This Week in JPL History: Opening Day!

Signed May 1, 1919 this document officially incorporated the JPL

As this post goes live it has been 36521 days since the JPL opened its doors… according to one source.

On May 1st, 1919 the Jewish People’s Library and People’s University was officially constituted as a corporation. This official constitution came five years to the day after the Library was officially launched at a May Day rally on May 1st, 1914. The document contains 23 signatures, and next to each signature, the person’s address.
While the Library had been officially opened during that May Day rally in 1914, it did not begin circulating books until July 15th of that year. The first librarian was Dora Selinger and during the months between the opening of the Library and beginning of circulation, the books which had been donated by other institutions like the Poale Zion library were catalogued and the building prepared.

This book was a part of the original collection of the Library

This first year of the Library was a busy one that included the appearance of Morris Rosenfeld, a great Yiddish poet, during a musical and literary evening on November 8th. The 1,540 books that the Library had were circulated 3,215 times that year. The majority of those books were in Yiddish, however the Library also had books in Hebrew, English, French, Russian, Polish, and German. Thanks to the painstaking detail of our first annual reports, we even know some of the circulation statistics for specific authors. For example the works of Jules Verne circulated 19 times, Leo Tolstoy, 20, Emile Zola, 41 times.

The first year of the Library also saw the departure of its two founders, Reuben Brainin and Yehuda Kauffman. Both men left Montreal before the first annual meeting of the Library was convened. The leadership of the Library was taken over by a group of dedicated individuals who would steer the Library along its path for many years to come.

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