A library for Cambridge New Zealand residents was initiated by the Armed Constabulary forces (who were stationed in Cambridge from 1867) and was operated by James Mumford. Unfortunately this arrangement did not continue for long as most of the force was sent to districts where their services were more urgently required. The school and library, housed in the military building in Fort Street closed down.
The Cambridge Public Library came into existence in July 1872. It was housed in the new primary school in Duke Street with James Hally as chairman and William Cunningham as secretary – treasurer.
There were 30 subscribers and they collected enough money to buy a few hundred volumes ‘all really good and readable works’. Mr James Stuart (the school’s headmaster) acted as honorary librarian.
The library was incorporated on 16 July 1879 with William Rout as Chairman and William Willis, Thos Wells, Geo Clark, R C Dyer as Trustees and J S Masters as librarian. The library moved to a disused immigrant cottage on Victoria Street near the Post Office.
A proposal for a new library building was included with the Town Hall plans in 1909 and the mayor, W F Buckland, wrote to Andrew Carnegie asking for a grant of £1000. The Library committee got their nose out of joint and opposed the grant saying they had a nucleus of £76 / 13 / 7d and didn’t need handouts.
The grant arrived, the Carnegie Library was built (Information Office today) and the Council took over the running of the Library.