1986-87 term. In a 1986 Niagara Advance article she reflected on her election to the OLA President’s position saying, “I love a challenge”. She also loved her work and said as much in the 2005 Standard article; "I have always felt that I was amazed people paid me to do this. I've loved doing what I do and it has continued to be always challenging and changing."


We’re planting a tree in Gerda’s memory and putting together a community memory book. She touched many lives during her 35 years at the library and we would love to include your memories and photos in the book. Please contact me at to share your memories. Happy Library Month!


Books find a happy ending. Don Fraser, St. Catharines Standard, 8 Jan 2005, p. E1


Niagara Librarian heads Ontario Association. Niagara Advance, 19 Nov 1986, p. 9

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